March 30, 2016

Pac-12 Parity: A Model For Women’s College Hoops

By Warren Grimes

The Washington Huskies are the Cinderella team of the tournament. Coming into the tournament as a #7 seed with 10 losses, they rolled past the number 2, 3, and 4 seeds to get to the Final 4 for the first time in program history. They did this with Mike Neighbors who is only in his third year as a Division IA head coach.

The tournament is not over yet. But you can bet heavily that the Huskies will win it all.

Oops, this is a case of Husky dyslexia. You should bet on the other Husky team — the one from the other coast — Auriemma University, or whatever it’s called.

In this Husky mixup, there are two realities about today’s women’s college basketball. On the one hand, the Pac-12 presents us with a model of parity, of upsets, of quality basketball, of excellent coaching, and of excitement that’s good for the game. On the other hand, it is likely that U Conn’s dominance will continue for the foreseeable future. That’s not the best way of generating widespread interest in the game.

The Pac-12 has had a seed-shattering showing in the tournament. With five teams in the mix, the conference is so far 14-3, and can finish no worse than 14-5. The conference would likely have had a sixth team in mix had it not been for Jillian Alleyne’s season ending ACL tear. The 14 wins have involved two upsets of number one seeds (Stanford beating Notre Dame and Oregon State downing Baylor in what was almost a home game for the Texas school). As already noted, Washington had three upset wins.

Although Washington wins the Cinderella contest, OSU has to be a close second. In six years Scott Rueck has taken that school from life support to the school’s first ever final four. Stanford should get honorable mention Cinderella status for beating a Notre Dame team that had 27 victories (losing only to U Conn) and had been widely acclaimed as the second best team in the nation.

The parity in the Pac-12, however, extends beyond these three teams. UCLA played to seed and lost a tough sweet sixteen matchup with Texas. ASU was upset in the second round, but lost to an inspired and talented Tennessee team. Overall, ASU had one of its best seasons ever and shared the Pac-12 conference title. Oregon, with an experienced NCAA-tournament coach at the helm, cannot be dismissed. California was a final four team just a few years back. And USC, despite a strange year in which its two most experienced guards were disqualified, is a team with potential and a recent conference tournament championship on its resume.

The conference race is wide open for next year. OSU loses a bunch of key players and could be competitive but probably not a favorite next year. Washington loses Walton but, with both Plum and Osahor coming back, should be a top-rated team next year. Add UCLA, a team that loses Fields but has a bevy of talented young players who will likely be better next year.

Then there’s Stanford, a team that doesn’t lose a single starter or, for that matter, any of the nine players in this year’s rotation. Add to that a very talented group of recruits and a Hall of Fame coach, and you get a team that is very likely to be competing for the title next year.

In sum, the Pac-12 is a very competitive conference, probably the best in the country. There are at least 7 conference teams that could be ranked in the top 25 next year. With its dynamism and parity, the Pac-12 could become a model for what women’s basketball should look like nationally.

But that cannot happen unless the U Conn dominance can be tamed. There is no doubt that Geno Auriemma is an excellent coach. And, although Geno can at times be a bit out of bounds, it’s not his fault that Connecticut is a dominant team. It is up to the rest of the teams to play to the U Conn standard.

That’s easier said than done. Once a coach has established program excellence, it has a huge recruiting advantage, and Geno has proven a formidable recruiter. That would be less of a problem if the pool of high school players were deeper. But good coaches can develop talent. Examples of that include Erica McCall’s evolution to excellence over the past couple of years.

The women’s tournament only had one #1 seed make the Final Four this year. That sounds more like what has long happened in the men’s tournament. Thanks to the Pac-12's upstart performance, a new element of change and competitiveness may have entered the room.

March 29, 2016

Tara already has a bounce in her step ...

... when she thinks about next season.

And she's not hesitant about saying why in this report by Tom Fitzpatrick (San Francisco Chronicle):

Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer will have loaded team next season

March 28, 2016

Great to be One of Eight

By Su Schaffer:

It was the end of a long season. We didn't play our best. We lost to a very good team. But we didn't hang our heads, because we did what 431 other teams didn't do — we made it to the Elite Eight.

Out of 439 Division I teams, we finished in the top eight. So tell me, at the beginning of this season did you think we would do that? In the middle of our season, did you think we had that potential? At the beginning of the NCAA's did you think we had a prayer of that? How did that happen??

Stanford excels again and again, against seemingly crazy odds, because we have Tara and Tara has a terrific staff. Professional teams are mostly about star players. College teams are about coaches who develop adolescent talent into mature players ... who take the kid who didn't have to put together all the moves because she was the tallest, or fastest, or most aggressive on her high school team ... and who pull them up to the next daunting level.

We have watched this happen year after year. We are diehard fans who cherish every moment of the season. We watch Marta develop, we appreciate that soft touch that Bird has on her three's, we recognize how many little things Karlie does to always keep Stanford in the game. Each of our 14 players has her own story, her unique contribution.

