The Pac-12 women's basketball regular-season championship will probably be determined in a pair of games between Bay Area rivals week.
Stanford, which slipped to No. 5 in this week's Associated Press women's basketball rankings, plays the first of consecutive games against No. 7 Cal (12-1) on Tuesday in Berkeley, and it's not clear whether the Cardinal (13-1) will have all-conference guard Toni Kokenis available for that game.
Kokenis missed Sunday's game against Utah because of an unspecified health issue, and coach Tara VanDerveer said Monday there was no update on her status for Tuesday's 7 p.m. game.
"She doesn't feel well," is all VanDerveer would say about Kokenis' condition.
Kokenis missed Stanford two preseason exhibition games with a similar description from Stanford officials.
If Kokenis can't play Tuesday, Stanford gives up some quickness and athleticism against a Cal team that is loaded with both.
"They are a very athletic team at every position," VanDerveer said. "They are an experienced team."
Sara James played well in Kokenis' absence on Sunday, and she probably would get extended playing time again if Kokenis can't play.
The Bears are unbeaten at home this season, and pose a threat to the Cardinal's 80-game winning streak against conference opponents.
The last time Stanford lost to a conference foe was four years ago on the same court on which the Cardinal will play Tuesday. On Jan. 18, 2009, No. 11 Cal beat No. 9 Stanford 57-54 in front of a Haas Pavilion crowd of 10,126.
Nobody who played in that game is on either current roster, and it's questionable whether this game will draw as large a crowd.
"I don't know what to expect on a Tuesday night," VanDerveer said regarding the atmosphere for Tuesday's game. "What we'd like is a tournament atmosphere."
In some ways, this week is like a two-game elimination tournament for the Pac-12 title. In the odd scheduling arrangement, Cal and Stanford play again on Sunday in a 1 p.m. game at Maples Pavilion, and if either team sweeps the two games, it will be firmly entrenched atop the Pac-12 standings. A split will leave the two to battle it out the rest of the way without facing each other over the final 14 conference games.
Much of the Bears' defensive focus will be on shutting down Chiney Ogwumike. Connecticut showed how important it is to contain Ogwumike when they double- and triple-teamed her, taking the Cardinal out of its offensive rhythm in UConn's 61-35 victory. Ogwumike is averaging 21.5 points, 10th in the country.
But the key matchup may be at the point guard spot between Stanford sophomore Amber Orrange and Cal sophomore Brittany Boyd. If one can penetrate and break down the defense better than the other, that will go a long way toward determining the winner.
Unlike the Stanford-Connecticut game, which was only on ESPNU, making it unavailable to many people, both Cal-Stanford games are being televised on stations available to most people. Tuesday's game will be televised by the Pac-12 Networks, and Sunday's game will be on ESPN2.
Notre Dame jumped over Stanford, Duke and Connecticut to the No. 2 spot after beating Connecticut on the Huskies' home court on Saturday. It leaves Duke as the nation's only undefeated Division I team.