Elliott Almond writes that Stanford will look to put on a mean face as it begins its quest for a fourth consecutive trip to the Final Four--and possibly more--later today against UC Davis. The Cardinal's role players, including point guard Toni Kokenis, could be the key to Stanford winning its first national championship since 1992.
First things first, though. The Cardinal must survive the Stanford sub-regional, starting with the 16th-seeded Aggies, who are hoping to prolong head coach Sandy Simpson's farewell tour. Simspon announced that he will retire after this season. UC Davis is led by Paige Mintum, who averages 14.3 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. The winner of today's game will play the winner of today's earlier game between Texas Tech and St. John's. The Red Raiders were one of two teams--Connecticut being the other--to beat top-seeded Baylor this season. Stanford is certainly prepared for the road to Indianapolis. Nine of Stanford’s 11 conference opponents qualified for the NCAA tournament.
I’ll leave you with my Final Four picks. Drop your own and grill me for picking against Tennessee in the comments.
PHILADELPHIA REGIONAL: UConn
The record winning streak may be over, and the mystique may be gone, but this is still UConn. The Huskies rolled through the Big East schedule after losing to Stanford on Dec. 30 and it’s hard to imagine No. 2 seed Duke or any other team in the Philadelphia Regional from knocking off Geno Auriemma’s squad. President Obama says Maya Moore is the best player in the game, and it’s tough to argue.
DAYTON REGIONAL: Ohio State
You’ll be hard pressed to find an expert who projects anyone but Tennessee in the Final Four out of the Dayton Regional. I’ll go out on a limb and pick Tara VanDerveer’s former school to pull the upset against the Lady Vols in the Sweet 16, propelling the Buckeyes to the Final Four. Ohio State is hosting a sub-regional and should have a pretty good crowd in nearby Dayton for the matchup with Tennessee. I may or may not be a little obsessed with OSU’s flashy point guard Samantha Prahalis. She's fun to watch.
SPOKANE REGIONAL: Stanford
The Bay Area's only elite team is healthy, deep, and tough.
DALLAS REGIONAL: Baylor
Brittney Griner. That is all.
Stanford over UConn