Those stories and contributions build over the season. Crazy losses, crazy wins. And, for this fan, another wonderfully crazy season.

March 27, 2016

Cardinal wraps up uneven season in Elite Eight loss

in its final game of the season, Stanford played UW even for three quarters.

Unfortunately, those were the second, third and fourth quarters. During the first quarter they allowed the Huskies to open with a 12-0 run, and hit only 2 of 14 field goal attempts. That first quarter ended with Stanford down 13, at 7-22.

The Cardinal made some headway later and closed to within four points in the fourth quarter. But then another dry spell of 1-9 shooting in the final minutes settled the issue and sent Washington to its first-ever Final Four.

Several Cardinal players ended with good performances. Lili led the Cardinal scoring with 19 points, including three three-pointers. Bird had 17 points (including two three-pointers) and 15 rebounds. Karlie hit four of seven three-point attempts for 12 points. Marta had 10 points including making two (of five) three-point attempts, plus six assists against one turnover. Brittany two three-pointers and Alanna had one.

This final game could be seen as a microcosm of the season. This was a Cardinal that played top-level basketball at times, as shown by their relaxed dispatch of top-seeded Notre Dame, and by spurts of scoring in today's game. But they could also go icy-cold, as for example at ASU, or in the fatal first quarter of this game.

Nevertheless for Cardinal fans there are promises of a bright future.

This season showed Erica McCall's maturation as a player, with a steadily improving ability to score from the mid-range and perimeter, and her almost habitual production of double-doubles — 18 this season. She averaged 14.9 points a game against only 5.6 the prior year and ends the season as the Cardinal's top scorer

Marta Sniezek maintained a high assist-to-turnover ratio in her freshman year — 103/62 for the season and 34/7 (4.9!) in the postseason. In the final few games, she began to demonstrate an ability to score as well.

Kaylee Johnson continued to rebound and play excellent defense, and also improved her offensive production.

Karlie Samuelson ended the season with a dazzling three-point shooting percentage of .473 (the fifth-best in the nation), and also showed steady improvement in her numbers of assists, steals and blocks.

Brittany McPhee almost doubled both her minutes per game (16.6 vs 9.9) and her points scored per game (6.5 vs 3.5) and will surely get more of both next year.

And we'll have one more year to enjoy Lili Thompson, who improved her average from 13.3 points per game to 14.7.

With a stellar group of freshmen (including three McDonald's All-American selections) arriving to challenge these established talents, next season's Cardinal should be even more competitive and -- one hopes -- more consistent than this year's.

Chantel Osafor was the Regional MVP; Bird and Lili were named to the All-Regional team.

Here are game reports and commentary:

The box score and play-by-play,

The game highlights video from Stanford Athletics,

The game highlights video from the Pac-12,

The postgame press conference, with Tara, Bird and Lili (action begins at the 6:01 minute mark, the UW segment at 26:27).

March 26, 2016

The last step on the road to Indy

Against all odds, it's Stanford vs UW in the Elite 8 in Lexington tomorrow.

Speaking of odds, FiveThirtyEight puts its money (59%) on Stanford to win.

Why each Elite Eight team could reach Indy -- and who we pick by Graham Hays (espnW)

Lexington Regional women's final features Pac-12 showdown by Steve Megargee (Associated Press)

Pac-12 Showdown: UW, Stanford cross paths again by Sandy Czarnecki (Swish Appeal)

Familiarity breeds respect for Washington, Stanford by Graham Hays (espnW)

Much on line for Cardinal by Nick Gray (San Francisco Chronicle)

UW women's NCAA tournament run had its origins in 2014 upset of Stanford by Adam Jude (Seattle Times)

Chantel Osahor’s quirky play of great importance for UW women’s basketball by Matt Calkins (Seattle Times)

We Meet Again from Stanford Athletics

Dawgs Face #13 Stanford In Elite 8 from Washington Athletics)

Cardinal over-achieves

Updated March 26: Added Su Schaffer's game report and Stanford Athletics' game highlights video; replaced postgame press conference transcripts with video.

Tara told the TV announcer, "This team over-achieved just to get here."

To the delighted surprise of their fans and to the consternation of a large contingent of green-painted "Irish" fans, Stanford's over-achievement continued for 40 minutes of basketball, and the Cardinal ousted the 1-seeded Fighting Irish from the tournament 90-84.

Stanford opened the game playing with easy confidence, exchanging baskets with Notre Dame until they took their first lead, 13-12, at the 5:11 mark of the first quarter.

They never trailed again. The first quarter featured two three-pointers by Lili and one by Marta, who followed it shortly with a drive and layup.

Stanford controlled the second quarter also and reached the half ahead 50-39. At that point, Bird had 19 points on 9-11 shooting (including a three-pointer), and Karlie was 2-4 on three-point shots.

