Saturday, December 22, 2012

With malice toward all, with charity for none

By Wally Mersereau

The Lady Vols were seeking redemption after their loss to Baylor at Waco earlier this week. Coach Holly Warlick said her team needed to get back to its primary aims of strong rebounding and a stout defense. It could not let its opponent get a big opening lead as the Lady Bears had done by jumping off to a 17-0 starting score.

The home team took encouragement from the oh-so-close performance of South Carolina against Stanford on Wednesday. The Gamecocks had shown that the Cardinal’s #1 ranking was not to be feared. Holly and her team also were encouraged that Tennessee had actually out-scored Baylor in the second half in Waco 37-35.

Coach Warlick, her players and their many loyal supporters were determined and encouraged to do better and to end the week much better than they began.

So there was no holiday charity or Southern hospitality to be found in Thompson-Boling Arena before the game today. The beautiful fall weather in Columbia had been replaced with chilling winter wind in Knoxville. The lower bowl of the arena was packed with orange-wearing Tennessee fans (13,000 in all) roaring their support and ready for an upset. The small contingent of about 40 Stanford fans was barely noticeable.

Into this hostile environment came the nice girls from Stanford. The Cardinal, in its biannual visits, had not won in this place since 1996 and the Lady Vols and their supporters were intent on keeping it that way. The friendly comfort of Maples Pavilion seemed very far away. In this place and in this mood it was easy to see Stanford as the underdog. I was nervous before the game.

However, my confidence quickly returned and the team was properly confident from the beginning. Stanford got off to a 6-0 lead. Tennessee was not closer than 4 points in the first half and trailed 33-21 at the half. At halftime Chiney had 13 points, Amber 8 and Bonnie 6. Bonnie made two quick threes just before the half ended.

Tennessee did better in the second half, partly I think because Stanford was getting tired. Early in the second Stanford was up by 19. Tennessee made a run mid-way in the half, cutting the lead to nine. The crowd got into it, cheering and clapping, and the noise level went way up. But the Vols run was short in duration and with 7 minutes left Stanford had regained control. With two minutes left Stanford was visibly tired and the Lady Vols were still battling, but the outcome was not in doubt.

The final score was 73-60.

Tennessee accomplished one of its objectives by rebounding better—each team had 41. Tennessee played good defense, but Stanford’s was better. I thought Stanford looked much better prepared for this game than it was against South Carolina. There was plenty of sloppy play by both teams, but Stanford was clearly the better team today. The Cardinal looked much more like #1 than it did in Columbia.

Chiney was the top player once again. She was in for more than 39 minutes, had 21 points and an amazing 19 rebounds, along with 5 assists, 2 blocks and was 3 of 3 from the line.

Toni played 37 minutes and scored 11 points. Amber was in for 30 minutes, had 14 points, 3 rebounds, 6 assists/2 turnovers, a block and 3 steals. Amber and Toni both played confidently and very well at the point. Tennessee pressed a lot, especially in the second half, but seldom rattled the Card.

Jos regained her shooting ability, getting 10 points, 3 rebounds and a steal in 36 minutes. Mikaela had 4 points, 8 rebounds and 2 blocks in 27 minutes. Bonnie made 3 of 3 from beyond the arc, ending with 11 points, and 3 rebounds in 15 minutes. She is continuing to play good defense.

Nneka, her father and her two younger sisters were at the game, sitting just in front of me. The young sisters made posters calling attention to #13.

Pat Summit sat on the opposite side at mid-court in the second row. Tara went over and gave her a hug before the game. Pat must have left early in the game because I didn’t see her after the action started. I think she only put in an appearance today.

And so the Thompson-Boling jinx was finally overcome with Stanford earning its first win there in 16 years. Beating Tennessee is always good. Beating Tennessee on its home court is something very rare and very special and well worth a trip to chilly Knoxville in December.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Holy Moley! What a game!!

By Wally Mersereau

During the day there was nothing to suggest what an epic game lay ahead tonight.

December 19 was a beautiful fall day in Columbia, South Carolina, sunny with blue skies and a high temperature of close to 70 degrees. In the morning I bought my game ticket at Colonial Life Arena, “Home of Gamecock Basketball”. The arena is celebrating its 10th anniversary. It is located just off the university campus. The entry lobby features a giant banner with Dawn Staley’s picture.

I then strolled the USC campus (no, not that one), including The Horseshoe which is its historic heart, somewhat reminiscent of the University of Virginia. The institution was created in 1801, but first opened in 1805 with one building that sufficed for everything--student rooms, classrooms and administrative offices. Student enrollment on the main campus today is about 31,000. There are 7 satellite campuses throughout the Palmetto State.

The university museum currently has a special exhibition about USC sports. I learned that the Gamecock mascot is called Cocky and assumed his current appearance in 1982. Cocky was preceded by a 7-foot tall rooster called Big Spur who apparently has retired. Cocky is about 6-feet tall.

Central Columbia is a pleasant place, especially on a nice day. It has historical markers in almost every block telling for whom streets were named, etc. General Sumter was a Revolutionary War hero, for whom the Fort in Charleston harbor was named, along with a street in Columbia. He was called the Fighting Gamecock for his military prowess. USC sports teams began to use the Gamecock nickname in 1902.

There was a men’s game in the arena starting at 5 pm against Appalachian State. Those holding tickets for the women’s game at 7 pm were allowed to enter during halftime of the men’s game. Three sections of the arena are reserved for women’s season ticket holders, all other seats are general admission. With my early entry during the men’s game I was able to get a seat as close to the Stanford bench as a general admission permits.

The men’s game was close which caused it to run late, finishing at 7:05 pm. South Carolina won 74-69. The women’s game started at 7:40 pm. It seemed as if most of the crowd for the men’s game stayed for the women’s game, making this the highest attendance game of the season for both teams. It’s hard to estimate crowd size in an unfamiliar arena, but I thought it could have easily been 7,000 to 8,000. The crowd was in for a treat—a thrilling game with ample opportunity to cheer for the home team. Stanford had a very small representation, I didn’t see any other fans that weren’t family members and the family group was smaller than usual for a road game—maybe 25 in all.

Before the game I noted that Taylor appeared recovered from her ankle injury and everyone else also looked fine. Alex made this trip, but Aly did not. I was glad to see Stanford in the black uniforms, but this did not intimidate the Gamecocks in the least.

What a game it was! South Carolina was well prepared and played inspired from start to finish while also staying calm and collected. The Gamecock defense was excellent and didn’t allow 3-point opportunities. The team’s season stats suggested great effectiveness in stealing and this was amply demonstrated, especially in the first half. Many of the steals were team efforts with someone deflecting the ball to a teammate. The team stats suggested poor SC free throw shooting, but this was not the case, again especially in the first half, although there were some welcome misses from the line down the stretch.

Tara used 9 players in the first half. Stanford was fortunate to have a 24-19 lead at halftime. Chiney had 12 points in the first half and Amber had 6. Jos had no points. Tara used fewer players in the second half—I think just seven.

I hoped for some halftime corrections by Tara that would result in Stanford pulling away. If Tara had such corrections, so did Dawn Staley. The result was a closer second half than the first.

