Sunday, April 2, 2017

Looking up in Dallas

Dallas is yet another city that we wouldn't ever have visited, except for attending a Final Four. Cultural benefit of following @StanfordWBB! Turns out, Dallas downtown is full of fun big architecture that makes you look up all the time. Here are some pics of that architecture, as grabbed with a little ol' point-and-shoot. Click a pic to biggify it.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Logistics for Dallas

The Women's Final Four will be played at 6:30 and 9pm CST on Friday, March 31st and at 5pm Sunday April 2nd, at American Airlines Center in Dallas TX. Relevant links:

There are many nonstop flights to the Dallas area from both SJC and SFO. Dallas is served by two airports: Love field (code DAL) is closer to town. The gigantic hub Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) is the other choice, twice as far from town. Southwest and Virgin America fly only to DAL. American and United fly to DFW.

As a major city, Dallas has many hotels. Rates for that weekend run from $150/night upward.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Lexington Meetup Friday afternoon

East-coast fan Stephen Perlman suggests a fan meetup on Friday March 24th, at 4pm (the first game is at 7pm local time, and Stanford plays in the second game).

Wear your cardinal clothes and drop in at the Bigg Blue Martini in the Hilton Lexington Downtown. This is a popular drinking establishment a very short distance from Rupp Arena -- it is visible in the map in the previous post.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Logistics for the Lexington Regional

This post updated 3/14 with actual game times, more flight info, and removal of some unrealistic advice.

Should Stanford advance from the first two rounds, it will play in the Lexington regional. These games will be held in Rupp Arena on the grounds of the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Kentucky (map).

The games will be on Friday March 24th at 7pm and 9:30pm. Lexington's Blue Grass Airport (code LEX) is served by American and United. (Delta also flies there, but only from Atlanta, so any Delta flight originating in SFO has at least three legs and many hours.)

Alternatives are Louisville airport (code SDF) and Cincinnati (code CVG). Both these cities' airports are about an hour and a half drive from Lexington. Southwest airlines serves Louisville, so if you want to fly SWA, make that your destination. SWA has a 6:50am departure from SFO, arriving SDF at 3:50pm. There is theoretically time to drive from Louisville and make the 7pm game, but on the other hand, this would be a Friday evening.

There are American flights to LEX out of both SFO and SJC at 6:14am that arrive in comfortable time to make the 7pm game. No later departure would be assured of making the start of the first game. For a slightly more civilized departure time you could take an 8am flight from SFO on the Thursday.

Remember that the FBC Travel page has many useful links for scheduling flights.

Logistics for the first round

Stanford plays in Bramlage Coliseum on the campus of Kansas State University (map) on Saturday, March 18th at 12:30pm local (Central) time.

Manhattan, KS is a two-plus hour drive from the nearest major airport, Kansas City (code MCI). In no case is it feasible to fly from SFO on the Saturday and reach Manhattan in time for the game. You must fly on Friday.

Update: Manhattan's local airport (code MHK) is served by American Eagle, a subsidiary of American. It is possible to book flights on American from SFO, changing in DFW, direct to MHK. The times are not any more convenient but the long drive from the bigger city is avoided. The rest of this post is based on flying into KC.

There is a single nonstop flight from SFO, UA5454, which uses quite a small plane, so is probably sold out by now. Other flights by United and American involve one change. If you catch an early (5am-7am) departure, you can arrive in KC early enough to make the drive to Manhattan on Friday evening. Be sure to notify your chosen hotel of late arrival.

What we have opted to do is to fly into KC and stay Friday night at the airport Marriott. On Saturday morning we'll make the drive to Manhattan early and stay in a hotel there for three nights.

The two-plus hour drive back to KC must affect your choice of return flights as well. Fortunately KC is a relatively compact airport. The rental car agencies are on the airport grounds, not a long bus ride away. But you'll want to depart Manhattan at least four hours before your scheduled departure. However, the weather forecast is for partly cloudy -- we should not have bad weather to contend with at either end of the weekend.

