2008 State Farm Pac-10 Tournament Tips Off Friday Evening

March 4, 2008

By Dick Rockne

A coronation?

Based on all available evidence the 2008 Pac-10 Conference women's basketball tournament is destined to be just that, a coronation of the nationally sixth-ranked Stanford Cardinal as worthy recipients of the league's automatic entry into the NCAA tournament.

The Cardinal has the players - Candice Wiggins, the multi-talented guard who has become the Pac-10's all-time scoring leader; forwards Jayne Appel, the league's most accurate shooter (58.5 percent) and No. 2 rebounder (8.6 per game), and super-freshman Kayla Pedersen (12.6 points, 8.2 rebounds); guard JJ Hones, the league-leader in 3-point shooting accuracy (41.5 percent) and a strong supporting cast that is expected to include Jillian Harmon, due back after missing six games with an injury.

The Cardinal has momentum - a 15-game winning streak that began following back-to-back losses at UCLA and USC in early January that paid off in the winning of an eighth straight regular-season Pac-10 title.

And the Cardinal has heritage in its favor as the winner of four of the six previous Pac-10 tournaments and runnerup in the other two. Stanford, with its 16-2 tournament record, has won 30 percent of the 54 tournament games contested since the event began in 2002.

But that doesn't mean Stanford is assured of a free pass. Before the Cardinal accepts the first-place trophy Monday night there will be moments when coach Tara VanDerveer will have to push a button or two in order to get her team back on track against some pesky opponent.

She will. And her players will respond positively.

The tournament will begin with two play-in games Friday night, followed by the four quarterfinals on Saturday, two semifinals Sunday and the final Monday night. Here is one person's idea of how the whole thing will unfold at San Jose's HP Pavilion.

FRIDAY, MARCH 7

Game 1 (6 p.m.): No. 7 seed Oregon (13-16) vs. No. 10 Washington State (5-24).

From its first regular-season meeting against Oregon to its second, Washington State showed significant improvement. The Cougars lost at Eugene, 64-45, but at Pullman a month later lost by only 70-67. 'We feel we've improved tremendously over the year,' Cougar coach June Daugherty said. But against the balanced Ducks, who have won three of their past four, the Cougars will have to wait for at least another year to score its first Pac-10 tournament win. Oregon.

Game 2 (8:15 p.m.): No. 8 Oregon State (11-15) vs. No. 9 Arizona (10-19).

Oregon State coach LaVonda Wagner reiterated this week what she's been saying for much of the season: for her team to succeed against Arizona 'we're going to have to play 40 minutes' and 'not have mental lapses.' Arizona coach Joan Bonvicini said her team needs to play solid defense and rebound well. 'You do those things then that will put us in a position to win.' The guess is that Arizona, behind the all-around play of Ashley Whisonant and the rebounding or Ify Ibekwe, will prevail.

SATURDAY, MARCH 8

Game 3 (11 a.m.): No. 3 Arizona State (20-9) vs. No. 6 Washington (13-17)

Because of its upset of California on Sunday the Huskies are coming into the tournament as something of a curiosity. Can they sustain whatever momentum was generated by their victory over the Bears? 'We're definitely in a good place coming off that game,' UW coach Tia Jackson said. ASU coach Charli Turner Thorne said the Huskies 'have just continued to get better throughout the season.' But not enough. ASU has too much fire power, depth and defensive tenacity for the Huskies. Also, No. 3-seeded teams have won 11 tournament games, four more than No. 2 seeds and only five less than No.1s.

Game 4 (1:15 p.m.): No. 2 California (24-5) vs. Oregon (winner of Game 1).

Will momentum, or rather the lack of it, be a factor affecting the Bears, who have lost two of their past three games? 'We have to be able to move on,' Cal coach Joanne Boyle said. With Devanei Hampton, Ashley Walker and Alexis Gray-Lawson leading the way, a good guess is that they will.

Game 5 (5 p.m.): No. 1 Stanford (27-3) vs. Arizona (winner of Game 2),

The Cardinal beat Arizona by 25 and 23 points during the regular season. The Wildcats might make this game closer, but a lack of depth will prevent them from seriously threatening the Cardinal.

Game 6 (7:15 p.m.): No. 4 USC (17-12) vs. No. 5 UCLA (15-14).

The Trojans beat the Bruins twice, when junior center Nadia Parker made significant contributions. But as the result of suffering a knee injury against Arizona last week Parker is sidelined. 'It impacts us a lot because she's our leading scorer, rebounder and shot blocker,' USC coach Mark Trakh said. UCLA's young Bruins are the beneficiaries.

SUNDAY, MARCH 9

Game 7 (noon): Arizona State (winner Game 3) vs. California (winner Game 4)

The Sun Devils have no victories in eight tries against teams that were ranked in the top 25 when they played them. On the other hand, ASU has lost only one game to an unranked team. 'I do feel we've got some momentum,' Turner Thorne said. 'We've been playing some of our best basketball of the season these last two weeks.' Arizona State.

Game 8 (2:30 p.m.): Stanford (Game 5 winner) vs. UCLA (Game 6 winner)

Yes, UCLA is one of just three teams to beat Stanford this season. And, yes, the Bruins played national powers Maryland and Tennessee tough before losing. But the young Bruins lack Stanford's maturity and the Cardinal will prevail.

MONDAY, MARCH 10

Game 9 (7:30 p.m.): Stanford (Game 8 winner) vs. Arizona State (Game 9 winner)

ASU's ever-improving front-liners, Lauren Lacey and Sybil Dosty, provide the Sun Devils with an effective counter against Stanford's Appel and Pedersen. The backcourt cadre of Briann January, a healthy Dymond Simon and Reagan Pariseau could create problems for Wiggins. ASU might even have an edge in overall depth. Could the outcome be decided by the 3-point shooting of Wiggins and Hones? Why not?

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