Thursday, September 21, 2017

Plan wayyyy ahead for the PAC-12 Tournament

Did you attend the PAC-12 Tournament in Seattle last year? And are you pretty sure you will attend this coming spring? If so, you can take advantage of a pre-sale of all-tourney passes now. Call Storm ticket manager Jaron Iwakami at (206)272-2553 during office hours and say you got the number from the FBC Travel Blog. He'll help you to reserve center section seats at $115 per seat.

This does not mean that you can't get seats later, from the Storm when they put them on sale, or immediately before the Tournament through the Stanford ticket office. It's simply an opportunity to grab nice center-section seats early.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Vegas for Thanksgiving

Updated 8 September with full info

This year's Thanksgiving tournament is the Play4Kay Shootout to be held in Las Vegas, November 23-25 (Thursday through Saturday).

Everything you need is linked from that site. Here's the schedule. Basically there are four games played on each of Thursday (Thanksgiving), Friday, and Saturday. Stanford plays Kent State at 5:30pm Thursday. Win that, and they will play (probably) Gonzaga at 8pm Friday. Win that one and they will play (probably) Ohio State—yes, the very same Ohio State they played just two weeks earlier—at 8pm Saturday.

Here's the link for ticket sales. A three-day pass is about $60. One-day tickets are also available. The venue looks huge on the seating chart, so you can probably safely wait and buy the tickets on-site.

Travel Logistics

Prices for flights from SFO or SJC to LAS are crazy for this holiday weekend: $350 and up. Normal prices are half that or less. Southwest still has some "wanna getaway" $150 fares for the Thursday, but the return fares for Sunday are all at $300+.

Driving to Vegas from the Bay Area is about 550 miles, and about 8 hours, via Bakersfield (per Google maps). We are looking at leaving on Wednesday and spending a night on the road in Bakersfield or East of it, and should still come in quite a bit cheaper than flying.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Columbus in November

Updated 20 September with Friday game time

Updated 6 September with ticket number and game times

Updated 26 August with game time.

Updated 25 August with ticket info.

Updated 10 August with the UConn game change.

Updated 1 May with info on hotels and SWA flight.

The Cardinal play Ohio State on Friday, November 10th at St. John Arena on the campus of Ohio State, at 6pm. Then on Sunday, November 12, they'll participate in "Showdown to Columbus" at Nationwide Arena, the site of the Final Four. There will be two games in that event: Stanford vs UConn at 1:30pm, and Ohio State vs Louisville following. (Previously Stanford was to play Louisville). Here is a map showing the relation between the two sites. The Ohio State campus is a ten-minute drive from the downtown area and the Arena.

As of 6 September Tickets for both events are handled by the OSU ticket office only (i.e. don't expect the Stanford ticket office to have any). Although the OSU tickets page has not yet been updated, you can buy tickets right now by calling the very helpful Andrew Boppel at 614-292-8098. The Friday game is general admission. Andrew will help you select reserved seats for the Sunday games.

Flight Logistics

John Glenn International Airport at Columbus (code CMH) is not served by any nonstop flights from a Bay Area airport. All flights require a change of planes in Phoenix, Denver, DFW or O'Hare. (Phoenix? Why would there be nonstops from Phoenix to Columbus, but not from SFO?)

Update 1 May Thanks to a heads-up from fan Gregory Smith we learn that Southwest has one non-stop, OAK-CMH. It departs at 10:35 and arrives at 5:55, somewhat iffy if the game starts at 7 or earlier. SWA also has a one-stop (no plane change) flight departing at 7:30 and arriving at 5pm.

As usual with eastbound flights, one must depart very early to arrive by 5pm. The best selection of flights is from SFO, with both American and United offering multiple departures that arrive in Columbus between 3:30 and 4:30. San Jose also offers at least four departures that arrive before 5pm. All these flights depart around 5-6am. sigh!

If you want to get there way early, both American and United have red-eye flights from SFO that depart around midnight and get in before 10am.

For the return leg, a Sunday return is perhaps just possible. With a game at 1:30, we can't assume leaving the arena before 3:30; allowing a minimum of 90 minutes to return a rental car and check in for a flight brings us to 5pm. United and American both have Sunday departures between 5 and 6pm, arriving either SFO or SJC around 10pm. Southwest has 6pm and 6:50pm departures for OAK.

Hotels

Downtown Columbus has all of the usual hotel chains, with at least four major ones in easy walking distance of the Arena, and several more around the nearby city center. Prices appear to run from $400-$500 for a Friday-Saturday two-night stay. (Add another $150 if you have to stay Sunday night as well.) You can cut that in half by staying on the outskirts of town. If you plan to have a rental car, look for hotels west of town along I-270. We plan to stay downtown and use Uber/Lyft to get around.

Update 1 May Thanks again to Gregory Smith we learn that on the Saturday, Ohio State hosts Michigan State for football. That's likely to be a somewhat big deal in Columbus. It accounts for why booking.com is already showing a few hotels as sold out for this weekend. If you plan on making this trip, it might be wise to book your hotel now, and your flight as early as you are sure you are going.

Columbus Attractions

Columbus is situated on a curvy stretch of the Scioto river (extra points to anyone who already knows the correct pronunciation!). The city is in the middle of the heartland. If you draw a line from Chicago to Washington, DC, and another line from Cleveland to Louisville, Columbus is in the center of that big "X". While it is surely a most worthy city, it doesn't have any famous attractions. Here is Tripadvisor's list of attractions, and here is Yelp's list.

It looks as if one could spend a couple of hours strolling German Village.

These specialized museums might appeal to particular visitors. The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum houses a large collection of cartoon art from all eras with a rotating exhibit of original works. The Jubilee Museum has Catholic devotional art and artifacts. The Central Ohio Fire Museum has restored fire-fighting equipment in a restored firehouse. The Kelton House Museum is an 1850-era Victorian mansion one can tour.

Please feel free to post a comment with more suggestions!

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.