Stanford, Day 4

dcloninger@thestate.comMarch 29, 2014 

NCAA S Carolina Basketball

South Carolina guard Tiffany Mitchell, center, speaks while seated between forward Aleighsa Welch, left, and center Alaina Coates during a news conference at the NCAA college basketball tournament in Stanford, Calif., Saturday, March 29, 2014. South Carolina plays North Carolina in a regional semifinal on Sunday.

JEFF CHIU — AP

“Now let me welcome everybody to the wild, wild west.” ---------------------------------------------------- 2PAC FEATURING DR. DRE

STANFORD, Calif. – After hearing the players and coaches speak today, and watching them (in limited minutes) in practice …

Don’t think this is Stanford’s regional to lose.

All of the teams have the capability to win this regional (“Well, duh, Dave. That’s what they pay you for?”) Everybody has their own special thing going for them and I think it’s going to be an entertaining two days.

The top-seed Gamecocks are the new kids in town, the ones who fought their way to a magnificent regular season and earned that shiny “1” next to their name. It’s a big honor and a bigger target, but the Gamecocks have been a team to handle that kind of pressure all year.

North Carolina is playing for coach Sylvia Hatchell, stricken with leukemia, and has played its best ball lately. Its familiarity with South Carolina could serve as an edge, and once it’s one step from the Final Four, watch out.

Penn State is the team nobody’s looking at. There’s no pressure on them because if they lose, they were supposed to, still had a great year. Who knows if they don’t slip in and take the title?

Stanford’s at home, in a comfortable environment, and has been here and beyond several times before. It’s a business to the Cardinal and they’ve always succeeded.

It’s so different in the women’s bracket. The tournament hardly ever features big upsets (DePaul was one this year) and the competition really begins in the Sweet 16. It’s why so many coaches were opposed to having the middle two rounds at campus sites – all the coaches knew that the good teams would be in the 16, which created an unfair advantage. Play at home in the first two rounds, you should win because you were probably going to win anyway. Next two, though, those shouldn’t be at home, which is why it’s going back to neutral sites next year.

It’s why Stanford should probably be favored to win this regional. The Cardinal are 28-4 in NCAA tournament games at home and are used to advancing far into the postseason (outside of last year’s aberration, they had been to the Final Four five straight times).

But favoring doesn’t mean anything. Personally, I don’t see Stanford as unbeatable. It all flows through one player and the Cardinal don’t really have another that can take over a game. Every team has a flaw, every team has a strength.

Talking season is over. Time to play ball.

And just when you thought you’d seen it all …
You’ve heard the stories of the NCAA’s ridiculous pettiness when it comes to selective enforcement of its rules – you know, busting a coach because he bought a bagel for his player (so what if the player’s father died and the coach was sitting with the player until his plane arrived?) and turning a blind eye to a case like North Carolina’s, which is a nasty scandal threatening the institution’s academic backbone (“That’s their deal, not ours”). I’ve certainly heard the tales and figured, like everything, some were embellished and some were completely made up.

Then I’m sitting there watching practice today, which is closed to the public and open to the media for just the first 15 minutes, and an assistant coach comes over to rummage through the equipment bag. Asked what he was doing, he said he was looking for tape. I overheard and figured he strained a finger or something. Nope.

He had two Under Armour logos on his practice shirt, front and back. The NCAA says you can only have one logo showing. So the NCAA rep actually told him he couldn’t be on the floor unless one was covered. He had to put tape over the one on his back.

I’m not kidding. This happened right in front of me. I couldn’t believe it. The coach couldn’t believe it.

This is college sports’ governing body.

SATURDAY’S GAMES
Baylor 90, Kentucky 72
Notre Dame 89, Oklahoma State 72
UConn 70, BYU 51
Texas A&M 84, DePaul 65

SUNDAY’S GAMES
Maryland vs. Tennessee, noon
LSU at Louisville, 2:30 p.m.
Penn State at Stanford, 4:30 p.m.
South Carolina vs. North Carolina, 7 p.m.

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