Stanford's mission toward fourth straight Final Four begins at home Saturday against UC Davis
Monday, March 14, 2011; 9:51 PM
STANFORD, Calif. - Stanford's run toward a fourth straight trip to the Final Four begins right at home with a familiar opponent: Northern California neighbor UC Davis.
There could be several other interesting matchups with teams the Cardinal know awfully well, too, in a bracket also featuring Pac-10 runner-up UCLA, Fresno State and Iowa - and West Coast Conference powerhouse Gonzaga.
Second-ranked Stanford (29-2) earned the No. 1 seed in the Spokane Regional on Monday and will host the Big West Conference champion and first-time NCAA participant Aggies on Saturday at Maples Pavilion, where the Cardinal have won 61 straight games. Stanford is riding a 23-game winning streak since losing consecutive road games in December at DePaul and Tennessee.
But Tara VanDerveer's team had to rally in the second half Saturday for a 64-55 win over UCLA in the Pac-10 tournament title game.
"I didn't know UCLA would be in our bracket. Honestly, I'm shocked about that," VanDerveer said after the selection show. "We didn't play against UCLA the way we should have. A lot of the mistakes we made are correctable. ... They know what it takes having been to the Final Four. They know that seeding is not all that."
There can't be a Connecticut-Stanford rematch until the NCAA final. But, if the bracket holds up, the Cardinal could be headed for a rematch of last year's regional final against Xavier - when recently crowned Pac-10 player of the year Jeanette Pohlen went coast to coast to score the game-winner at the buzzer for a 55-53 victory that sent her team back to the Final Four.
"It's just kind of the luck of the draw," Pohlen said. "We kind of thought they'd come to our region."
Xavier's Dee Dee Jernigan missed two wide-open layups in the closing 12 seconds of the 2010 NCAA game that likely would have sent the Musketeers to San Antonio for their first Final Four.
Stanford routed Xavier at home 89-52 this past Dec. 28, a tuneup for the Cardinal's thrilling 71-59 victory over UConn two days later that ended the Huskies' record 90-game winning streak.
"We talk about how our preseason was March Madness in December," junior leading scorer Nnemkadi Ogwumike said. "I think that definitely prepared us for what's coming."
If the Cardinal get through their opener against 16th-seeded UC Davis, they will play the winner of Saturday's first game between eighth-seeded Texas Tech and ninth-seeded St. John's.
UC Davis (24-8) is making its first NCAA appearance, and what timing as 14th-year coach Sandy Simpson makes his farewell in style after announcing before the year he would retire after this season.
These teams have played three times over the past four seasons, with Stanford winning each meeting and most recently earning a 76-51 road victory on Nov. 22, 2009.
Stanford knows from one game in past history not to overlook anybody. The Cardinal were stunned at the hands of No. 16 Harvard in 1998, the only time a 16 seed has beaten a No. 1 team in men's and women's NCAA history.
"No team in the NCAA tournament is a piece of cake," Pohlen said.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.