The third quarter opened with a 90-second possession by Stanford (two O-boards and a Notre Dame foul) ending in a layup by Bird. The quarter ended with Stanford ahead 67-57, and their fans were beginning to believe a win might happen.

In the fourth quarter, with four minutes left to play, Notre Dame cut the lead to four, but Stanford answered with a three-pointer by Bri to dampen Irish hopes.

Notre Dame cut the lead again — to three, 81-78. With 1:31 remaining in the game, Stanford had the ball and the shot clock was running out. The ball came out to Karlie who flung a hail-mary shot that banked in to make the score 84-78.

Karlie recalls, "The shot clock was going down, and Bird didn't have a shot and she threw it to me, and there was only one second left and I just threw it up there."

From that point on, it was only a matter of making free throws, which Stanford did, and the win was sealed.

The Cardinal made 55.9% of their shots (13% above their season average), 55% of their three-point attempts (five by Karlie, three by Lili and one apiece by Bird, Bri and Marta) and 72.2% of their free throws.

Bird led all scorers with a career-high 27 points on remarkable 12-18 shooting. ACC Player of the Year Brianna Turner didn't score her first basket until five minutes into the 3rd quarter, largely due to Bird's defense.

Karlie scored 20 points, including 5 of 6 three-point attempts.

Kaylee had the Cardinal's only double-double with 17 points (matching her career high) and 12 rebounds. She was fouled often, and she sank a career-high seven free throws.

Lili scored 11 points and dished nine assists with zero turnovers.

Marta scored 11 points , including her second career three-pointer, on 5-8 shooting.

In the preceding game, UW upset Kentucky, which means that the Elite Eight game (ESPN, 10am PDT Sunday) will be a rematch of the PAC-12 Tournament game between the Cardinal and the Huskies.

Here are game reports and commentary:

The box score and play-by-play,

The game highlights video posted by Stanford Athletics,

The game highlights video posted by the Pac-12,

Video of postgame press conferences with Tara, Karlie, Bird and Kaylee,

Video clips of some of the Cardinal's prettiest shots:

March 24, 2016

Lexington Previews

The media finds a lot to say about tomorrow's Stanford/Notre Dame and Washington/Kentucky matchups in Lexington:

Pac-12 living up to its billing in NCAA women's tournament by Tim Booth (Associated Press)

Stanford-Notre Dame Preview by Steve Magargee (Associated Press)

Stanford faces top-seeded Notre Dame in Sweet 16 by Elliott Almond (Mercury News)

Notre Dame presents major obstacle for Stanford women in Sweet 16 by Tom FitzGerald (San Francisco Chronicle)

Stanford’s Marta Sniezek hopes her first NCAA tournament experience is a memorable one by Mark Giannotto (Washington Post)

Australian basketballer Alanna Smith out for NCAA Tournament success with Stanford by Roy Ward (Sydney Morning Herald)

Lexington Day One - 2016 NCAA Tournament, video from Stanford Athletics)

Notre Dame more diverse scoring team than in past years by Tom Coyne (Associated Press)

Numbers tell story of Irish journey by Ken Kilmek (Notre Dame Insider)

Washington-Kentucky Preview by Steve Magargee (Associated Press)

UW women vs. Kentucky: How the Huskies and Wildcats match up in their Sweet 16 game by Adam Jude (Seattle Times)

How Kentucky and Washington match up — and a game prediction by Mark Story (Lexington Herald-Leader)

On the road again, Washington ready to take on Kentucky by Graham Hays (espnW)

Washington relishing NCAA tourney run to Sweet 16 by Tim Booth (Associated Press)

How Kelsey Plum and Mike Neighbors formed the perfect player-coach pairing by Adam Jude (Seattle Times)

UK looks for fan support in Rupp NCAA regional by Jon Hale (Courier-Journal)

Kentucky’s Epps: ‘Nothing’s going to keep me from playing’ by Jennifer Smith (Lexington Herald-Leader)

March 23, 2016

Continuing on to Lexington

Stanford vs Washington in the Elite Eight? A tantalizing, but unlikely, possibility.

Five Thirty Eight gives Stanford a 15% chance of defeating Notre Dame and Washington an 18% chance of defeating Kentucky in Lexington on Friday.