The Stanford lead was 3 to 5 points for the first 12 minutes of the second half. From the 6-minute mark to the end it was a one-point game or a tied game with the Gamecocks sometimes ahead. The crowd went wild, on its feet and waving rally towels. The noise was deafening. South Carolina continued to be calm and effective and Stanford could only hold on under intimidating conditions. With four minutes left it was 42-42. With a minute left it was 45-45. Either team could have won.

With 25 seconds left Stanford led 47-46 and had the ball. South Carolina started fouling. Fortunately, the in-bound passes were to Toni and it was she who was fouled. And it was Toni that made clutch free throw after clutch free throw. Gamecock fouls and Toni’s free throws built the lead to 51-46 . A South Carolina three with 1.5 seconds left made it 51-49 — too little and too late. The final score was 53-49. Whew! What a battle! What a thrilling battle!

Stanford did not play its best. For example, Jos still had zero points at game’s end, but she and her teammates played well enough to win. South Carolina just played so well and its defense was even better in the second half. Stanford didn’t look like #1, but it looked like a champion. In the end it won, matching and outlasting the Gamecocks who certainly deserved to be called the Fighting Gamecocks tonight.

This game was worthy of an advanced match-up in the NCAA Tournament. It was the ideal preparation for the Tennessee game on Saturday. Congratulations to Dawn Staley and her team for giving Stanford such a challenge. The South Carolina defense was absolutely magnificent.

Toni apparently injured her neck in the second half and had ice on the back of her neck whenever she was on the bench. Everyone else seemed healthy at the end.

I was very proud of the Stanford team. I was able to tell Chiney she was great and give her a high-five as she left the court. She ended with 21 points. She was vital to the win and she came through again. All of the starters played great, with Amber with 11 points and Toni with 15 points deserving special mention. Bonnie was in for extended periods and played very good defense and made two free throws that mattered.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Time to Think About Oregon!

Stanford plays at Oregon in Eugene at 6pm Friday, February 1st. At 4pm before this game, the Eugene Stanford Alumni will once again welcome visiting fans to a no-host dinner at The Bridge Bar and Grill, just across the street from Knight Arena.

After that game we'll have a weekend free to enjoy central Oregon before the OSU game in Corvallis (details and logistical speculations on the Travel Page).

We will pre-order tickets for Oregon.

Update We will have tickets in section 102, behind the visitor bench, at $11/seat!

Please email travel (at) with your ticket count. No orders taken after the USC game of 21 January.

For OSU tickets, order your own using the link on the aforementioned the Travel Page.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Are you going to the Pac-12 Tournament?

The Cardinal haven't even begun conference play. Does it seem too early to talk about the tournament?

Hey! It's dead week, and nothing's going on at Maples. Might as well use the spare time to make your arrangements for attending the tournament.

When is the tournament?

Thursday, March 7 through Sunday, March 10.

Here's the bracket (Click to enlarge.):

No team assignments yet, of course, but you can make a guess as to where Stanford will fit in.

Where is the tournament?

In Seattle at the Key Arena.

Here's a map:

View Larger Map and hotels near Key Arena

Why go to the tournament?

To watch the Cardinal go for its 7th consecutive conference tournament championship, of course!

To enjoy the pleasures of Seattle between games. There are a few suggestions of things to do on the FBC Travel page. If you have other favorite Seattle attractions you want to share, send them to

How do I get tournament tickets?

You don't just yet, but they will be available soon.

This Pac-12 page has the current information about tournament tickets. In a nutshell: If you want to sit in the Stanford section, buy your tickets from the Stanford Ticket Office.

When tickets are available, the link to order them online will be posted to the FBC website.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Efforts of the Traveling Fan Pay Off

By Wally Mersereau

It isn’t easy being a traveling fan of Stanford women’s basketball. Yesterday’s weather and its effects on air travel required those heading for Spokane that day to endure a few hours in some nether world of SFO called Gate 71A that I previously had never known to exist. Gate 71A sounded innocent enough when I was confusingly told that I should go to Gate 71A to get the shuttle bus to Gate 37.

After clearing security I spotted Gate 71 and when I arrived there I saw a door marked A and concluded I was in the right place. Not so! After reading my newspaper there for a considerable time it began to dawn on me that there was nothing at that place suggesting it was the way to Spokane. When I inquired I was condescendingly told that I was at Gate 71 when I should be at Gate 71A which was vaguely indicated as being on the other side of a newsstand. Sure enough, beyond the newsstand was a temporary-looking sign in among a network of crowd-control stanchions showing “71A” in red. This was in a main passageway of the airport a few hundred feet away from Gate 71.

Arriving at the red sign and asking if this was the way to Gate 37, I was waved toward a stairway leading down to the baggage-handling level of the airport, waved onto a small bus marked United Shuttle and driven into a long, narrow, poorly lighted and wet tunnel and then back into daylight, following a twisting route among parked aircraft. Eventually arriving somewhere, I was waved off the bus and into a third-world-country sort of room populated with many third-class travelers such as I. This was the holding pen for Gates 37 and 38.

The departure boards I had seen when I first arrived at the airport showed the Spokane flight was on time. Gate 37, however, showed it to be delayed and “awaiting aircraft”. About 2 hours after its scheduled departure time the door to the tarmac opened and the boarding process began for the small United Express plane to Spokane. Soon I was strapped into a seat that seemed to have been designed for an elementary-school child, the kind who sit at those little desks. But the plane and crew did their jobs and the 50-some passengers arrived, after some air turbulence, in surprisingly dry and not-too-cold Spokane.

So, was this long, somewhat discouraging and depressing experience worth enduring to get to Spokane just to watch a college basketball game? You betcha!

First off, McCarthey Athletic Center was sold out to its 6,000-seat capacity and that gave an immediate excitement to the game and some loud moments, although not as many as Gonzaga fans would have liked. Second, there were some very fine Stanford performances. Third, Stanford won, advancing its season record to 8 – 0. Fourth, the Tinkle sisters met as opponents for the first time. And fifth, the Star-Spangled Banner was played as a saxophone solo by Charlie Butts, a well-known blues musician in Eastern Washington, producing a mellow and unique version of the anthem. I was pleased to be present for all of this.

It was a nice, dry Sunday in Spokane with a brisk crispness in the air that added a pleasant seasonal touch. I watched the team board its bus at noon in front of the Christmas-decorated Davenport hotel and departed myself an hour later after a short walk to see the Falls on the Spokane River.

The crowd was in good spirits from start to finish. The band played well. Ben & Jerry’s ice cream was sold at a reasonable price, generous portions being available in a cup or in a waffle cone.

As for the game, it was Stanford all the way. Highlights were: 6 of 8 3-point shooting by Taylor; 57% 3-point shooting by the team (8 of 14); 100% free-throw shooting by the team (Chiney was 3 of 3 and Mikaela, Jos and Toni were 2 of 2); Chiney with a great double-double of 21 points and 11 rebounds and Gonzaga held to 25% shooting by Stanford’s stout and effective defensive efforts.

