NCAA Reaction: Tara VanDerveer

There was not the suspense for Stanford Women's Basketball on Selection Monday resembling that of the men's team 24 hours earlier, but the #5-ranked Cardinal did receive a #2 seed and favorable placement in the Fresno Regional. Head coach Tara VanDerveer expressed her excitement for Stanford fans to watch the team through the regionals, plus the importance of keeping players healthy in March.

Opening statement:

"First, we're very excited.  We knew we were in the Tournament, so we didn't have to wait until the very last selection to come up for our men.  It's very exciting to be playing here.  We're playing Idaho State.  We'll learn a lot about them between now and when we play on Saturday.  I think that for our fans, we have the opportunity - if we play well - to play a second game at Stanford and the opportunity play in the Fresno Regional.  I think that our team has worked hard, and we earned it.  We just wanted to make the most of this opportunity."

As you were waiting for the brackets to come out, were you hoping more for the #2 seed or the Fresno Region?

"I personally was hoping for the Fresno Region for our fans.  We can play anywhere, and we can play against anybody.  But for the last three years in a row, people could not drive if we advanced to Oklahoma or San Antonio.  If the seeds hold, this gives our fans the opportunity to come over.  I think it's good for the Tournament.  I think they did respect some geographical considerations, and that's good for the Tournament, not just good for Stanford.  Obviously we have hosted at Stanford and we were not in it, so we don't take anything for granted.  We know we will have to work very hard and play very well."

The last couple of years, you have either not had the seeding you wanted or been shipped somewhere...

"But we've done pretty well, haven't we?"

Is this the best scenario for you in both situations?

"I think the best scenario is people being healthy, and that is the most important thing to me.  More so than seeding.  More so than where you are getting sent.  If Candice [Wiggins] is feeling well, that's really key for us.  Brooke [Smith] - that's really key.  Obviously, our key players.  And people being very excited.  They have to want to keep playing with each other.  That's the most important thing, more so than seeding, more so than seeding, more so than anything else."

But not having to travel...

"Well, we're very excited to be playing at Stanford.  We knew that we got the automatic [bid] and knew that we would be playing here.  But it's going to be a very tough bracket.  We're going to have to play well, and we're going to have to work very hard."

It was four years ago the last time you played here in the NCAA Tournament, and you lost to MinnesotaClare Bodensteiner would be the only player left from that team with a memory of that.  What do you tell the players or what does Clare tell them to reinforce that you can lose at home?

"We have bright players on our team.  Brooke was probably playing at Duke that year and maybe saw the score.  Candice probably saw the score.  It doesn't matter where you are playing - you have to play well.  We're not going to win because we have Stanford on our jersey.  We're not going to win because we're playing in Maples.  We're going to win because we do the right things.  Those things include playing great defense, rebounding, executing offensively and people playing really hard with and for each other."

What has the schedule been these last seven days since you last played in the Pac-10 Tournament final?

"We took Tuesday off.  We practiced light for the players who played a lot, like Brooke, Candice, Jill [Harmon], [Kristen Newlin] and Jayne [Appel].  Those five basically had a light day on Wednesday.  Then I thought we went hard on Thursday.  Brooke actually didn't feel well on Friday, and then we went hard again on Saturday.  We went hard Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  We took Sunday off.  Today I call a light day [players laugh].  It wasn't necessarily light in terms of running.  We did running and shooting; we did a non-contact day.  The number one thing for me again is having our key players healthy, and everyone healthy, so that we are really excited going into the Tournament."

In addition to her being part of that group that went light on Wednesday, did you handle practices differently for Candice this week?

"She rested basically last week.  And she's working hard.  She worked out hard today and did an extra little workout on Sunday on her own with our trainer.  She likes to get in the gym to shoot and get a little sweat going."

How do you match up against Idaho State?

"I don't know much.  I did see them on tape against BYU, and they did very well.  I think at this point in the season, you concentrate on what you do.  That's not to say that we don't do scouting.  We do scouting.  But we're not going to change up what we're doing.  Here is our team; here is what we've got.  I think that through the Pac-10 Tournament, we've been able to play what I call our 'jumbo' lineup.  That's with Candice at the 'one', Jill at the 'two', Brooke at the 'three', Jayne and New.  That was not something we could do early on.  We can also play a smaller lineup; we can play Brooke at the 'five'.  We have a lot of versatility.  Depending upon who we play and depending on what we need, I just think that people are going to come out and play really hard and really well.  Again, there are certain things you have to do, no matter who you play.  Idaho State was their tournament's #2 seed, but they won it.  So we know that they are coming in on a high, and we need to do our job."

"I just think that the pod system, we have never had that before, where you have two [groups of four teams].  I think it's going to be very exciting for our fans, where you have Old Dominion, who has a great tradition in women's basketball.  Florida State, our fans have seen.  Idaho State will be a new team.  But then you have Ohio State and Middle Tennessee State.  That is going to be great.  You also have Gonzaga, which adds some local flavor, with Kelly [Graves] coming back down.  Then Ohio State is playing Marist.  I think it's a great bracket.  What I'm excited about is that we have great fans here at Stanford and in the Bay Area, and our fans get a chance to see super basketball with these eight teams coming in.  We have our opportunity, and it's up to us to just play well.  If the seed holds, then we could be playing in Fresno.  We're just going to have to do the right thing to play hard and play well."

Did you think the pairings and brackets were fair?

"I think the Selection Committee probably overanalyze it.  They know so much more than I know.  They know about the injuries on teams.  They know who is playing well.  They have it all computerized.  I think they work hard to do a great job.  I'm glad it's them doing it, and not me.  I sit in that room and just say, 'Whatever happens is good.'  What's that saying?  Be careful what you wish for.  There have been years where they put seven of the top 20 teams in our bracket, and we won it.  When we were sent as a six seed, we end up playing down to the final shot against Tennessee.  So seeding, place... It's all about how you play, teams being healthy and wanting to play for each other.  It's about hard Brooke is going to play for Candice, and how hard Candice is going to play for Brooke at this point - through our whole team."

Do you think the Pac-10 got a fair shake?

"I wish they would have gotten five in.  I think that USC is playing well, and I was disappointed for USC.  With their seniors and their hosting, I thought they were a legitimate NCAA team and thought they would be in it."

Any comment on seeing Old Dominion and a possible rematch of the Final Four loss 10 years ago?

"Wendy Larry does a great job.  That was probably, in my mind, our most painful loss.  Charmin [Smith] hasn't forgotten, trust me."


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