Here's how the four teams in the Lexington Regional match up statistically:
Stanford Notre Dame Washington Kentucky
Points per game 67.9 79.9 62.1 74.8
Scoring margin +13.7 +19.5 +8.9 +14.9
Field goal % .425 .496 .411 .457
Opponents field goal % .328 .372 .365 .362
3-pointers per game 6.6 6.0 7.1 4.7
3-point % .359 .408 .333 .362
Free throw % .686 .712 .784 .712
Rebounds per game 41.6 38.8 39.1 39.9
Rebounding margin +5.9 +5.8 +0.8 +5.7
Assists per game 15.0 18.1 11.6 14.4
Turnovers per game 14.3 14.9 12.8 15.6
Assist/turnover ratio 1.1 1.2 0.9 0.9
Steals per game 6.8 9.2 7.4 6.8
Blocks per game 6.3 4.8 3.5 4.1
Overall record 26-7 33-1 24-10 25-7
Conference record 14-4 16-0 11-7 10-6
RPI 9 1 33 13
Schedule strength 2 4 10 23

Here is Mechelle Voepel's (espnW) preview of the Lexington Regional:

No. 3 Kentucky vs. No. 7 Washington (ESPN, 7 p.m. Friday): The "home" team, Kentucky, will have the postseason stage to itself, since the Kentucky men's team is already out of its tournament. The spotlight in Lexington will be on Matthew Mitchell's squad, which didn't have much trouble in the early rounds. Most were expecting a Kentucky showdown with Maryland, but instead the Wildcats will take on Washington. What the Huskies don't have in depth (they have none, essentially), they make up for in hustle and in having one of the best pure scorers in the college game in guard Kelsey Plum, who burned the Terps on Monday for 32 points. While the focus will be on the guards in this game -- the Wildcats will hope Makayla Epps' shoulder is OK by Friday -- this one could be decided by which team dominates the boards.

No. 1 Notre Dame vs. No. 4 Stanford (ESPN, 9:30 p.m. Friday): It looked as if the Irish were going to have a rematch with South Dakota State, a team Notre Dame beat by 11 points in November. Instead, it's a "braniac bowl" between the eggheads of South Bend versus the geniuses of Palo Alto. Seriously, these are two storied programs, both of which have racked up a ton of Final Four visits in recent years without winning a title. Both programs have won the national championship, but it's been awhile -- 2001 for Notre Dame, 1990 and 1992 for Stanford. Notre Dame guard Lindsay Allen appears to be at the top of her game. And in general this season, everything the Cardinal do well, the Irish tend to do a little bit better.

  Stanford Cardinal

Even in down year, Stanford women back in Sweet 16 by Tom FitzGerald (San Francisco Chronicle)

Lexington Travel Day, video from Stanford Athletics

2015-16 Statistics
Game Notes

  Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Notre Dame ready to take the next step and win another national title by Vicki L. Friedman (espnw)

2015-16 Statistics
Game Notes

  University of Washington Huskies

UW women return to soak in good vibes before heading to Sweet 16 by Larry Stone (Seattle Times)

UW women get promising news on Mathilde Gilling’s knee; she will be a game-time decision for Sweet 16 matchup vs. Kentucky by Adam Jude (Seattle Times)

2015-16 Statistics
Game Notes

  University of Kentucky Wildcats

Epps’ guts help lift UK women to Sweet 16 by Mark Story (Lexington Herald-Leader)

A quick update on Epps’ shoulder injury, prognosis by Jen Smith (Lexington Herald-Leader)

2015-16 Statistics
Game Notes

March 22, 2016

Cardinal Slips Past Jackrabbits 66-65

With 12 seconds left to play, Stanford was down by two points. Lili made a do-or-die drive to the basket, the shot was good and she was fouled.

Lili made her free throw and Stanford was up by one, 66-65. South Dakota called time to inbound from their bench with eight seconds on the clock. They needed only to make one shot – or be fouled – to win the game. They inbounded to their best player who went up – and was blocked by Bird.

Although an SDSU player grabbed the ball, time ran out before they could get a shot off. Game over; jubilation reigned in Maples.

However well they played those last seconds, the Cardinal had nobody to blame but themselves for being in such peril. They put themselves in a hole in the second half from which they barely dug out.

The first half of the game was fast, entertaining basketball. Both teams came out hot. The Jackrabbits made their first five field goal attempts and the Cardinal hit their first seven. Stanford won the first quarter, 18-17, and the second, 15-10, to go into the locker room up 33-27.

South Dakota was the one who apparently "made adjustments" to their defense at halftime, because the Cardinal bogged down offensively in the second half . They seemed slow, hesitant, uncertain. SDSU played a 2-3 zone for a short time, but mostly played an athletic player-defense that the Cardinal could not solve.

In addition, the Cardinal was unable to take advantage of frequent fouls. They shot an abysmal 45.5% from the foul line, hitting only 10 of 22. As a result. the Jackrabbits took a 46-50 lead out of the third quarter and held a lead of four to eight throughout most of the fourth quarter.

At 1:28, with the score 60-64, SDSU called time and the Jackrabbits could be seen celebrating. Out of the time-out, Bri hit a three to make it a one-point game. After a flurry of alternating turnovers, SDSU was fouled and made one of two free throws: 63-65. Lili drove and made a layup and was fouled, and made this essential free throw to make the score 66-65 and set up the finish.

