A Peek at the San Diego Bracket

Stanford will face UC Santa Barbara in the first round of the NCAA tournament this Saturday in San Diego. A win would pit the Card against the winner of DePaul and San Diego State. Read on for a short primer on Stanford's opponents for the first two NCAA rounds.

NCAA First Round, Saturday March 21st at approximately 7:30 PM in San Diego

Opponent – #15 seeded UC Santa Barbara

The UC Santa Barbara Gauchos are 22-9 overall and 15-1 in the Big West conference. They made the NCAA tournament by winning their conference tournament and earning the automatic bid. Former Cal assistant Lindsay Gottlieb was named Big West Coach of the Year in her first season as the head coach of the Gauchos.

UCSB has a Sagarin ranking of #102. They are 1-1 against Sagarin top 50 teams and have played no games against top 25 teams. The Gauchos are a very experienced team; they start 4 seniors. The Gauchos do not pack much offensive punch, however, and tend to play close games. They average 60.2 points and give up an average of 54.9. UCSB shoots 41.7% and allows opponents to shoot 34.4%. By contrast Stanford scores 76.0 points per game on 47.4% shooting and gives up 55.2 points per game on 34.8% shooting. The Gauchos out-rebound their opponents 38.2 to 33.4. They do not take particularly good care of the ball and have a negative assist to turnover ratio. The Gauchos are not very big, although they do have size and experience inside in 6' 4" Sr C Jenna Green. Against Stanford, they will be at a serious size disadvantage at almost every position. This season UCSB played 3 Pac-10 teams and lost all three games: Arizona 54-47 in November, USC 62-53 in November, and Oregon State 70-51 in late February.

Best win: Gonzaga
Worst losses: Harvard, CSU Bakersfield, Pacific

Probably UCSB starters:

Sr G Lauren Pedersen (5' 10") – 13.0 ppg, 34.1% shooting, 32.1% three-point shooting, 5.1 rpg, 4.2 apg, 3.3 TOs
Sr C Jenna Green (6' 4") – 11.4 ppg, 54.0% shooting, 5.9 rpg, 1.9 blocks
Sr G Sha'Rae Gibbons (5' 7") – 8.1 ppg, 41.8%, 35.6% threes
So F Margaret Johnson (5' 11") – 3.6 ppg, 55.4%
Sr G-F Whitney Warren (5' 8") – 5.3 ppg, 46.8%

Reserves:

Jr G-F Jordan Franey (6') – 6.4 ppg, 41.3%, 4.4 rpg
Fr G Emilie Johnson (5' 6") – 6.1 ppg, 34.5%, 39.2% threes
Sr F-C Kat Suderman (6' 4") – 3.9 ppg, 40%, 2.8 rpg
So G-F Christine Spencer (6' 1") – 2.9 ppg, 35.4%

NCAA second round, Monday March 23rd in San Diego

Possible Opponent – #7 seeded DePaul Blue Demons

The DePaul Blue Demons received an at-large bid after finishing 23-9 overall and 10-6 (tied with 2 others for 4th) in the tough Big East conference. Doug Bruno is the head coach. DePaul went 6-4 in their last 10 games. They bowed out of the Big East tournament in the quarterfinals to #16 (USA Today/ESPN poll) Pittsburgh.

The Blue Demons have a Sagarin ranking of #26 and went 2-6 against the Sagarin top 25 and 3-8 against the Sagarin top 50. They have a balanced attack featuring the inside play of 6' 3" Sr F Natasha Williams (14.2 ppg) and the outside play of 5' 10" Jr G Deirdre Naughton (15.5 ppg). DePaul scores an average of 71.3 points and gives up an average of 62.6. They shoot 42.6% to their opponents' 38.6%. They are not a particularly good three-point shooting team (31.3%) or rebounding team (rebounding margin is only +2.4). Naughton and G Sam Quigley take around 5 three-pointers a game apiece but they do not hit that many (30.5% and 35.3% respectively). The Blue Demons do take good care of the ball (A/T ratio = 1.1 and 14.7 turnovers per game).