Earlier this week in TV interviews Gonzaga head coach Kelly Graves and Zag players expressed their intent to limit Chiney’s rebounding, specifically by boxing her out. This didn’t happen. Chiney was not limited in scoring or rebounding. Gonzaga’s second major objective of the game was to score well. This didn’t happen either. As Coach Graves said after the game “25% shooting is not going to win games, especially against the #1 team in the country”.

Jos easily won the Battle of the Sisters, topping Elle in every statistical category, which, of course, was just as it should have been.

Bonnie was suited up and fully participated in all team drills. She did not show any ankle weakness, but she did not play as Tara decided to rest the ankle that was injured two days before at Davis. With Taylor’s hot hand from beyond the arc, Bonnie was not missed.

December 2 was a good day to be a Stanford fan, especially if you were fortunate enough to be present for the Gonzaga game. The ordeal of getting to Spokane was very much worth enduring.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Stanford Sweeps Hawaii Tourney

By Wally Mersereau

Like a trade wind, or a new broom, the Stanford Cardinal swept through its three opponents at the Rainbow Wahine Classic in Honolulu to emerge undefeated and uninjured. In fact, the team was healthier at the end than at the beginning as Toni’s illness appeared to be cured by the trip to these tropical islands. I’m sure Toni would recommend this treatment for whatever ails you.

Although not being prone to boast, if pressed, Stanford at this point, with all due modesty, can point to a 5-0 season record, including a win over the vaunted Lady Bears, once thought to be the finest in the land. This trip to Hawaii was good for team and fan alike. Gentle breezes blew and the swish of basketballs passing through nets could be heard with regularity.

Stanford’s final tournament game against Tennessee-Martin was not dull. It was a really good game. The Skyhawks approached the game as other teams will this season when they face the Cardinal--with nothing to lose, playing fearlessly and loose. T-M has some excellent shooters who kept the Skyhawks very much in the game until about the last five minutes of the first half when Stanford was first able to build and hold a 10-point lead. The score at the half was 41-31.

Although Tennessee-Martin continued to make a good effort, Stanford was fully in control in the second half, steadily increasing its lead to the final score of 92-68.

One thing missing from the game was a crowd. After the first game today where Baylor topped Hawaii 77-42, most of the local fans left. The attendance shrank to about 250 for the Stanford game and the number of Stanford fans dwindled to about 25.

Amber had a great game with a number of dazzling passes. Bonnie and Taylor both demonstrated that they are broadening their range of contributions. Bonnie was a real scrapper throughout the entire tournament and certainly in this game. Taylor played with more finesse, making moves and shots she has not shown before. In the second half Bonnie was not shown on the scoreboard for an extended period when she made several shots. Her points were never correctly credited on the scoreboard, but I think are correct in the final stats.

Mikaela was a key player in this game, contributing more than her stats show. Jos may have had a personal scoring high of 25 while rebounding, defending and passing in a big-time way. Chiney was again amazing, making shots that only she or Nneka can make in racking up another double-double with 25 points and 10 rebounds.

Sara could not get a break today. Nothing she tried worked and she quickly picked up fouls. It was not her night. Erica, wearing a black brace on her right knee that I haven’t noticed before, played well in her few final minutes. Tess did fine, but will eventually be able to do much more.

Stats-wise, Chiney played 29 minutes and made 12 of her 16 shots, had a block and a steal and was 1 for 1 in free throws. Jos scored her 25 points in 34 minutes, had 6 rebounds, a block and a steal and was 6 for 6 at the line. Amber was in for 33 minutes with 12 points, 7 rebounds, a block, two steals, 2 of 2 at the line and a phenomenal 10 assists and only 2 turnovers. Bonnie scored 11 points in 14 minutes, including two 3-pointers.

The team shot 57% from the field (much better in the second half), made 4 of 10 threes and had its best free throw shooting of the season at 74%. Stanford outrebounded T-M 46 to 26.

After the game tournament awards were presented with the team trophy obviously going to undefeated Stanford. Chiney was rightfully named tournament MVP, with Jos also named to the all-tournament team.

The Tennessee-Martin Skyhawks may have a masochistic scheduler who has matched them against #1 Baylor, #4 Stanford, #8 Louisville and #18 Purdue early in their season, apparently to guard against over-confidence. The Skyhawks have only one win to their name, over unranked Arkansas State, but from the way they played against Stanford they can put a scare into some of their future opponents. It’s hard to see how they could have lost to Hawaii on Friday. Incidentally, Pat Summitt was an All-American at Tennessee-Martin circa 1970.

Dull is not the right word, but …

By Wally Mersereau

Tonight’s 69-42 Stanford win over Hawaii on the second day of the Rainbow Wahine Classic lacked a little something in a weekend of epic and unexpected Stanford victories on the court and on the field. The win over Hawaii was not unexpected and there was nothing epic about it.

I was able to watch the Stanford-Oregon football game on TV in my hotel room up to the time Stanford tied the game 14-14 when I left for the basketball game. When I arrived at the arena I was informed Stanford had defeated Oregon in overtime for an upset of similar magnitude to the women’s win over Baylor the night before.

In the Hawaii game the Stanford women made an effort and got the win, but it was lacking the intensity and wonder of yesterday’s great accomplishment. So, what was noteworthy about it?

Well, for one thing, Tara was able to show she can produce an 11-player rotation under the right circumstances. Yes, eleven players logged 11 minutes or more and none had more than 25. Every player who came on this trip got in the game (Alex did not travel). Chiney recorded another double-double with 15 points and 17 rebounds. Jos was tops in scoring with 16 points, including two 3-pointers. Amber had 13 points and Toni 12.

Mikaela wore a black supportive sleeve on her injured left knee, but started again and played 11 minutes so her injury does not seem to be serious. Chiney returned to representing the team at tip-off and was successful after stepping aside to let Mikaela face Brittney Griner. Tara and her staff continued to dress informally in keeping with the locale.

The game started slowly with Stanford getting in a groove about the 10-minute mark, but the entire game had plenty of sloppy shooting. The team field goal rate was 43% (down from 51% against much stronger Baylor) and 3-point shooting sagged to 27% (4 of 15) compared to 50% in the Baylor game. Free throws were about the same at 68%.

Amber had 4 assists and one turnover as she continued to handle the ball well. Tess had one point and 8 rebounds. Mikaela, Jasmine and Taylor were all scoreless.

The most entertaining play occurred in the first half when the ball was passed to Chiney at the post. Instead of catching the ball Chiney tipped it out to Jos who shot from further away and made it.

Speaking of Baylor, the Lady Bears defeated Tennessee-Martin in the first game today 82-67 wirh Griner reportedly making a dunk.

The Hawaii band played well, with a varied repertoire, while diminutive cheerleaders were raised aloft. Attendance looked to be about the same as yesterday except the 50 Stanford fans and the 50 Baylor fans were generally not present at the same time. The Stan Sheriff Center is distinctive in having a concession stand with five different types of ice cream—not flavors, types.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Somewhere over the rainbow

By Wally Mersereau

... bluebirds fly... Sometimes they really do. Stanford’s bluebirds took flight today over the Rainbow Wahine Classic in Honolulu as the Cardinal picked off national champion, and #1-ranked, Baylor in a thrilling win on the campus of the University of Hawaii.