Bird led all scorers with 20 points on 9 of 14 shooting, as well as snagging 12 rebounds and being credited with one block, the key one that ended the game.

Lili had 19 points (7-15) including the layup and free throw that gave Stanford its lead. In addition, Lili had a key assist: she drove toward the basket and dished to Bri, standing alone on the perimeter, to create the three-pointer that made it a one-point game.

Karlie hit three of six three-point attempts, and was everywhere, being credited with a block, two steals and four assists.

Kaylee pulled in nine rebounds and scored six points, but was often fouled and was only 4-10 on free throws.

So the Cardinal slips out of Maples with a ticket to Lexington where they will play No. 1 Notre Dame next Friday, March 25.

Here are game reports and commentary:

The box score and play-by-play,

The game highlights video,

The last 12 seconds, a video from espnW

The press conference video, with Tara, Bird and Lili,

A gallery of photos, by Nhat V.Meyer (Mercury News),

A gallery of photos from Stanford Athletics.

In other second round action for the Pac-12, Arizona State ended its postseason with a tough loss to Tennessee:

Oregon State, UCLA and Washington advanced to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen: Oregon and Utah both won their WNIT second round and will play each other in the third round on Wednesday, March 23 in Oregon.

March 19, 2016

Cardinal dominates Dons in NCAA opening round

The Stanford fans cheered loudly when Jennifer Azzi was announced as the opposing coach in team introductions. Then they cheered a lot more as Stanford firmly put the USF team in its place as newcomers to the post-season.

USF was running a well-executed 2-3 zone, from which they could instantly bring two defenders to wherever the ball went around the perimeter. Nevertheless Stanford was able to score: the Cardinal took its first lead on a drive and layup by Marta, which was quickly followed by an O-board and layup by Brittany and a three by Bri. The first quarter ended 17-12 and that was the closest USF came to parity in scoring. Stanford steadily pulled away through the second and third periods.

Everyone played except Shannon who is out with an injury. Nine had significant minutes and all nine scored.

Lili led all scorers with 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting.

Bird had her 16th double-double of the season — 14 points (on 5-of-9 shooting) and ten rebounds.

Kaylee made 75% of her shots for 13 points, grabbed nine rebounds and dished three assists.

Karlie was the Cardinal's fifth double-digit scorer with 11 points.

Marta played 27 minutes, had eight points and nine assists (with just one turnover), suggesting that she could be capable of double-doubles next season. Among her points were her first made 3-point shot (prior to this game she was 0-7).

In all, six players hit 3-point shots in this game: Lili and Karlie had two; Bird, Bri, Alanna and Marta had one each.

In the other game at Maples today, the South Dakota State Jackrabbits withstood Miami's suffocating defense and rebounded their way to a 74-71 upset.

Late in the fourth quarter of the Stanford/USF game, USF went to a pressure defense, pressing every inbound. It was like the defense that Miami used throughout their game against South Dakota State, and as in that game, the pressure was effective in forcing turnovers and slowing the pace. Fans watching felt quite fortunate that Miami lost their game and Stanford would not face 40 minutes of pressure on Monday.

This is the second time the Jackrabbits have advanced to the second round in seven trips to the NCAAs. Their several hundred fans that filled a corner of Maples were ecstatic. Most of them didn't stick around for the Stanford/USF game, but I'm sure they'll be back on Monday for the second round game.

All Seven Pac-12 teams playing in the postseason (WNIT or NCAA) have advanced to the second round:

Here are reports and commentary on the Stanford/USF game:

The box score and play-by-play,

The Stanford Athletics game highlights video,

The Pac-12 game highlights video,

The press conference video, with Tara, Marta, Bird and Lili.

A gallery of photos from Stanford Athletics.

More from the best first-round story line

Here are the final sprouts from the best NCAA first-round story line:

March 18, 2016

The Dance begins at Maples

Here is how the teams that will play rounds 1 and 2 in Maples match up statistically:

Stanford San Francisco Miami (FL) South Dakota State
Points per game 67.5 72.0 70.7 70.1
Scoring margin +13.7 +5.1 +10.4 +10.8
Field goal % .421 .431 .433 .415
3-pointers per game 6.5 6.6 6.6 7.9
3-point % .358 .367 .339 .343
Free throw % .691 .745 .638 .704
Rebounds per game 41.5 37.8 39.7 39.8
Rebounding margin +5.3 +2.8 +2.7 +4.0
Assists per game 14.7 15.3 15.7 14.8
Turnovers per game 14.3 16.9 15.8 12.8
Assist/turnover ratio 1.0 0.9 1.0 1.2
Steals per game 7.0 8.6 9.6 7.8
Blocks per game 6.2 3.0 3.4 4.5
Overall record 24-7 21-11 24-8 26-6
Conference record 14-4 9-9 10-6 13-3
RPI 9 72 25 50
Schedule strength 2 135 60 83

FiveThirtyEight gives Stanford a 95% chance of defeating San Francisco and Miami a 69% chance of defeating South Dakota State. The chance of advancing to the Sweet 16 is 84% for Stanford and 12% for Miami.

