Commentary

Stanford, Cal: Elite company

Pac-12 and Bay Area rivals gain top two seeds in Spokane Regional

Updated: March 19, 2013, 12:02 AM ET
By Michelle Smith

STANFORD, Calif. -- The only one who would confess to being a little surprised was Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer.

Chiney Ogwumike said she responded to seeing Cal's name as the No. 2 seed in the Spokane Regional with a "Hmmmmm."

[+] EnlargeCal/Stanford
Cal Sport Media/AP ImagesIf Stanford's Chiney Ogwumike (13) and Cal's Gennifer Brandon meet again this season, it would be in the Elite Eight.

"It wasn't like 'Oh my god' or anything," said Ogwumike, whose Cardinal earned a No. 1 seed for the fourth straight year.

Cal's Lindsey Gottlieb said she wasn't shocked, either.

"I'm kind of a bracketology geek, I'd been looking at it," Gottlieb said. "I thought this was a possibility."

And she said her Golden Bears, who earned the best seed in program history, are excited by the opportunity to make a Final Four run fairly close to home.

"I'm really happy we are in the West," Gottlieb said Monday night after the NCAA tournament brackets were revealed. "I was rooting for Stanford to be a No. 1 seed because I thought they deserved it and if we both end up there, playing each other, it means we both got to the Elite Eight, which I think is great."

This is the first time two teams from the same conference were placed as No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in the same region since Baylor and Texas A&M in 2011. No. 2 Texas A&M knocked off the Lady Bears to reach the Final Four and eventually win the championship.

Stanford and Cal split their regular-season series, playing twice in the same week in January, each team winning on the other's home floor. Cal's win at Stanford ended the Cardinal's 81-game conference win streak with a 67-55 victory at Maples Pavilion on Jan. 13.

Neither of them lost again in conference play, finishing 17-1 and sharing the regular-season title, the first time Stanford hasn't won it alone in eight years. But they did not play for the Pac-12 tournament championship. Cal was upset in the semifinal by UCLA, which went on to play Stanford down to the wire in the title game before losing by a basket.

[+] EnlargeCal
Cal Sport Media/AP ImagesBrittany Boyd and Cal are thrilled to be out West, and a No. 2 seed.

The Pac-12 title matchup that didn't happen apparently set the table for the region-sharing configuration by the NCAA selection committee.

"One of the things that we look at is whether or not they had a matchup during the regular season or the conference championship," said NCAA women's selection committee chair Carolayne Henry. "So that would have been considered, yes."

Like Gottlieb, VanDerveer said she is excited for her rival across the bay and wishes them great tournament success. But really, she needs to get cracking on watching film on No. 16 Tulsa, a team she said, "I know nothing about."

"If we are both in the Elite Eight, we will be thrilled and so will they, and it will all be good," VanDerveer said.

The Golden Bears seem to have a tougher path to Spokane, Wash., facing No. 15 Fresno State in the opening game in Lubbock, Texas, with the possibility of a tough second-round matchup against Texas Tech on the Lady Raiders' home floor.

"We are a long way away from (talking about Stanford)," Gottlieb said. "Honestly, it's still new for us to look up there and see a No. 2 and we are excited about that. These are things we are still talking about in our program."

Michelle Smith

Contributor, espnW.com

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