Remember that the FBC Travel page has many useful links for scheduling flights.

Friday, February 24, 2017

How to evaporate a time cushion

We planned this trip to have a civilized mid-morning start and yet with a comfortable four-hour time-cushion before an 8pm game. This post is about how that cushion almost evaporated on us.

The plan began with an 11am flight from SJC to Portland, to arrive at 1pm. Pick up a rental car, drive two hours south on I-5 to our hotel almost next door to Gill Coliseum. Then there'd be time for a nap and a leisurely supper before hitting the gym door at seven for the 8pm game.

The plan started to unravel about 20 minutes out of San Jose, when the flight attendants asked if there were any doctors or nurses on board. A passenger a few rows ahead of us was having a medical emergency. A few minutes later the pilot announced that we would be diverting to Sacramento.

At Sacramento airport a couple of EMTs quickly escorted the ill passenger off the plane, and in about a half an hour we took off to resume the flight to PDX. The plane landed only and hour and a quarter later than planned. Cushion still looked fluffy.

Then a couple of slowdowns. First we needed to pick up some sandwiches so as to have lunch en route. Chose sandwiches at a Deli in the terminal, but magically a line of half a dozen people formed ahead of us, all to be dealt with by one clerk. Five (5) other employees were standing around but somehow none of them could open a cash register. Fifteen minutes down the drain.

The rental car office for Budget at PDX is off-site, but that isn't apparent until you trek down into the garage and find the Budget counter where a sign directs you to wait for a shuttle at Island two. The shuttle showed up after a few minutes. Then we found out that to reach the rental cars, it had to go a couple of miles on I-205 North, which was bumper-to-bumper. Another 20 minutes gone.

Into the rental car at last and started South on I-205 about 3:30 on a Friday. Note to self: don't do this again. We spent the next 100+ minutes traveling less than 30 miles as we crept through Portland. Traffic didn't begin to move until well south of the 5/205 junction.

At the start the Garmin was predicting arrival at our destination at 5:45 but as we crept along (and the light faded, and the rain fell), the prediction kept shifting until it reached 6:45. In the end that was accurate: we pulled into the hotel lot at 6:45. Our four-hour cushion was now 15 minutes, and any thoughts of a nap or supper were out the window. Supper, in fact, was a pint of Umpqua ice cream shared at half-time. OK, that's not bad. It would have tasted better with a Stanford win, but at least we got there for the game.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Plan Waaaayyyy Ahead: November 12 in Columbus OH

Thanks to commenter "Unknown" we have learned that the 2018 Final Four will be in Columbus OH, and the hoopla has already started. According to this article in the Columbus Dispatch, there will be

a nonconference "Countdown to Columbus" showcase event, scheduled to take place Nov. 12 at Nationwide Arena. Ohio State's women's basketball team will play four-time defending national champion Connecticut, and Louisville will face Stanford.

Further details are not given. Will it be a tournament, or just two games? Will there be other teams? Who knows? Never mind; just think about a fall trip to the heartlands...

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Pack a bag for the NCAA first and second rounds

Recent NCAA policy is that, of the sixty-four teams in the post-season, the sixteen top seeds host the first two rounds of the tournament. Since Stanford will almost surely be seeded higher than 16th (they are #8 as of this writing), will we watch a set of first-round games at Maples the weekend of March 17th?

No, we will not.

Why we won't host

The reason is that Maples Pavilion will play host that weekend to the PAC-12 Women's Gymnastics Championship. As a result, Maples is not available for NCAA basketball.

This did not come as a surprise to the Stanford Athletics office. The Women's Gymnastics Championship rotates around the league, and it was long known that this year would be Stanford's turn to host.

The WBB office knew a year ago that Maples would not be an option for the NCAAs. Could they have secured some alternate venue? It turns out they could not, for several reasons.