  University of San Francisco Dons

The Dons finished sixth (of ten) in the West Coast Conference. They earned an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament by upsetting the three top seeds in the WCC Tournament — San Diego by four points, then Saint Mary's by two and finally BYU by two in the championship game.

This is the Dons' first trip to the Big Dance in nineteen years.

Jennifer Azzi, now in her sixth season as head coach on The Hilltop, is very proud of her determined team. "They have just wanted to win and they are doing things that have amazed me," she said.

The Dons average a solid 72 points a game, second in the conference. Senior forward Taylor Proctor is the leading scorer, at 18.5 points a game, and at 6'0", the leading rebounder at 8.5 rpg.

Close behind is 5'9" senior guard Zhane Dikes with 14.2 points and 7.1 rebounds per game.

Also scoring in double-digits is 5'10" junior guard Rachel Howard with 11.6 ppg; she takes half her shots from beyond the arc and makes 37% of them.

Here are USF's 2015-2016 statistics, roster and game notes.

  University of Miami Hurricanes

The University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida (not to be confused with the one in Oxford, Ohio) plays in the powerhouse Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and finished fifth in the conference behind Notre Dame, Louisville, Syracuse and Florida State.

Miami dropped three of its last four regular season games (to Notre Dame, Louisville and Florida State), then got some momentum back by beating Florida State in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals. That win probably got them their at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.

Katie Meier, in her 11th season as head coach of the 'Canes has led them to five NCAA Tournament appearances in the past seven seasons.

A lot of Miami’s success can be attributed to junior guard Adrienne Motley, a first team All-ACC player who averages 15.8 points a game, No. 5 in the ACC.

Junior point guard Jessica Thomas adds 11.9 points per game. She takes half her shots from beyond the arc and makes 36% of them. She's also an excellent ball-handler. She dishes an average of 3.7 assists per game with just half as many turnovers.

The 'Canes don't have a domineering post player. They're a fairly short team, but have six players who each grab about four or five rebounds per game.

If you see a big bird cavorting around Maples this weekend, it's probably Sebastian The Ibis, Miami's mascot.

Here are Miami's 2015-2016 statistics, roster and game notes.

  South Dakota State University Jackrabbits

The Jackrabbits play in the Summit League. They earned an automatic bid to the NCAAs by winning the league championship, as they have done seven times in the past eight seasons under the guidance of 16-year head coach Aaron Johnston.

The Jackrabbits are a well-balanced team and very efficient team. Their five starters average from 8.9 to 15.3 points per game with field goal rates between 38% and 47%.

Sophomore guard Macy Miller is the team’s leader in scoring and assists, at 15.3 and 2.8 per game, respectively.

Junior guard/forward Kerri Young averages 10.6 points.

Freshman guard Madison Guebert avera 10.4 points an outing and is the most productive 3-point shooter; she takes 68% of her shots from beyond the arc and makes 40% of them.

Sophomore forward Ellie Thompson tallies 10.2 points and 6.6 rebounds, second-most on the team, per game.

The fifth starter, junior center Clarissa Ober is the team's leading rebounder with 8.0 per game and is close to double-digit scoring with 8.9 per game.

Here are SDSU's 2015-2016 statistics, roster and game notes.

March 17, 2016

Why Stanford-San Francisco is the best first-round game

Michelle Smith doesn't actually give the reason in her story for espnW — the story that all long-time Cardinal fans know well. Read more >>> anyway.

NCAA Selection press conference

This is what Tara and Bird and Karlie had to say about the upcoming dance.

Of their first round match against USF, Tara said that it is her responsibility to do everything she can to get her team ready for the matchup with USF. "It is a great story, but I don't want it to be any better story," she concluded.

March 15, 2016

Four Keys to an Extended Tournament Run

By Warren Grimes

Alright, Stanford is a 4 seed in its bracket – only the fourth highest for the conference. The team has played inconsistently. In the season’s final weekend, Stanford humiliated OSU (the conference co-champion and conference tournament winner). In the conference tournament, they lost their only game to a good but not great Washington team. And they lost by wide margins to UCLA and ASU in earlier season away games.

Now, with two weeks off to practice, the team can start afresh with two games (assuming it wins the first) at Maples and build its confidence for the regionals. Here are four keys to an extended tournament run.

Defense - Playing against potent offenses, no tournament team can make an extended run without solid defense. Fortunately, that’s been a relative strength for Stanford, holding a number of good teams below 50 points They have played sound positional defense, intelligently executed help defenses, and excelled as a shot-blocking team. All of this must be done with even greater intensity. The team must play every defensive possession as a game changer – because one more stop could really change the game.