Seven and a half months ago the teams met in the semi-final game at the Final Four in Denver. In that game Stanford double- and triple-teamed Brittney Griner, holding her to 13 points to Nneka’s 22, trailed the Bears by only one point at the half, but was outplayed in the second half to fall 59-47. At Denver Chiney scored 4 points before fouling out after 27 minutes. Toni scored 9 points and Amber 3.

Before Griner joined the team, I saw Stanford lose to Baylor 81-65 in Waco in 2008. I did not expect to see a Stanford win today. How sweet it is!

This win was a true team effort with some players contributing in uncharacteristic ways. Bonnie played 11 minutes and never attempted a 3-pointer, but made 5 rebounds, some of them hard-fought. Toni (she of delicate health) put in 30 productive minutes, making 5 of 9 field goals and 5 of 6 free throws to contribute 15 points. She also was the point guard at times. Mikaela was a true warrior, playing 30 minutes and leading the team in rebounds with 12 even though hurt at the end of the first half.

As usual, Chiney led the way with 18 points and 8 rebounds. Chiney made her first ever 3-pointer as a shot clock buzzer-beater in the first half. Taylor made 6 of 9 from the field including 4 of 6 3-pointers for 16 points in 29 minutes. Jos was another warrior, guarding Griner, making 4 of 7 field goals, including 2 of 3 3-pointers for 11 points and grabbing 4 rebounds. Overall, Stanford made 51% of its field goal attempts, 50% of its 3-pointers (7 of 14), 67% of its free throws and out-rebounded Baylor 40 to 28. Every bit of this collective effort was vital to achieve the 2-point win.

Stanford double-teamed Griner in the first half (mostly by Jos and Mikaela), holding her to 4 points. She was not so heavily guarded in the second half and finished with a game-leading total of 22 points.

Stanford took the lead fairly early in the game, going up by 12 points until Baylor began cutting the lead down to 31-29 at the half. Baylor clearly had the momentum in the last 8 minutes of the first half, but was not allowed to carry it into the second half which truly became a great battle. Baylor finally regained the lead with about 7 minutes left in the game, at about the same point as it made its move in the first half. Griner began making basket after basket, but Stanford kept answering back. The score kept going from tie to up 2, to tie to up 2. This was as thrilling a finish as you could hope to see.

The score was tied at 66-66 with a bit over a minute to play. Then it was 70-69 with Stanford ahead with less than 10 seconds left and with the ball. Toni was fouled with 8 ½ seconds to go, with that being Baylor’s 10th foul, and made one of her two free throws to reach the final score of 71-69.

Odyssey Sims had a serious leg injury of some sort four minutes into the game and did not play again. Mikaela appeared to be similarly hurt just before the end of the first half, coming out with a heavy limp. But she started the second half and continued to play well. After the game she had ice on her left knee.

Kim Mulkey congratulated each Stanford player after the game, enhancing my opinion of her. For Stanford, six players carried most of the load with 28 to 37 minutes, augmented by Bonnie with 11 minutes.

Winning is so much better than losing and winning over #1 Baylor with Britteny Griner is just about as good as it gets.

Stanford and Baylor both had about 50 fans present. My guess at total attendance was somewhere between 400 and 500. So this great, great game was seen by few.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Cal Tickets Now on Sale

The Cal ticket office has finally listed the January 8th game at their online sales page.

At 9:03 a.m., the best available pair of tickets were in row C of section 1, but good seats will presumably go fast.

You're better off ordering your tickets by phone (800-GO-BEARS (462-3277)) so that you can ask for seats in a specific section instead of just specifying "best available".

Here's the Haas seating chart. Section 1 is behind the visitor's bench, section 17 is across from it.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Gonzaga Game to Sell Out

Hard-travelling FBC member Wally Mersereau writes regarding a purchase of tickets for the game at Gonzaga, 2 December:

Today is the first day single game tickets are on sale. I bought the three best available seats together. These are in the very top row in Section 113 which is on the bench side near one end of the court. The visitor bench is in front of Section 115.

I quizzed the salesperson extensively and was convinced that these are indeed the best available... The cost is $6.50, with no fees, even for postage. I was told there are a few single tickets and pairs but none lower than 7 rows from the top. If these are the best available on the first day of sale, soon there will be none available.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

New Travel Tid-bits Posted

The Travel Page has been updated with fascinatin' travel tips for this season's road games. Did you know that you could go to the Gonzaga game and get home in a single day? It's true!

Or that you could get from the PAC-12 opening game at Colorado to the next game against the Utes in Salt Lake City by Amtrak, and for just $78? Also true!

Plus, the links for buying tickets and Hawaii and in Tennessee have been updated.

You still can't get reserved seats for the game at Cal, though. What's up, Golden Bear Ticket Office??

Saturday, October 13, 2012

More About Hawaii

It's time to get serious about the Hawaii trip. We've just put a bunch more info on the Travel Page. Who's up for a sunrise hike to Diamond Head?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Planning for the Hawaii Tournament

This year Stanford participates in a pre-season tournament, the Jack in the Box Rainbow Wahine Classic at the University of Hawaii campus in Honolulu. (The only info link we can find is the UH schedule page.)

The dates are Friday through Sunday, November 16-18 (the weekend before Thanksgiving week). The participating teams are the host Rainbow Wahine, Stanford, Tennessee-Martin, and (dah-dah-dah-dum!) Baylor.

The scheduled games are:

  • Friday 2:30: Stanford v. Baylor
  • Friday 5:00: Tennessee-Martin v. Hawaii
  • Saturday 4:30: Tennessee-Martin v Baylor
  • Saturday 7:00: Stanford v. Hawaii
  • Sunday 2:30: Baylor v. Hawaii
  • Sunday 5:00: Stanford v. Tennessee-Martin

It isn't feasible to depart Friday for Honolulu in time for the game; nor to return on Sunday after the 5pm game. Accordingly, you will want to fly on the Thursday and return on the Monday.

Use the Travel Info sites linked from our Travel page to find flights and hotels.

Are you going?

If you are going to this tournament, add a comment below. What are your favorite things to do, or places to eat, or best place to stay, in Honolulu?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Open practice in Denver

We spent most of yesterday afternoon watching the open practice sessions at the Pepsi Center along with about 1500 or 2000 other fans.

The four sessions were quite similar. The teams warmed up by walking, stretching, skipping, jogging and had various shooting drills. About the same as what they do before a game, but longer – an hour for each team.

Of the four teams, the Cardinal showed the most energy. They had, I assume, warmed up before coming on court, because they started right off with a lively half-court running/shooting drill. Contessa joined them in the arena, but never came off the bench. However, Tanya used The Pad in several drills, and Amy flourished a very large red plush popsicle-looking thing to simulate a Griner arm.

Everyone on the team spent a good part of the hour shooting from or beyond the arc. Hmmm ....

The UConn Huskies were also quite energetic. They ended their warmup with a sprint around the perimeter of the court, and later spent several minutes doing a full-court running/shooting drill. Geno spent most of the session schmoozing with various people, but did join his team on court for a while toward the end. At one point, the Huskies had fun trying to see how many ball they could pile in the basket.