The first reason is the NCAA requirements for hosting this event. They require a minimum seating capacity that is large enough to rule out small venues like USF or Santa Clara.

The NCAA also requires exclusive use of the venue for four days. Arenas that are part of a school almost always have other sports that need the school's arena for practice, or even to host their own championship events in some sport, and they won't give up a full four days of access at this time of the year.

Another reason is cost. Four days at a large arena don't come cheap. There's another problem: the venue would have to be booked well in advance: last fall at the least. And they would want money up front as a deposit. But last fall Stanford could not be certain they would have the opportunity to host. Being a 16-seed or better is not a given before the season even starts. So to book a commercial arena would have required a sizable expense before the WBB office could be certain it was justified. That's a hard sell to the Athletic Department.

Who will host?

There's no way to know. The offer to host the first round does not automatically go to the 17th seed. Schools bid to be hosts before the season starts. Not all schools bid. So the offer to host will be extended to the next-ranked school that actually offered a bid to host. But that won't be known until the final seeding is settled. Even then, many other considerations come into play. For example, they won't place Stanford in first-round bracket with any other PAC-12 team. Given the number of PAC-12 teams likely to make the post-season, that will complicate matters quite a bit.

Bottom line: we will know where the Cardinal will play the first and second round on Selection Monday, March 13, and not before. It could be anywhere in the country.

We have a little bit more knowledge about the Regionals. If Stanford wins its first two games, it will play the next two at one of four places: Bridgeport CN, Lexington KY, Oklahoma City, or—cross your fingers—Stockton.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Wow! Simply Wow!

By Wally Mersereau

Saturday in Seattle was chilly and dry. Dry was appreciated. Sunday had a sprinkle or two and was a little colder, but generally the same.

Mount Rainer was visible from the airport and from the UW campus where I went for a stroll on Saturday afternoon. The light rail line from the airport has been extended to the university with the terminus right at Husky Stadium. A block beyond is Hec Ed Pavilion. From the Westlake Station near my downtown hotel it’s a 6-minute ride to the university and trains run at 10-minute intervals. No more taxi, Uber or Lyft. An all-day senior ticket good for unlimited riding cost only $2.

I learned the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exhibition was held on the UW campus in 1909 and that the campus statue of George Washington was commissioned for and unveiled at the exhibition.

On Saturday I took in a Chuck Close show at the Henry Art Museum located right under George’s feet.

Why can’t somebody successfully accomplish a Pack the House at Stanford? This promotion was a complete success for Washington fans. The arena was sold out with 10,000 in attendance. I heard that general admission tickets were only $5 if you wore purple. I can attest that every seat was filled. I also can attest that 10,000 fans can make a lot of noise and can add momentum for the home team and be intimidating for the visiting team while creating an exciting atmosphere.

When I entered Alaska Airlines Arena I thought Stanford was almost certain to lose. I did not think Plum or Osahor could be contained. I knew it was possible Stanford could win, but I thought this was so unlikely that it was merely wishful thinking. I did not see a path to victory. Several Washington players were making three after three during the pregame shoot-around and this clinched my pessimistic mood.

The first half confirmed my gloomy expectations. Washington led by 9 at the end of the first quarter and by 12 at the half. I expected the Huskies would continue to build their lead in the second half. Doubling Kelsey Plum was not working. She seemed to be running wild and had 22 points by halftime. And other UW players were stepping up to take advantage of Stanford’s focus on Plum and Osahor. I did not look forward to the second half.

Tara and her team thought otherwise. I don’t know what halftime adjustments Tara came up with, but something turned the tide. I had given up hope, but the team had not. Somehow they were able to dig deep and find what it took to climb uphill to a win.

Instead of the Washington lead continuing to build, it began to shrink. Before you knew it the Husky lead was down to 7 and then down to 4. A vocal Husky fan near me began to worry out loud about the shrinking lead. I still thought Kelsey Plum and her team would soon put a stop to upstart Stanford and again take control of the game. But at the end of the third quarter the score was 50-55. For the first time I began to think the Cardinal had a chance, if whatever was working continued to work.