Leadership - Throughout the season, Tara VanDerveer has said that this team will go as far as the point guard takes it. The position has been rotated between Briana Roberson and Marta Sniezek, and that rotation will likely continue in the tournament. Both must lead the team against a variety of defenses (including the nettlesome zone that has contributed to several critical losses). Leadership is critical to establish dominance or to help the team withstand an opponent’s run. A critical basket or assist can change momentum and inspire teammates. Leadership, however, does not come solely from the point guard position. Juniors Lili Thompson, Erica McCall, and Karlie Samuelson must step up to make plays and inspire their mates.

Outsmarting the Scouting Defense - Stanford’s most storied wins involve players who did the unexpected. Tournament teams can be expected to go all out to stop Stanford’s top scorers (McCall, Thompson, and Samuelson). There are six other players in the rotation, and they all must step up. To win, Stanford must outsmart the scouting defense. Fortunately, there is a tradition for doing just that at Stanford.

Two weeks ago, Erica McCall surprised and torched OSU by hitting outside shots, including her first three 3-pointers of the season.

Last year, Taylor Greenfield provided an unexpected offensive spark that led Stanford to a conference tournament championship and a sweet sixteen appearance.

U Conn’s record-setting win streak was halted when Jeanette Pohlen had an exceptional shooting and assist making game and freshman Chiney Ogwumike played exceptional defense on U Conn’s top scorer.

In the regional final in 2008, JJ Hones surprised and blitzed number 1 seed Maryland with a career high 23 points (beautifully supplementing Candice Wiggins 40 plus points).

Those are just of few of the examples of unexpected excellence. These surprises disorient and demoralize opponents, making it easier for teammates to score.

Confidence - The team has to believe in itself. The upset loss to Washington may undermine that confidence, but may also motivate the players to practice and play harder for the end season run. The team must be able to see itself as a Final Four team, but then push that vision aside and play every game, every possession, with unrivaled intensity.

The team has control over its own destiny. Now it’s up to the team to make that destiny.

March 14, 2016

The road to Indianapolis

The Cardinal has been seeded No. 4 in the Lexington region, and its road to Indianapolis will begin in Maples Pavilion against No. 13 San Francisco on Saturday, March 19 at 6:00 pm.

IF the Cardinal wins that game (one game at a time), its second-round game will be in Maples against either No. 5 Miami or No. 12 South Dakota State on Monday, March 21 at tba.

IF the Cardinal wins its first and second round games, its next game(s) will be at the Rupp Arena in Lexington, KY (map) on Friday, March 25 and Sunday, March 27. IF the seedings hold true, Stanford will play Notre Dame in the Sweet Sixteen.

IF the seedings hold true, the Final Four at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis (map) on Sunday, April 3 will be UConn vs Baylor and South Carolina vs Notre Dame.

In regard to the rest of the Pac-12:

  • Oregon State is the No. 2 seed in the Dallas region. Its first game will be in Corvallis against No. 15 Troy.

  • Arizona State is the No. 2 seed in the Sioux Falls region. Its first game will be in Tempe against No. 15 New Mexico State.

  • UCLA is the No. 3 seed in the Bridgeport region. Its first game will be in Los Angeles against No. 14 Hawaii.

  • Washington is the No. 7 seed in the Lexington region. Its first game will be in College Park, Maryland against No. 10 Pennsylvania.

  • Oregon and Utah have been selected to play in the WNIT. Oregon's first game will be at home against Long Beach State on Thursday, March 17. Utah's first game will be at home against Montana State on Friday, March 18. Here is the WNIT bracket.
Here is the NCAA tournament bracket.

Ticket Information

If you haven't already reserved your tickets for the first and second rounds at Maples, you can order them now from Stanford, online or call 1-800-782-6367 (option 1).

IF the Cardinal advances to the regionals, you'll be able to buy tickets in the Stanford section from Stanford after the second round is completed.

IF the Cardinal advances to the Final Four, you'll be able to buy tickets in the Stanford section from Stanford after the Elite Eight is completed.

Regardless of the Cardinal's progress through the tournament, you can buy tickets now, as available, for any of the postseason games from TicketMaster (click here for details and links).

March 08, 2016

Waiting for the bracket

Nothing much to do except wait until next Monday (March 14) when the NCAA announces the bracket. Watch the Selection Show on ESPN at 4:00 PT.

Until then, you can keep track of who's won their conference tourney and an automatic bid to the NCAA tourney here: Championship Week Results.

As for the remaining 32 at-large bids, there's no telling for sure except for the dozen or so obviously top teams.