Baylor was less energetic. Their warmups and drills looked quite leisurely. Kim Mulkey was present for the entire session. She spent most of the time observing from the sidelines. I don't know whether this is her usual practice or due to her illness. In addition to their shooting drills, the Lady Bears had a flopping drill. Brittney Griner practiced her dunking, to the delight of the large contingent of Baylor fans.

I saw only the last few minutes of the Notre Dame session, so don't know what they did. However, they ended their session with everyone, included Muffett McGraw, performing a lively Irish Jig.

Skylar Diggins launched a half-court shot as Notre Dame departed. It missed. Brittney Griner launched a half-court shot as Baylor departed. It missed. A half-dozen Huskies launched half-court shots as UConn departed. They all missed. The Cardinal gathered in a circle at center court, then turned and waved to the fans and departed.

Pat Summitt was present for half an hour. She watched the ongoing session, signed autographs and posed for photographs. espnW reports that she and Geno chatted for a few moments.

After the second session, the members of the WBCA Coaches All-America team were announced. Nneka and Chiney were two of the ten recipients (read more ... )

At the beginning of the Stanford session, it was announced that Nneka had won the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award. (read more ... )

The Battle of the Bands took place after the practice sessions. The winner, based on fan applause, was Baylor. The Stanford band was much better, but there was a preponderance of Baylor fans. On to the game ...

Monday, March 26, 2012

Official Travel Package Disappointing

Almost as soon as we got back to the hotel from the Elite Eight win, we went to the Stanford Road to the Final Four site and clicked on Travel to see what package would offer.

Here's the official offer. Assuming double-occupancy, they offer a four-night hotel stay for $545 a person. In other words, for a couple sharing one room, about $270 per night. The price includes van transport to all events, a program, and a souvenir.

It does not include air transportation or transportation from the airport to the hotel.

There is no official air package. The agency offers to assist you in making your own air reservations.

Considering what a central hub Denver is, there should be a wide selection of flights SFO-DEN and SJC-DEN, and making a booking shouldn't be a problem. (Edit: that appears not to be so; in fact there seem to be rather few nonstops from the Bay Area to Denver.)

What we had expected, however, was that a large travel agency such as Anthony Travel would be able to offer discounted fares, priced below the short-term purchase options.

This appears not to be the case. The Anthony travel special online booking site, linked from the above offer page, first, seems to be overwhelmed even at this late hour. We did get through to it once and its first offer for SJC-DEN was a two-leg flight changing planes in SLC.

For $1375 per person.

If you have any better luck with this system, or any other thoughts, please add a comment to this posting.

We've booked with Southwest out of SFO, but there were not a lot of seats left.

There appears to be a United nonstop on Saturday AM from Oakland.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Final Four package details unsettled

Anthony Travel is listed on Stanford's Road to the final four page as Stanford's travel partner. Clicking the "Travel" link from the above gets to this Anthony Travel page that mentions a few things that the package "may" contain: hotel, air fare, etc.

It would certainly be convenient to have an agency put all this together, more convenient and less stressful than our recent scramble to arrange Norfolk travel on short notice. Possibly cheaper, too.

So I called Anthony travel hoping to get more details and some kind of ballpark estimate on the price. No go. The pleasant and personable rep I spoke to was unable to give me any details. The details of what would be in the package "have not been decided at this time" she said, so even an estimate of the cost wasn't possible.

She was definite that as soon as the details were settled, they would send "an email blast" to everyone who had signed up for email using the button on the page linked above. So you should do that.

If you want to try bugging them about this directly (couldn't hurt), the Stanford package is handled by Anthony's Dallas office with the number 800-736-6377.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Where to Stay in Norfolk?

We turn now to the fraught question, what hotel in Norfolk?

Most convenient to the arena appears to be Springhill Suites (by Marriott), which is right next door. It has suites available at $149 and $229.

And that, according to Google maps, is just about that, for hotels within walking distance of the Ted Constant Convocation Center!

There are plenty of other hotels but none closer than a mile, most several miles. Which means getting a rental car right off the plane, something I'd rather avoid if I can for this itinerary: taxi to the hotel, leave the bag if the room isn't ready, walk to the game. Maybe get a rental car for touring about on the off-day.

Tripadvisor and Expedia both turn up lists of hotels, some in Norfolk and some in nearby Portsmouth. It should be possible to get a room near the airport for around $100; less if you can accept a two-star.

Getting to Norfolk?

OK, how do we get to Norfolk VA (airport code ORF) in time for a 1pm game on Saturday?

Well for starters you don't fly Saturday, that's hopeless. We gotta fly Friday night.

On Hipmunk I don't see any nonstops to ORF. You can fly United, changing planes in Newark, or US Airways changing planes in Charlotte.

Hmmmm... anybody see anything better? Post a comment!

Looking at Southwest, they don't have a red-eye, they offer leaving SFO at 1pm. No good.

Lessee .. Norfolk is 90 freeway miles from Richmond...

But: allow 30 minutes to exit the plane, get a rental car, and exit the airport, and 2 hours to drive, a hypothetical Richmond flight has to arrive no later than 9:30 am to make that 1pm tip-off.

And I don't see such a flight except for United SFO->IAD, IAD->RIC at 9:28am.

This is looking more and more like flying Friday daytime instead of a red-eye, darn it.

OK, Travelocity sees US Airways departing SFO at 10:20pm, changing planes in Charlotte, arriving 8:50am at ORF. The classic red-eye. But then I notice the price: $670 per person. Ooogh.

And that's the cheapest. If you'd rather fly a major airline, there's this United itinerary: SFO departure 11:06 Friday, change planes in Washington, DC, arrive Norfolk 9:45am Saturday. The IAD-ORF legs are in a Bombardier Q400, a propjet. $870/person.

Note that the Monday game is at 7pm local time, hence the return flight must be Tuesday.

OK I have booked a pair for the US Airways itinerary, 10:20pm SFO to CLT to ORF arriving 8:49am on Saturday. When I went to select seats, the SFO-CLT flight was just about full.

The stanford page says explicitly there are no travel packages for the first round. They do have an official travel agent for the later rounds, should you need one to get to Fresno... Well, maybe they will have something for Denver.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Where Are We Going and How Will We Get There???

It's Norfolk

update (teletype noises..) Stanford will play in Norfolk, VA on Saturday at 1pm (EST). After wining Saturday/Monday games there, they will move to Fresno for the regional, as expected.

Marian will have the FBC Schedule page updated shortly with info on the venue and the opponents.

Tickets Online Now

Go to Stanford's Road to the Final Four website to order your Stanford tickets now.

Then come back here in a few minutes for airline info!

Everyone's in a dither about where the inscrutable nabobs of the NCAA Selection Committee will place the Cardinal for the 1st & 2nd rounds. Will it be Iowa or Oklahoma or somewhere even farther?

We'll all know sometime after 4pm tomorrow. At which time I'll be jumping on Hipmunk and Kayak to figure out flights from SJC and SFO to Bump City, AR, or wherever it turns out to be.

