NCAA First Round Preview: Stanford Vs. San Diego

REGIONAL: South Regional, First Round.

TIME: Thursday, 2:10 p.m. PT.

SITE: Spokane Arena; Spokane, Wash.

Mike Montgomery and Stanford are becoming a fixture in the NCAA tournament.

Looking to win their first national title under the 17th-year coach, the18th-ranked Cardinal battle San Diego in the first round of the South Regionalon Thursday.

Stanford is making its ninth straight tourney appearance. The Cardinal wontheir lone championship in 1942, when they made their first trip under coachEverett Dean.

Since then, their best finish has been the Final Four in 1998.

Stanford has won eight straight opening-round games dating to an 80-75 loss toAlabama in 1992, and is 9-2 all-time in them.

As a No. 8 seed in the Midwest Region last season, Stanford defeatedthen-ninth seeded Western Kentucky 84-68, but was ousted by top-seeded Kansas86-63 in the next round.

The Cardinal, who earned top seeds in 2000 and 2001, are pleased with theirseeding after losing in the first round of the Pac-10 tournament, 79-74 toSouthern California last Thursday. It was Stanford's second loss in its lastnine games.

'We are pleased with the No. 4 seed and being in the Western pod,' saidMontgomery, who shared Pac-10 coach of the honors with Arizona's Lute Olsonthis season. 'I think we earned what we got.'

The early exit in their conference tournament did give the Cardinal time towork on their weakness. They committed 18 turnovers against the Trojans, andleading scorer Julius Barnes, had six of them to go with 18 points.

'Now we have to get a tournament-mind set,' Montgomery said. 'We arefresh mentally, and we have no injuries to speak of.'

Barnes is the only current member of the Cardinal team who has played in thelast three NCAA tournaments, but he is averaging just 5.1 points in sevengames.

The Toreros are making their third overall appearance and first since 1987.They are looking for their first win in the NCAA, having lost 65-56 toPrinceton in 1984 and lost 62-61 to Auburn in making another early departure in1987.

San Diego earned the West Coast Conference's automatic bid after endingGonzaga's reign as tournament champions with a 72-63 victory on March 10. TheBulldogs had won the WCC the last four years.

Jason Keep, who was named tournament MVP, scored 18 points. He is SanDiego's top scorer and rebounder at 18.2 points and 9.1 boards per game.

The winner of this game plays either No. 5 Connecticut or 12th-seededBrigham Young on Saturday in Spokane, Wash.

The winner of this game plays either No. 5 Connecticut or 12th-seededBrigham Young on Saturday in Spokane, Wash.

PROBABLE STARTERS: San Diego - F Jason Blair, F Nick Lewis, C Keep, G Roy Morris, G Matt Delzell. Stanford - F Josh Childress, F Justin Davis, C Rob Little, G Matt Lottich, G Barnes.

TEAM LEADERS: San Diego - Keep, 18.2 ppg, 9.1 rpg; Delzell, 3.5 apg. Stanford - Barnes 15.7 ppg, 3.8 apg; Childress 8.2 rpg.

HOW THEY GOT HERE: San Diego - Automatic bid, West Coast conference champion. Stanford - At-large berth, Pac-10 conference.

ALL-TIME TOURNAMENT RECORD: San Diego - 0-2, 2 years. Stanford - 17-10, 11 years.

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