As of now (Tuesday evening):

  • Stanford's RPI (Ratings Power Index), as reported by the NCAA, places us at #10. The RPI is a major factor, but not the only one, in the NCAA selection process.
  • The media (AP Top 25 Poll) ranks Stanford at #13.
  • The coaches (USA TODAY Coaches Poll) rank Stanford at #16.
  • Charlie Creme predicts Stanford will be a #4 seed, which would make us one of the 16 teams eligible to host the 1st and 2nd rounds of the tournament.
  • Stanford Athletics predicts, "We expect to receive a top-16 seed and host 1st & 2nd Round games at Maples Pavilion on March 19 & 21," and offers the opportunity for season ticket members to reserve their seats now.
Click here for details of the offer and to get tickets.

March 04, 2016

Pac-12 Tournament; Quarterfinals


#2 Arizona State 64, #10 California 75

ASU had beaten Cal in two prior meetings this season, so the result of this game was quite unexpected.

Cal took a slim lead in the first quarter and held it to the half, when they led 32-27. The story at that point was the extraordinary efficiency of the post players — at the half, Kristine Anigwe, Penina Davidson and Courtney Range were collectively 11-13.

Cal opened the game up in the third quarter and stayed ahead by more than ten points to the end.

In the end two factors stood out— ASU was 2-20 in three-point shots, while Cal ended with a jaw-dropping 69% field-goal percentage.

In the end, Anigwe had 24 points on 10-11 shooting (and 11 rebounds); Davidson had 17 points on 7-8 shooting; and Asha Thomas had 16 points on 6-7 shooting. That accuracy was more than enough to compensate for 26 turnovers and lots of fouls — both Anigwe and Davidson fouled out in the final minute, leaving Cal with just enough players to finish the game.

Here are game reports:

The game highlights: Cal rolls past Arizona State into ... semifinals

And the box score and play-by-play.

#3 UCLA 72, #11 Arizona 51

Arizona had lost by wide margins to UCLA twice already, and this game followed that pattern.

UCLA simply outplayed the Wildcats at both ends of the floor, but particularly on the defensive end where they held Arizona players to near 20% shooting through most of the game. (Toward the end when UCLA had mostly subs on the floor, Arizona raised its percentage a bit.)

The UCLA lead passed 30 points in the third quarter before both sides basically reverted to "friendly scrimmage" mode for the last period.

UCLA was able to rest their starters and will be ready for Cal tomorrow. The two teams have played each other twice this season. Cal won the pre-conference game 108-104 in double overtime. UCLA won the conference game 75-56.

Here are game reports:

The game highlights: UCLA women blow past Arizona in Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinals

And the box score and play-by-play.

#1 Oregon State 63, #8 USC 53

OSU had handled USC quite easily in two prior meetings. The first two minutes of this game looked like the beginning of a blowout: Jamie Weisner jumper; Ruth Hamblin layup; Weisner jumper; Hamblin layup — and Coach Cooper called a timeout. The timeout didn't help much, and the first quarter ended with OSU up 22-12.

In the second quarter the Trojans came to life. They began to score, and their defense became a serious impediment to the Beavers' free flow of scoring, to the point that OSU was held scoreless for several minutes. A 9-2 run by USC ended the half at 36-31.

In the second half USC came within three points a couple of times, and the game seemed like a constant struggle for OSU. But each time the Trojans got close, one of OSU's big three of Weisner, Wiese or Hamblin would come through.

Jamie Weisner especially seemed to be in exactly the right place at every critical moment, nabbing key rebounds, hitting crucial 3-point shots. She ended the game with 20 points and 10 rebounds. That, with Hamblin's 17 points and 12 rebounds, and Sydney Wiese's 17 points, made the OSU victory possible.

Here are game reports:

The game highlights: No. 7 Oregon State women's basketball tops USC for 13th-straight win

And the box score and play-by-play.

#4 Stanford 65, #5 Washington 73

Stanford started slowly, and that spelled doom. The score was tied seven minutes into the first quarter, then three quick three-pointers by Talia Walton, then Alexus Atchley, then Kelsey Plum put Stanford in a hole from which they essentially never climbed out.

Washington added to the lead in the second quarter and Stanford played catch-up the rest of the game, sometimes creeping up and then falling back again.

The Huskies played a 2-3 zone defense the entire game and the Cardinal couldn't do much with it, despite hitting 10 of 28 three-point attempts (four by Karlie, four by Lili, and two by Bird).

At the defensive end, Stanford couldn't contain Kelsey Plum, who scored 29 points in all, and became UW 's leading all-time scorer in the process; while Talia Walton and Katie Collier sometimes seemed unstoppable in the post.

In the final minutes the Cardinal closed the deficit to three points, but couldn't hold it there, and the game ran out.

Marta provided the Cardinal highlight of the game by setting the Pac-12 Tournament single-game record for assists with 13 (the previous record was 11 by Nikki Blue, UCLA vs Cal, in 2006).

Here are game reports:

The game highlights: Starters lead Washington past Stanford

And the box score and play-by-play.


The Semifinals tomorrow are:

#3 UCLA vs #10 California at 6:00 pm
#1 Oregon State vs #5 Washington at 8:30 pm