The opportunity to potentially play its first four games close to home has Stanford excited about its latest trip to the NCAA tournament.
The Cardinal will have the luxury of playing on their home floor Saturday when they face Idaho State in a first-round matchup at Maples Pavilion.
A seventh straight Pac-10 regular-season title followed by the program’s fourth conference tournament crown in five years earned Stanford (28-4) the second seed in the Fresno Regional. A victory over Idaho State (17-13) would assure the Cardinal of playing the first two games on their home court.
Should Stanford advance to the regional semifinals, those games would be played in Fresno, about a three-hour drive from the school’s campus in Palo Alto.
“I personally was hoping for the Fresno Region for our fans,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. “We can play anywhere and we can play against anybody, but when you’re in the West … the last three years in a row people could not drive if we advanced. They couldn’t drive to Oklahoma or San Antonio.
“This gives, if the seeds hold, our fans an opportunity to come over. They did respect geographical considerations. It’s good for the tournament, not just good for Stanford.”
Stanford is expected to win this game and will be favored to beat either Old Dominion or Florida State in the next round, but the competition gets much tougher after that in a region that includes top seed Connecticut, No. 3 LSU and No. 4 Baylor.
“It’s going to be a tough bracket,” VanDerveer said. “It doesn’t matter where you’re playing, you have to play well. We’re not going to win because we have Stanford on our jersey. We’re not going to win because we’re playing at Maples. We’re going to win because we do the right things.”
Recent history, however, proves the Cardinal can’t afford to look too far ahead. They hosted the tournament in 2003 as a No. 3 seed and lost their second-round game to No. 6 Minnesota.
Stanford is making its 20th straight NCAA tournament appearance and 21st overall, compiling a 46-18 record. The Cardinal have advanced to the regional finals in each of the last three seasons, each time finishing one victory shy of its first Final Four since 1997.
Momentum won’t be an issue in this tournament because Stanford has won nine straight and 26 of its last 27 games, including victories over Arizona, Southern California and Arizona State in the Pac-10 tournament.
Stanford’s biggest strength may be its balance. Two-time Pac-10 player of the year Candice Wiggins averages a team-high 16.9 points, followed by Brooke Smith (13.4 ppg) and Jayne Appel (13.4).
Idaho State will be making its second NCAA appearance and first since 2001.
The Bengals, winners of 10 of 11, beat Weber State and Northern Arizona to capture the Big Sky tournament title and an automatic bid.
Junior center Natalie Doma led the Big Sky with 21.8 points and 12.2 rebounds per game, finishing among the top 10 nationally in both categories.
Idaho State, which has never faced Stanford, is 2-18 all-time against the Pac-10.
- No. 16 Oregon State women rally in 71-55 win over S Illinois
- No. 9 Baylor women beat No. 19 Syracuse 74-72
- Johnson leads No. 9 Baylor to win over Syracuse
- No. 7 Stanford, No. 11 Lady Vols in unfamiliar positions
- Moore, No. 10 Louisville beat Grand Canyon 65-51
- Lauren Hill to become honorary coach
- Chattanooga women stun No. 7 Stanford 54-46
- Williams leads No. 13 Duke past Oklahoma 92-72
- No. 2 UConn women beat No. 25 DePaul 98-64
- Gray leads No. 6 North Carolina to 65-36 victory
- No. 13 Duke women crush Mass-Lowell 95-48
- Parity abounds among women's hoops elite
- No. 19 Oklahoma State holds off Weber State women 55-49
- Enemkpali leads No. 3 Texas to win over McNeese
- No. 1 South Carolina rolls over Hampton, 69-49
- Northern Michigan suspends coach for cheat remark