Stanford hits road to play home game in NCAA tourney opener
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) When Stanford arrived at Bramlage Coliseum on Friday, the No. 2 seed in the Lexington region of the NCAA Tournament was dropped off at the wrong door to the arena on the Kansas State campus.
Probably wouldn't have happened at Maples Pavilion.
You see, the Cardinal rolled to the Pac-12 title, spent most all season ranked near the top of the AP poll and have a very good chance of advancing to the Final Four. But thanks to a scheduling quirk in their own building - their conference gymnastics championships are this weekend - the Cardinal wound up getting shipped halfway across the country as their reward.
''We like playing on the road,'' countered Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer, who has known all season her team could face this predicament in March. ''It doesn't affect our team as much as I feel bad for our fans. That's the only thing. There will be some here but that makes it tough.''
The quick trip following Selection Monday sure didn't seem to bother her players, either.
''I mostly slept,'' senior guard Briana Roberson said of the 3-hour flight.
The venue isn't the only tough break for the Cardinal (28-5), though. They also got stuck with a tough cluster of foes, beginning Saturday with No. 15 seed New Mexico State. The Aggies (24-6) roared through the WAC Tournament and will carry a 17-game win streak into the NCAA Tournament.
Win the opener and Stanford gets No. 7 seed Kansas State (22-10) or No. 10 seed Drake (28-4) on Monday - either play the host in its building or a team that will have won 23 consecutive games.
''It's our last year here. We've been here four years, gone to the tournament each year,'' Stanford guard Karlie Samuelson said, putting a positive spin on the rough road. ''I think it's just fun.''
Meanwhile, the Wildcats are in the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year under third-year coach Jeff Mittie, while the Bulldogs are making their first trip since the 2006-07 season.
''We fell short of the goal of being one of the teams to host in terms of the seeding process, but I became a Stanford gymnastics fan about two weeks ago. I follow them on Twitter,'' Mittie said. ''I think Manhattan and this area has a great appreciation for women's basketball.''
Speaking of Manhattan, here are some of the other things to know about the site:
NO PLACE LIKE HOME: Kansas forward Breanna Lewis said it hadn't set in that the Wildcats would be playing at home, but guard Kindred Wesemann said the familiar surroundings could make a difference.
''You're running out of the same tunnel you've run out of a thousand times,'' she said, shortly before Friday's practice. ''It'll feel great.''
REMEMBER ME: New Mexico State coach Mark Trakh spent five seasons matching wits with VanDerveer while he was at Southern California. Asked if there was anything he could draw from that experience in the Pac-12, he smiled and replied: ''I don't know.''
''I don't know if we ever beat Tara,'' he explained. ''Her teams were always so disciplined in what they did offensively and defensively. I know she's changed systems, but they're really in tune.''
FAMILIAR SURROUNDINGS: The last time VanDerveer was in Manhattan was 1974, when she was leading Indiana in the AIWA Tournament - before the women joined the NCAA. The Hoosiers beat Wayland Baptist before losing in the quarterfinals to eventual champion Immaculata.
''I had 26 (points),'' VanDerveer said of the 60-56 loss more than four decades ago. ''I put it out there for our team: `Come on now. Score some baskets, show up your coach.'''
MORE FAMILIAR SURROUNDINGS: It takes about 5 hours to drive from the Drake campus in Des Moines, Iowa, to the Flint Hills of Kansas. But it's a familiar trip for a handful of Bulldogs.
Leading scorer Lizzy Wendell, freshmen forwards Brenni Rose and Mya Mertz and center Becca Jones are all from suburban Kansas City, while sophomore guard Sammie Bachrodt is from Wichita, Kansas.
AGGIES AT HOME: Before its current senior class arrived, New Mexico State had not made the NCAA Tournament since 1988. But a group led by Tamera William, Brianna Freeman and Moriah Mack will conclude their careers with three straight trips, and their first win would top it all off.
''This is a great way to end our senior year and we're not ready for our season to be done yet,'' Mack said. ''We have to focus in practice, pay attention and come out ready to play.''