I could use some help in this, and would appreciate it every contribution. As you figure out anything about the logistics of travel to Bump City, post a comment to this blog entry! You can post as anonymous or you can login in a variety of ways. Just click the comments link at the end of the post and add your notes.

By 9pm I'll put up a summary as a new post, and you can go on commenting on that.

Pro Tip from A. Terrell

Anne Terrell writes that Southwest will allow you to make reservations (by phone only) to two separate cities to be held for 24 hours. She is thinking of getting reservations to K.C. and ChiTown even though "my gut feeling is telling me Norman..."

Update Monday morning

You've probably had the email from Eileen with the link to Road to the Final Four website. It promises to be "your online destination for tickets, fan events, travel information and more..." So, have that page open in your web browser and refresh it around 5pm. Let's see how much info they have.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Fan Meetup Friday Afternoon in L.A.

Stanford will have a no-host meetup this Friday afternoon, where we will, we hope, be celebrating a semi-final win in the noon Friday game, and, we hope, getting ready to see the Stanford men play at Staples that evening.

Time is 4pm to "whenever" and the location is Big Wang's sports bar (downtown location), which is close to the Staples Center:

View Larger Map

For a tournament bracket and other info, see our previous post.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Update on PAC-12 Tournament Tickets

Our writeup on Planning for the PAC-12 Tournament has been updated with some new information on ticket sales, namely,

You can now buy tickets for individual "sessions" at this Ticketmaster page. However, each session costs $35. To see all the (possible) Stanford games you would need to buy three sessions (Thursday first session, Friday first session, Saturday final) which comes to just $5 less than you would pay for an all-session package from this Stanford sales link.
Click the link to the previous post for the other logistic and travel info.

Also see the FBC Travel Page for some hotel links and a list of things to do in L.A.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Another good win on the Oregon Trail

By Wally Mersereau

Stanford didn’t see much sunshine from the sky in Oregon, but on the court the weather was really nice. Stanford did not play perfectly. There is lots of room for further improvement. But, all in all, this was a very successful road trip. Coaches, players and fans were well satisfied.

On Saturday, in its second game in near-new Matt Arena, Stanford beat Oregon 81-46, a margin two points greater than the winning margin over Oregon State on Thursday. The Ducks are a much different team than the Beavers. The Oregon goal is “run and gun”--play at a fast pace and aim for fast break scores. This requires a different defensive strategy than that used against OSU where the need was to contain 3-point shooters. Stanford succeeded defensively against both of these differing opponents.

How well did the defense do against the two Oregon teams? A good measure is to compare Stanford’s winning margins against Cal’s winning margins this weekend. Offensively, Stanford scored a combined 159 points against the two teams and Cal scored 158. A virtual tie in points made. But Stanford allowed a combined 68 points by its opponents and Cal allowed 139. Wow! Cal gave up 71 combined points more than Stanford! There is the answer. This was an excellent defensive achievement by the Cardinal against two different types of teams. Cal, while winning, let the opponents do what they like to do. Stanford did not.

Another satisfying aspect of the dual wins was the fine play and broad contributions from many Stanford players. Yes, Nneka and Chiney led the way by providing 63 of the total points, but other players provided a total of 96 points. The leading other point providers were Joslyn with 26 points, Bonnie with 17, Toni with 15 and Lindy and Sara with 11 combined points each. And everyone contributed to successful defense in both games.

How about ball control? Another “Wow!” is in order here. Toni had a combined 12 assists and 1 turnover, Amber had 7/1, Lindy had 6/0. As a team, for both games, Stanford had 42 assists and 13 turnovers, a ratio of 3.26/1 vs. its opponents combined with 17/31--almost twice as many turnovers as assists.

Three-point shooting was encouraging on this trip, with 10 being made at OSU and 8 at Oregon—at a combined rate of 37.5%. Combined totals were 5 of 12 for Bonnie, 4 of 10 for Toni, 3 of 6 for both Lindy and Sara and 1 of 3 by Joslyn.

Finally, how about free throws?—a category that has been troublesome for the Cardinal at times this season. Not on the Oregon Trail, where Stanford made a combined 29 out of 32 or 91% vs. its combined opponents with 15 out of 26 or 58%.

I could go on, but you get the picture. However you dice and slice this road trip it comes up looking good. And it felt good while it was happening.

I returned tonight on the same plane as the team. As we touched down at SFO and cell phones came out, the word spread up and down the aisle that UConn had lost to St. John’s and that Baylor was trailing Texas Tech at the half. A temporary giddiness swept over the players. But then Kate Paye broke in to say, “We need to take care of Utah,” and Nneka said, “Yes, we need to win out.” By the time the plane arrived at the gate the players had sensibly reverted to a “one game at a time” view of the future.

The trip to Oregon was a confidence builder, but the team is by no means over confident. In the three remaining games at Maples, I expect Stanford will “win out” at Maples, be ready for Cal and will enter the Pac-12 Tournament well prepared and with determination.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Oregon Interlude

By Wally Mersereau

The road trip to Oregon, in the green and spacious Willamette Valley with the big river flowing northward through its center, differs from other Stanford road trips because of the extra events involved. No other trip with the team has these extras. There is something about this trip, year after year, that makes it stand out. It’s not about the weather, which is usually murky, durky, dank and drear. For weather, the Arizona trip usually in unmatched and Oregon is not even in the running.

For several years there has been a pre-game meal with Stanford alumni in Eugene. Depending on the time of the game this may be a brunch or dinner. As a traveling fan, your only obligation is to just show up--arrangements are made by the locals. Tomorrow this will be a brunch at a restaurant a short stroll from Matt Arena.

A communal meal in Corvallis before the Oregon State game is more hit or miss because most traveling fans stay in more cosmopolitan Eugene. The Big River restaurant is the most frequent Corvallis venue, featuring seafood and huge desserts. Its drawback is that it doesn’t open until 5 pm and the service for groups is slow, creating anxiety as departure time approaches and the food has not arrived. Last year there was an alumni-organized lunch in Corvallis in a smaller restaurant that was pleasant and more relaxed.

The highlight of any Oregon trip is a meeting with Tara (usually accompanied by Amy as a sidekick and foil) on Friday. In the olden days when the team and most fans stayed at the Valley River Inn, this event was held in front of the ever-burning fireplace in the VRI lobby on Friday evening. When the team moved to the Eugene Hilton downtown, an afternoon dessert function with Tara was organized. After a lapse of a year or two, this year’s trip has Tea with Tara at the Hilton on Friday afternoon.

The format of the Tara meeting is similar to a post-game meeting at Stanford. What distinguishes it is its intimacy, allowing more of an up-close-and-personal flavor and frank discussions. To attend one of these small meetings with Tara is very special. I doubt any other team provides anything similar.

Thirteen Fast Break Club members met with Tara, Amy and Eileen this afternoon at the Hilton. The meeting lasted for an hour. Many topics were discussed, including scheduling of games, possible locations Stanford might go for NCAA Tournament games, the effect of seedings on assigned game locations, regulations and restrictions on hosting NCAA games, yesterday’s OSU game, preparations for tomorrow’s Oregon game, team uniforms and uniform regulations, Tara’s upcoming interview at Gordon Biersch in Palo Alto, what the team did today, what the team schedule will be tomorrow, the performance of individual players and the team as a whole, Matt Arena vs. historic Mac Court, etc., etc.