The fourth quarter was a miracle. Stanford did not falter. Kelsey Plum kept scoring, but had to sit with four fouls. Then Osahor got four fouls as did one other Husky player. Erica also had four fouls and then Brittany joined the club. Stanford tied the game and the lead then went narrowly back and forth to the last tick of the clock. With two minutes left I could see that Stanford was more likely to win than Washington. It’s good to be ahead when time is running out.

The second half was a great team effort. Erica and Brit avoided their fifth foul while continuing to play wonderfully well. Marta came through with much more than her usual contribution. And Brianna Roberson could do no wrong in the second half. Her scoring has been improving slightly in recent games, but she turned into a junior-grade Kelsey Plum in Seattle, ending with 14 points.

In the final minute Plum fouled out after reaching 44 points. Osahor was held to 9 points and all other Washington players added a total of only 15 points. In the end it was Kelsey Plum carrying her team on her back and she could not do it alone. She got stuck at 42 points for a lot of minutes while Stanford was doing the impossible.

Washington won the first half 33-45, but Stanford won the second half 45-23. To my surprise and amazement it was the Cardinal that dug down and pulled out a win, the greatest win of the season.

There was a rotation of 7 Cardinal players with 12 minutes or more. Karlie again played all 40 minutes and had 10 points, but she made no threes. Brittany, playing in her hometown, led Stanford scoring with 17 points and did a bit of everything. The astonishing Bri added 14 points, many of them at critical moments. And dependable Erica, after a slow start, ended with 16 points.

I’m glad Stanford will not play Washington again in the regular season, but my confidence in the team certainly has been strengthened. To come back against Kelsey Plum in front of 10,000 rabid Husky fans was a great accomplishment. To win this game took determination and guts and the nice girls from Stanford had plenty of both on Sunday evening.

I left Alaska Airlines Arena with euphoric feelings I could not imagine when I entered.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Success at Huntsman in SLC

By Harriet Benson

Wally was unable to travel to Utah for the basketball game, so I have surfaced from retirement to report on the trip.

Like Wally’s trip to Tempe, I packed light for the short trip to Salt Lake City. Unlike Wally’s trip, I arrived to cold temperatures, salted sidewalks, snow flurries, and ugly piles of black-flecked, gray snow at every street corner. Fortunately I hadn’t packed so light that I forgot gloves, boots, and an extra layer of clothing!

The 6:00 game was in Huntsman Center, a mammoth, circle-shaped arena that seats 15,000 (2 X Maples). Only about 2,000 were scattered about for our event.

Stanford supporters were few; Tara Harrington (’97), Kaylee’s family from Colorado and Wyoming, the team bus driver, and me. We did our best to be vocally supportive.

The game started questionably: we lost the tip and missed the first attempt at a goal. But then Bird made a 2, Karlie a 3, and I was confident we were on our way to a successful evening. Indeed, at half-time we we led 35 to 24, and although Utah fought back periodically, and their 6’6” Emily Potter made her presence known, Utah never really threatened, Tara got to play the whole bench, and we won 77-58.

Since you readers have other sources for the game per se, I will not review the ebb and flow, makes and misses, or steals and turnovers. I will only relay three of the highlights for me:

  • Kaylee played several minutes and well. This was particularly welcome given her family’s attendance. I was proud too.
  • Instead of a “dance cam,” Utah has a “Simba cam”—cute infants held high over a parent’s head; Kaylee’s niece was the clear winner.
  • No clear plastic bags! Even though it appears that the Pac-12 may be responsible for those ridiculous plastic bags, apparently Utah didn’t get the memo. A return to sanity at Huntsman.

