It’s Thanksgiving 2019 in America, however eight Division I ladies’s basketball groups are north of the border in Victoria, British Columbia, for the Higher Victoria Invitational. The nighttime matchup pits No. 3 Stanford towards California Baptist College, seemingly a battle of sharks and minnows in the grand scheme of the sport.
Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer has over 1,000 profession Division I wins to her title. Cal Baptist, a Division I beginner, has 25. To make issues extra intimidating for the Lancers, considered one of Stanford’s gamers is dunking in warmups.
“Stepping into it was like ‘that is going to be a multitude, we don’t have a publish [player], they’re gigantic, we’re little,’” CBU level guard Ane Olaeta recollects.
The other occurred. California Baptist, in its second yr in Division I, performed the Cardinal tight from wire-to-wire. The Lancers rallied from 13 down at the half to get inside some extent late in the fourth quarter earlier than shedding by 5.
“The look on Stanford folks’s faces, they had been identical to ‘what is occurring, who’re they?’ ” guard Sydney Palma says. “That’s the finest basketball reminiscence I’ve.”
Extra folks know who the Lancers at the moment are. CBU is 20–0 this season, considered one of solely two ladies’s groups in the nation nonetheless undefeated. The opposite, Bucknell, has handled a number of COVID-19-related disruptions and has performed simply eight video games. California Baptist is the solely crew exterior of a significant convention in the final 5 years to begin 20–0, becoming a member of UConn, Louisville, Mississippi State and NC State in that unique membership. It’s gained convention video games by a mean margin of 20.1 factors, and has clinched the WAC regular-season title. The Lancers are No. 87 in the NCAA’s NET rankings and No. 8 in the most up-to-date CollegeInsider.com Mid-Main High 25.
But it doesn’t matter what occurs in the CBU’s last two common season video games and the WAC event in Las Vegas, you gained’t see the Lancers on this month’s NCAA event subject. Nevertheless it’s to no fault of their very own. They didn’t break any guidelines to earn themselves a postseason ban. They’re just too new to the Division I celebration to get invited to the Massive Dance. CBU is in the third yr of a four-year transition interval from Division II to Division I, and groups should not eligible to compete in the NCAA event throughout that point.
“I feel it is one thing the NCAA wants to take a look at,” CBU head coach Jarrod Olson says. “I feel 4 years a very long time, it actually penalizes the children greater than something.”
Olson proposes that groups be allowed to make the NCAA event throughout the transition interval however wouldn’t obtain the payout from the NCAA. As an alternative, that cash might be distributed to the remainder of the convention. However these modifications take time, and for now CBU is staring down a singular place in the NCAA file books.
If it completes an undefeated season, it will likely be the first crew in males’s or ladies’s faculty basketball to go undefeated and not attain the NCAA event since 1983, when the Oral Roberts ladies’s crew didn’t qualify. Again then, the ladies’s event featured solely 36 groups, the Golden Eagles weren’t in a convention and performed nearly half of their video games towards non-D-I groups.
Despite the fact that they gained’t have the opportunity to full their dream season in model, CBU’s meteoric rise from NAIA energy to a pair of D-II Closing Fours in 5 years to now being on the brink of an undefeated D-I season is nothing in need of exceptional. And all postseason hope isn’t misplaced: The WNIT has been involved with California Baptist about enjoying in that event, a stable comfort prize.
“That is a very good aim for us as a result of I feel that is a event we expect we are able to get into and truly win a pair video games,” Olson says. “The NCAA clearly could be wonderful, proper? However the actuality is, it is form of enjoyable for about the first 5 minutes towards UConn, proper? Possibly magic would occur in some unspecified time in the future, however in that state of affairs, you are simply making an attempt to get there.”
Nonetheless, not getting an opportunity to create that magic like the Lancers almost did towards Stanford final season stings. And CBU is a simple crew to fall in love with: It performs quick, takes tons of threes and actually shares the ball. Senior guard Ane Olaeta leads the nation in assists per recreation, and the Lancers are second in the nation in share of made pictures which might be assisted on, per HerHoopStats. Olson empowers his crew to hearth away with confidence and be aggressive, a mode of play his gamers have embraced.
“Jarrod [Olson]’s like, ‘should you’re barely open, you’re launching that factor,’” Palma says. “You possibly can’t be scared you’re going to miss it as a result of you’ve to shoot it otherwise you’re going to get in hassle since you didn’t shoot it, not since you shoot an excessive amount of.”
Constructing a budding mid-major powerhouse took plenty of onerous work … and slightly little bit of luck. Olaeta joined the CBU program the yr earlier than it made the transfer up from Division II. She was from a small city in Spain, and Olson solely found her as a result of a recruiting service he subscribed to had despatched him a 4 minute spotlight tape of a diminutive 5’ 4” level guard that had proven some flashes.
“There was one thing about her that simply form of was hitting me like ‘that is our child,’ ” Olson says.
Olson and his workers spoke with Olaeta on Skype just a few instances, however one main hurdle remained: She spoke little or no English. Along with her brother serving as an interpreter, Olson was ready to promote her on coming to California Baptist regardless of by no means seeing the Riverside campus in-person. After a profitable freshman season during which she averaged 11.1 factors per recreation, a brand new problem awaited: D-I basketball.
“You may see the measurement distinction, the depth stage, it was only a entire completely different story,” Olaeta says. “I felt like slightly ant operating round everybody.”
One key distinction between D-II and D-I is that gamers keep on campus throughout the summer season to work out at the D-I stage. These exercises had been mandatory to get the CBU program bodily up to pace.
“We had been going to the weight room each day,” Olaeta says. “I’ve by no means been that sore in my total life.”
One other manner the program has improved tangibly is the recruiting bump that the transfer to D-I gives. Palma, who leads the crew in three-point taking pictures, says that CBU was D-II for the majority of her recruiting course of however her curiosity was piqued when she came upon they had been making the transition.
“My senior yr, I acquired a letter in the mail that stated [CBU] was going D-I and I stated ‘oooh, okay!’ ” Palma says. “It introduced extra of my consideration for positive.”
The outcomes show the Lancers have made progress.
“I’ll be watching the opposing crew [on film] and assume ‘boy, these guys look massive’ or ‘boy, they give the impression of being athletic,’” Olson says. “Then I look down at our crew and I’m like ‘we glance massive, we glance athletic.’ And I don’t assume you’d have thought that essentially early on.”
Now, CBU is 4 wins away from capping off a record-setting season. Two wins at Seattle this weekend would full an ideal common season, and two extra the following weekend in the WAC event (as the No. 1 seed, it’s already earned a spot in the semifinals) would let it lower down the nets and be part of some distinctive firm in the course of. In the event that they do, the Lancers gained’t have to fear about anybody not realizing their title for much longer.
“Not many individuals know who we’re. Persons are most likely like ‘who’s 20–0, what faculty is that?’ ” Palma says. “We’re lastly getting on the market for folks to discover us.”