While we were meeting with Tara, Kate Paye was having a one-on-one session at another table with Amber, watching videos on a laptop, with Kate pointing out specific things on the videos. Tara said similar sessions are held with every player.

This year, for the first time, I am staying in Corvallis. I am finding it pleasant and relaxing and a nice change from more familiar Eugene. Through Yelp I discovered the funky Nearly Normal’s vegetarian restaurant that I can only rave about. Corvallis has a population of about 60,000, compared with about 250,000 in the Eugene-Springfield metropolitan area. Consequently, Corvallis has more of the feeling of a small college town. I recommend it.

I also recommend to readers of this piece that they give consideration to going on the Oregon road trip next year. It’s always fun and interesting and never disappointing. A pleasant adventure in a different part of the world is certain. All you will need to know will be posted in the travel section of the FBC website.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Beaver Bashing in Corvallis

By Wally Mersereau

My hunch that Stanford would be ready to dominate in its rematch with Oregon State proved correct. The Card struggled to a 7-point win at Maples in the first meeting of these teams. But there was no Stanford struggling tonight at Gill Coliseum. The defense was strong, shooting was good, ball handling was deft and the team took care of the ball.

The Cardinal jumped out to an early lead and was up 15-5 after 10 minutes. At the half it was 36-16. Oregon State played Stanford evenly during the first 10 minutes of the second half before the Card bore down to end the game 78-45.

Eight Stanford players had more than 12 minutes on the court. Nneka had 16 points at the half and ended with 27 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists and a steal in 30 minutes. She left the game with 10 minutes to play. Chiney had foul problems in both halves and was limited to 21 minutes, during which she scored 10 points, grabbed 5 rebounds and had 2 assists and 2 blocks.

Joslyn was a rebounding machine, snagging 14 to go with 7 points and 2 assists in 34 minutes. Her overall defense was excellent, as was that of the entire team. Toni also had 34 minutes and made 9 points, 2 rebounds, 7 assists and 3 steals.

Three-point shooting was good for Stanford tonight with the team making 10 of the long shots at a 45.5% rate. Toni and Bonnie both had three and Lindy and Sara both had two. It was especially nice to have Bonnie be successful after her recent drought and for Sara to get a pair, plus another basket, in only 9 minutes. It was also nice to have Lindy hit her threes.

As a team Stanford had 22 assists and 7 turnovers compared to OSU’s 10 assists and 15 turnovers. Rebounding was fairly close with Stanford leading 35-32. The Cardinal had another good effort at the free throw line, making 10 of 12 for 83.3%. The Beavers made 5 of 8 free throws for 62.5%.

The all-male officials seemed to have lost their whistles in the first half and there was lots of wild, rough playing under the baskets. The officiating seemed better in the second half.

Oregon State has no stand-out player, but continued to get good contributions from many players. The Beavers played good defense, made a stalwart effort to the end, but were out-classed.

Attendance was about 2,500 on a gray, cool and drizzly day. A large OSU pep band with six tubas played an assortment of tunes, including a rousing national anthem. One OSU male cheerleader held a small female aloft on one upraised arm. Fan participation events were fast-paced with multiple contestants, which made them more entertaining than usual.

This was an enjoyable and satisfying game for Stanford fans. On the other hand, Oregon State fans were rather muted as any hopes for an upset evaporated early.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Oregon Events TBA

Just a reminder, here is the schedule for Oregon events this week:

7pm Thursday 2/16, game at OSU in Corvallis. Here is a Google map of Corvallis showing Gill Coliseum.

Friday 3:30pm in the lobby of the Eugene Hilton (map link): Tea With Tara, An informal coach's talk. Hang around in the lobby after, maybe somebody will have a suggestion where to go for supper. Note: Parking at the Hilton is underground and is charged at $2/hour. Weather and your health permitting, it should be possible to park on the streets within a few blocks. There is a vast car-park structure a block away at 7th and Olive but in Google street view I can't read the sign at the entrance, so don't know if it is available or at what price.

Saturday approximately at 11am, pre-game brunch with the Eugene Alumni group. This will take place at a new brew pub, the Wild Duck at 1419 Villard St (another google map link there). This is easy walking distance to Knight Arena.

Saturday 1pm, game with OU in Matthew Knight Arena (another Google map, there)

I still have a few OU tickets, call my cell 650-387-3645 now or in Eugene to get them.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Planning for the PAC-12 Tournament

The PAC-12 tournament approaches: bigger and longer and even more of a challenge for the obsessive fan than last year! Hereinbelow find all the info you need to deal with it.

First, the games. They are to be played over four days: Wednesday March 7th through Saturday March 10th. The women play four games Wednesday and four on Thursday at USC's Galen Center, and then semi-final and final games on Friday and Saturday at the Staples Center. Remember last year's nail-biting final against UCLA?

Click on this link to view a one-page PDF of the men's and women's brackets, covering 22 games in four days. Or, just click on the following image to see the schedule for the eleven games of the Women's bracket:

Presuming Stanford is the #1 seed, the Cardinal will first play at noon on Thursday, then go on to a noon game on Friday and, one hopes, 11:30 am on Saturday. But a true basketball aficionado wants to see all the games, eight hours of them on Wednesday and on Thursday. Bring a cushion!

If You Can't Go

If you can't make the trip, this year you can still see all the games. Note in the bracket above, that the semi-final and final games are on FSN. But also, all of the preceding games are, the PAC-12 says, to be streamed live on the Pac-12 YouTube Channel. So you could possibly watch all eleven women's games from home. You could even watch the post-game press conferences. (Shut-ins take note.) Hopefully you don't have a bandwidth cap on your internet.


As it was last year, the PAC-12 wants you to buy an all-session tournament package ticket that gives you an assigned seat at the Staples Center for all men's games, and gets you general admission to all women's games. There has been some confusion on this point, but the online FAQ is pretty clear:

You will have general admission to women's games and a reserved seat for men's games with your combined ticket for each session at STAPLES Center.

You can now buy tickets for individual "sessions" at this Ticketmaster page. However, each session costs $35. To see all the (possible) Stanford games you would need to buy three sessions (Thursday first session, Friday first session, Saturday final) which comes to just $5 less than you would pay for an all-session package from this Stanford sales link. For $110 you get men's-game seats in the furthest reaches of the Staples Center, up among the bats and owls, but if your main interest is the women's games, who cares?

Getting There

The trip starts with getting from the Bay Area to L.A. in time for the first games on Wednesday afternoon. You may plan to return on Saturday the 12th following the end of the Women's final about 2pm, or stay around for the men's final ending around 6pm (in which case you'd probably want to stay over and return on Sunday).

There are plenty of flights available, all costing around $150. Three nonstops from SJC get in to LAX in time for Wednesday's games, and also four nonstops returning after 6pm Saturday. There are seven nonstops from SFO that work, but only two return flights after 5pm Saturday. Delta has two flights out of OAK Wednesday morning and two Saturday evening returns. (As always, is a good tool for finding flights; but it doesn't cover Southwest, which has several suitable flights also.)

