What Coach Julie Rousseau and Pepperdine did in winning the West Coast Conference tournament to earn an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament was not simply a team getting hot at the right time.
This borders on mythology.
Pepperdine's 14-16 record is legit. Rousseau is in her second year. The Waves were 12-17 last season and started out 3-10 this season. They finished 8-6 in conference play, but there was no reason to think they could win the conference tournament.
But Rousseau allowed herself to entertain exactly those thoughts if the Waves could win their opening game against St. Mary's in a quarterfinal.
"I was more anxious about" that game on Thursday, Rousseau said. "I knew they would show up for Saturday. And Sunday. The kids knew how hard it was to get here."
After knocking off St. Mary's and then upsetting Loyola Marymount in a semifinal, Rousseau had a good feeling about facing top-seeded Santa Clara. Even though the Waves had lost both conference meetings against the Broncos, Pepperdine was not at full strength for either game.
Yet sitting through the nerve-racking final was harder than Rousseau could have imagined. With four minutes left, she felt faint.
Rousseau said she asked assistant coach Vanessa Nygaard to get her some Gatorade for a sugar boost. "It felt like it took forever because they had to go back to the locker room," Rousseau said. "But it was part of the calm. I wanted to be calm for the kids."
When Pepperdine won, it set off, well, a wave of joy and delirium that won't abate until Monday, when Pepperdine learns whom it plays in the NCAA tournament.
Of all the lessons Rousseau and her staff hoped to teach the team this season, this was the best.
"All things are possible if you believe," Rousseau said. "I honestly didn't see it happening, but there was never a time I felt it was impossible.
"Everyone will say it's a tremendous achievement and leave it there. Don't put a period to our season yet. Anything is possible; we've seen that."
Gone are the days when, as a non-scholarship athlete at Indiana, Tara VanDerveer worked two jobs and piled up student loans so she could play a nine-game schedule.
Gone are the days when, as a graduate assistant coach at Ohio State, VanDerveer needed food stamps to help her survive.
And gone are the days when, in her first year as a head coach at Idaho, she depended on a local fan to drive her car across the country helping to recruit players. "He must have put about 35,000 on my car," VanDerveer recalled.
Indeed, women's basketball has come a long way since her first head coaching job in 1978. And so has VanDerveer, a fixture at Stanford since 1985 and one of nine Division I coaches with at least 650 wins.
"Things are so much more sophisticated," she said. "The athletes -- everyone keeps saying they're bigger and better. I honestly don't think they are. I think we had them back then, we just didn't develop them. We didn't develop the game the way we have now."
Only two active coaches -- Tennessee's Pat Summitt (six) and Connecticut's Geno Auriemma (five) -- have won more NCAA national championships than VanDerveer (two). It's doubtful her youthful Cardinal squad, which won the regular-season Pacific 10 Conference championship but lost the tournament title to UCLA, will get a third title this season.
But VanDerveer is not going to obsess over another banner for Maples Pavilion.
"Would it be fun to win another national championship? Yeah," VanDerveer said. "But I feel we'll work hard to recruit the best players and the best fit for Stanford. Do everything we can, then come out and compete. And then see what happens."