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.