Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Spokane Is Not a Post-Season Lock

A lot of us have been assuming that Stanford would play the first and second rounds of the post-season in Spokane. That's a casual assumption based on a couple of trips to Spokane for regional games in recent years. Who can forget beating Maryland there in 2008? Or the tough opposition of first, North Carolina, and then Gonzaga and Courtney Vandersloot last year? Lots of Spokane memories.

But those were regional games, 2nd- and 3rd-rounds, or Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight games, if you prefer.

This year the games in Spokane are 1st- and 2nd-rounds, and they aren't at the arena but rather hosted by Gonzaga. That's why ESPN analyst Charlie Creme doesn't think Stanford will play there. What he says will make more sense if you first look at this full 2012 bracket with its sites (speculatively) filled in. The locations for the games are set, but which first-round site feeds to which regional is Creme's speculation.

... The Cardinal have grown accustomed to having a West Coast spot, often their home gym, to open the tournament. But this year, they are going to have to really travel and might be disadvantaged in the second round... The only way for the Cardinal to remain within two time zones of home would be Spokane, but that could possibly mean a rematch of both the 2011 NCAA tournament and this year's regular season with Gonzaga. Both are prospects the committee tries to avoid.

Everything Charlie Creme says is speculation. He's trying to second-guess the notoriously opaque decision process of the NCAA selection committee, always a tricky thing.

Bottom line? Stock up on black "Fear the Tree" shirts, in case (as Creme speculates) we end up at an arena full of crimson-clad Sooners. Don't book any travel until after Selection Day. And then buy tickets through Stanford, so as to sit with other fans.

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