It was a successful and lovely trip. I stayed downtown in order to easily tour the local sights. The TRAX transportation light rail made it easy to get to both the airport and arena. I’m quite glad I decided to spread my wings and attend a Pac-12 game this season. Sorry there weren’t some of you to join me.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

A good win in the desert

By Wally Mersereau

The afternoon of Friday, December 30 was a pleasant one in Phoenix. The temperature was in the low 70s, the sky was blue, the air was clear, the tram from the airport was clean and comfortable. All in all it was a good time and place for a women’s college basketball game.

I travelled light from SFO to PHX, carrying only my Stanford clear plastic bag with only a few more things in it than I generally take to Maples. Apparently the Pac-12 has adopted the clear bag policy for all of its major sports venues as it was required at ASU’s Wells Fargo Arena. My bag worked well as a sturdy but light carry-on for this one-day trip.

I made the same trip a year ago to watch what turned out to be a simply awful game--one of Stanford’s worst performances of all time. To add to the gloom that day, it rained. I hoped that the sunshine on this day was a good omen for a better outcome. I told Amy Tucker before the game that I had come to see a win. She was noncommittal, perhaps not wanting to create a jinx.

ASU has averaged a home attendance of less than 1700 so far this season. More than 2500 turned out to see Stanford play on Friday afternoon, of which about 40-50 were clad in red. There was a good-sized and loud band and a large group of ASU dancing girls. The singer of the national anthem was well above average. Charli Turner Thorne was more demurely dressed than for previous games.

Kaylee and Mikaela were not in uniform, but both were present. Mikaela was not wearing a boot as she did at the Yale game so perhaps her foot problem is a minor one.

The game was close and hard-fought. The eventual Stanford win was satisfying. ASU led most of the first half. Stanford led most of the second half, but the score was always close with the largest lead being 8 points in the fourth quarter, but that quickly shrank to one point in the last couple of minutes.

I would give the game ball to the eight Stanford players who got onto the court. It was a team effort. I give my Game Warrior award to Karlie who played her heart out for the full 40 minutes, excelling on offense with 16 points and on defense where she was tenacious, often diving or scrapping for loose balls or pulling the ball away from an ASU player. All eight Stanford players scored. Dijonai was in the game for the shortest time, only 6 minutes, but she made 5 points at a crucial time, giving her the highest per minute scoring.

All was not encouraging. Although Erica ended with a double-double, she took a long time getting going, missing a lot of layups and not seeming to have her usual energy. Not finishing was a common Stanford problem. This avoided being fatal because ASU was similarly troubled. Credit for Stanford’s troubles at close-in shooting should be given to ASU who packed the paint.

Sophie Brunner and Reili Richardson were the best players for the Sun Devils. As in the past, Brunner was a constant menace on defense and offense. Richardson did a fine job as point guard and has some secret way of finding seams and successfully driving for layups.

At the end, when the game could easily have gone either way, Stanford maintained more poise and composure than the Sun Devils who became somewhat inept in the final minutes and couldn’t seem to avoid fouling. The high point of this from a Stanford fan’s perspective was the astonishing fouling of Erica’s 3-point shot in front of the Stanford bench by Quinn Dornstauder. Erica, who played 37 minutes and had to be tired, calmly made all three free throws to guarantee the win.

Statistically, it was Stanford’s making 60% of 3-point attempts and 75% from the free throw line that provided the winning edge. Back at Sky Harbor Airport, waiting for my flight home, I celebrated the Stanford victory by consuming three green chile pork tacos followed by a scoop of plum raisin ice cream. That may not sound appealing, but, like the Cardinal players, it turned out to be a winning combination.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Sale on PAC-12 tournament seats 12/12 only

There is a one-day special sale on PAC-12 tournament seats: $12/session for the semi-final and final games. If you mean to go and have not already bought an all-session pass, go to this Ticketmaster page.

As usual you need to allow Flash to run and turn off ad-blocking (if you have it on). Then click a session and the seat map will eventually appear, and it looks as if reserved seats in several decent sections are available at the discount price.

The sale ends at 10pm tonight, Monday December 12.