Or, you can drive. With two drivers trading off and minimal stops, it's about 7 hours Palo Alto to the Galen Center, only a couple of hours longer than the door-to-door air travel time. Forty gallons of gas, $150; two additional motel nights, $180—about the same as the air fare for two people. Plus you don't need a rental car in L.A.

Or—and now for something completely different—you can take the Amtrak Coast Starlight between San Jose and L.A. Union Station. Travel time about 11 hours each way, so go down on Tuesday, come back Sunday; round-trip price with senior discount: $88. Not bad at all!

L.A. With No Car?

Perfectly possible, as long as you plan to spend most of your time inside an arena. Select a hotel in walking distance of the Staples Center and you can travel to the Galen Center easily by bus or cheaply by taxi. Here's a map:

Click on "view Larger Map"; the Galen Center is at letter A, Staples at B.

Here is a map of hotels near the Staples Center:

Again, click View Larger Map to see them all.

In previous years the PAC-12 has hosted teams in the Wilshire Grand; however that hotel is now closed for reconstruction. We have no info on where teams are being housed. Uber-fan Wally Mersereau has already booked at the Marriott near Staples Center and says they are full or nearly so, already.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Waltzing to a win over the Wildcats

By Wally Mersereau

Q. What happens when the top team meets the bottom team in the Pac-12?
A. The top team wins—and wins big. Like 40 points big.

The seemingly self-evident truism of top team over bottom team was proven on Saturday afternoon in Tucson when the Cardinal waltzed over, around and through the Wildcats 91-51. Stanford paced itself nicely, scoring 20 points more than Arizona in each half.

It was a nice sunny day for basketball and Stanford completed its desert sweep before a paltry crowd of about 1,000 fans on the University of Arizona campus (don’t believe the official attendance of 1,831).

Unlike the ASU game, Stanford did not have to battle back in this one. The Card jumped off to a 10-0 start and led 51-31 at the half. Playing time and statistics were shared much more broadly than against ASU. All 11 players played and 10 had 12 minutes or more.

Joslyn led all scorers with 22 points and 11 rebounds in 25 minutes. Chiney also had a double-double with 18 points, 10 rebounds and 4 blocks in 22 minutes. Nneka had 15 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks and a steal in 22 minutes. Toni had 11 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 turnover and 5 steals in 28 minutes. Amber had 10 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 turnover in 20 minutes.

It was good to see Amber put the ball in the basket five times. Off the bench, Erica was noteworthy with 6 points, 5 rebounds and 1 block in 14 minutes.

The 3-point shot returned to the Stanford repertoire with four players contributing long baskets. Joslyn made 3 of 4, Toni and Taylor each made 2 of 6 and Lindy made 1 of 3. Bonnie was cold on this pleasantly warm day, shooting 0 of 5 in her 17 minutes on the floor, but most just narrowly missed.

Team-wise, Stanford did better than Arizona in free throws with 79% to 71%, led in rebounds 47 to 34, led in assists 19-8, had 9 turnovers to 13 and led in steals 8 to 4.

Sarah Boothe was the only injured player to make the trip to the desert. Mikaela, Jasmine and Alex stayed home.

As a reward for traveling to games in Arizona, Stanford fans get free parking and free programs at both venues. That may not quite offset travel costs, but it helps a little.

Widely worn by Arizona fans were red T-shirts reading on the back: “We’re nuts for Butts”. This ringing endorsement has not benefitted head coach Niya Butts this season and certainly did not aid her in any discernable way on Saturday afternoon.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Tough Triumph in Tempe

By Wally Mersereau

With great effort and determination Stanford pulled out a hard-fought win over Arizona State 62-49 at Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe on Thursday night. It was a sloppy, but great game. ASU interim head coach Joseph Anders said before the game that Stanford would have to earn every step, every bounce and every catch. He couldn’t have been more right. It took everything Tara and her team could bring forth to overcome the battling Sun Devils.

Neither team played well in the first half, which ended with a 28-28 tie. At that point Nneka had 11 points and 7 rebounds, Chiney 7 points and 6 rebounds.

With Tara’s half-time adjustments, Stanford built a 6-point lead in the second half, only to have the Sun Devils fight back to a 40-40 tie with 12 minutes to go. Stanford then exploded in a 20-2 run in the next 9 minutes to go ahead 60-42. The sisters combined for 13 points during that run.

The final sister stats were: Nneka with 22 points, 16 rebounds, 1 block and a steal in 36 minutes and Chiney with 20 points, 16 rebounds and 2 steals in 37 minutes.

Toni played her heart out and pushed her body to the point of exhaustion. She had 7 points, 6 assists and 3 steals in 39 minutes, but her stats don’t tell the story. She was superb, always playing well, running the team from the point even when she was worn out.

Lindy had only 1 point and 1 rebound in 24 minutes, but she also was a vital contributor. I would not have taken away one of her minutes. Amber had no points or rebounds, along with 2 assists, 3 turnovers and a steal in her 12 minutes. Stanford clearly played better tonight with Toni at the point and Lindy at the 2.

Taylor made Stanford’s only 3-point shots—three of them. The first two were close together and came at a crucial time in the first half to help catch up with the Devils. Her third 3-pointer was during the 20-2 run. Taylor played with poise in her 26 minutes, ending with 10 points and 4 rebounds.

Joslyn also was vital for this game, ending with only 2 points, but 6 rebounds and a block.

Both teams had excellent defensive efforts. ASU had only 10 players, all of whom played at least 8 minutes. Kali Bennett of ASU, a 6-5 redshirt senior, was much improved over previous years. She ended the game with 9 points, 9 rebounds, 6 blocks and 2 steals. Kali is a banger and she got banged up in the second half, first with a nose injury which required a prominent bandage and then a painful hip injury that took her out of the game with 5 minutes remaining. She would have caused more problems, but fouls kept her on the bench for extended time in the first half.

Stanford had twice the rebounds as did ASU, 48 to 24 and that was a major difference. Stanford had three 3s (all by Taylor) to ASU’s two. Stanford was 68% at the free throw line, ASU 70%.

Attendance was not up to previous years. Only 2,000 turned out, including Kayla Pedersen’s and Nicole Powell’s parents.

Despite the sloppy play, I was pleased with Stanford belatedly putting the hammer down and coming away with a challenging win on the road. This game was really hard and the win was well earned.

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.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Order Cal Tix by Phone

Stanford plays at Cal on Sunday March 4th at 6pm. At a recent "Behind the Bench," Eileen Roche said there would be a booster bus, but that there were no plans for buying a block of tickets for fans.

It is possible to order Haas Pavilion tickets online from the Cal online boxoffice...

However! — as two recent buyers have found, the best seats the online sales form can offer are in sections 4 and higher. Section 1 is behind the visitor bench. Section 17 is directly across from it. (And anyone who's gone to one of these games remembers that the Haas ushers are quite strict about where you sit.)

If you call the Cal ticket office directly at (800) GO BEARS (800-462-3277) you can ask for reserved-seat tickets in section 1, 2, or 17—and at least as of today, you can get them.