What an interesting tournament so far! Big wins, big upsets, big stories.....it's all there.
Let's Talk Conferences
The PAC-10 is holding strong with all 3 tournament entries still in the hunt. The SEC and ACC? Not so much. These perennial powerhouses are down to just 1 team each. Here is the breakdown--
Big East (4)--Louisville, Pitt, Rutgers, UConn
Big 12 (4)--Baylor, Iowa State, Oklahoma, Texas A&M
PAC-10 (3)--ASU, California, Stanford
Big 10 (3)--Michigan State, Ohio State, Purdue
Interesting that Stanford has played 6 of the teams left in the tourney this year--Baylor, Rutgers, Iowa State, ASU, Cal and Purdue--and beaten 5 of them. Now that's strength of schedule.
Let's Talk Upsets
OK, Ball State--what a story. From the PreGame dance (see it here) to their spirited play against a monumental opponent to their level headed coach, it is just special. Added bonus for Stanford fans--we may not hear the Harvard thing year after year after year.
MSU over Duke--a perfect NCAA set up, bringing the old coach back to face angry fans and players. Still, one would have thought that Duke would be able to overcome the Spartans, but lacked the punch to push through in crunch time, going stone cold at the end. And are MSU coach Suzy Merchant and Sissy Spacek sisters?
Rutgers over Auburn--if I were an Auburn fan, I would be pretty unhappy. Playing on the other team's home court is one thing, but against a team like Rutgers, who has players with Final Four experience, that is quite another. But Auburn could not stop Rutgers, who typically is not a high scoring team, so there you go.
So what about those pre-determined sites? The idea sounds fine--generating interest and ticket sales prior to the seedings. But in practice, it didn't work well. Any casual viewer could see the oceans of empty seats and the Cal-Virginia game at the Galen Center drew less than 1000. It is hard to understand a system that places number 1 seeds at home (UConn, Maryland), on a neutral court (Oklahoma) and in a hornet's nest (Duke).
Let's Talk Brackets
Did you fill one out with your predictions? How's that workin' for you? I do mine on ESPN.com and it is SO wrong that I don't even look at it anymore......
--UConn vs. the PAC-10? That's the Trenton bracket. Cal will be an interesting match up, with their inside strength. They must continue the all around game they showed against Virginia. It should be fun to watch.
--ASU and Texas A & M should also be a good matchup as both teams are built in the scrappy mold. One X factor is how Brianne January's ankle holds up.
--Duke and Tennessee's losses changed the look of the Berkeley bracket dramatically as many probably had these 2 penciled in for a Sweet 16 match-up.
--ACC vs SEC so those 2 conferences will be down to only 1 in the Elite Eight. Vanderbilt has been flying a little under the radar, but has some quality wins.
--Baylor had better shift into another gear after two close shaves if they want to beat Louisville.
--Courtney Paris' bank account is still in tact. Perhaps in Oklahoma City she can put out a tip jar?
--The team nobody want to play? Rutgers.
Let's Talk Stanford
--Remember that December road trip? Where are Duke and Tennessee now? Home. Where is Stanford? Very much alive and well.
--We knew Nneka was good, but holy cow! She just flies to the ball--never have really seen anything like it.
--When will the national media understand that Stanford is a team in every sense of the word. When there is foul trouble, it is just another opportunity for someone else to shine. Not that we like foul trouble, but those were PAC 10 officials, after all.
--I can recall horror when watching past Bigs dribble the ball up court. Now, when I see Kayla Peterson, I just think "point guard!"
--How hard can it be to check the teams you are covering before the broadcast? How hard can it be to say Onwude? Where's Mary Murphy when you need her (covering Cal in LA)?
--I bet other fans just don't get our coaching staff. There they sit, talking calmly, making adjustments, planning. Other coaches appear to have their hair on fire from the opening buzzer. I like the approach of Tara and Company!
--Fun to see ESPN talk about Stanford's nationwide recruiting. I wish they would have had one of our Cardinal Nation t-shirts to use!
Big weekend coming up.........hope that everyone is in Berkeley and screaming real loud! Let's show everyone what the Cardinal Nation is all about.