DePaul plays in the Big East so they are no strangers to top competition. In conference the Blue Demons lost to #1 Connecticut 77-62, #7 Louisville 78-60, #20 Notre Dame 86-62 and 62-59, unranked Villanova, and unranked South Florida. They did beat Rutgers 60-58 and #16 Pittsburgh 69-62. In non-conference games they lost to #23 Tennessee and unranked New Mexico. DePaul does not appear to be a very deep team but unlike the other two teams in Stanford's bracket in San Diego, they have balance, size, and plenty of experience against top opponents.

Best wins: #16 Pittsburgh, Rutgers, South Florida
Worst loss: Mew Mexico

Probable DePaul starters:

Jr G Deidre Naughton (5' 10") – 15.5 ppg, 37% shooting, 30.5% threes, 5.1 rpg, 4.5 apg, 2.8 TO
Sr F Natasha Williams (6' 3") – 14.2 ppg, 61.6%, 6.7 rpg, 1.3 blocks
Fr F Keisha Hampton (6' 2") – 10.5 ppg, 41.2%, 32.1% threes, 4.7 rpg
So G Sam Quigley (5' 6") – 10.2 ppg, 40.4%, 35.3% threes, 3.6 apg, 2.2 TOs
So F Felicia Chester (6' 3") – 7.2 ppg, 52%, 5.8 rpg, 1.2 blocks

Reserves:

Jr G China Threatt (5' 9") – 5.3 ppg, 34.1%, 30.5% threes
Sr F Erin Cattell (6' 1) – 3.0 ppg

Possible Opponent – #10 seeded San Diego State Aztecs

The San Diego State Aztecs are a young team coached by former Stanford strength and conditioning coach (2004-05) Beth Burns. The Aztecs' record is 23-7 overall and 13-3 in the Mountain West Conference. They came in second to Utah in the Mountain West tournament but claimed an NCAA bid as an at-large team.

The Aztecs have a Sagarin ranking of #53. They did not play a difficult schedule and out of 3 games against top 50 teams, they won only one, but it was a whooper – an upset of then #4 Texas by a score of 60-55 in San Diego in late December. Since then Texas has struggled to 11 losses, so the win is not quite what it was cracked up to be at the time, but Texas is still a top 25 team and that victory is by far the Aztecs' best.

San Diego State scores 64.6 points per game on 42.6% shooting and allows 57.4 points per game on 38.3% shooting. They shoot 32.4% from three-point range but for a guard-oriented team (they start 3 guards), they do not shoot all that many threes. Stanford has made 201 threes while the Aztecs have made 143. The Aztecs have been out-rebounded by an average of 2.5 rebounds per game. They do have quick guards including Jene Morris, who played for Cal as a freshman and then transferred, and they get a lot of steals. They have only one player with size who sees much playing time, 6' 4" C Paris Johnson, who goes for 14.0 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. Only one other regular tops six feet.

It may seem daunting to play any opponent on their home court and San Diego State has been great at home this season and did beat a ranked team there, but the Aztecs are not a particularly good shooting team, have little size or depth to combat all the bigs Stanford can throw at them, and don't rebound very well. If given the choice between playing the Aztecs on their home court or a more balanced DePaul team that has been through the wars in a major conference, I'd take the Aztecs and my chances on the home court edge. The Card have dealt with quick guards before. Just ask Camille LeNoir of USC.

Best wins: Texas, New Mexico, Utah, TCU, BYU
Worst loss: San Diego

Probable San Diego State starters:

Jr G Jene Morris (5' 9") – 15.5 ppg, 41.6%, 31.7% threes, 2.4 apg, 2.9 TOs, 3.2 steals
So C Paris Johnson (6' 4") – 14.0 ppg, 53.8%, 8.5 rpg, 3.1 blocks
Jr G Quenese Davis (5' 9") – 11.4 ppg, 37.8%, 34.5% threes, 4.1 rpg, 6.0 Apg, 4.1 TOs, 2.5 steals
Jr F Jennifer Layton-Bailes (6' 1") – 9.3 ppg, 48.8%, 32.6% threes, 5.1 rpg
So G Coco Davis (5' 9") – 4.2 ppg, 29.6%, 3.7 rpg, 3.1 apg, 2.6 TOs, 1.4 steals

Reserves:

Jr G Jerica Williams (5' 8") – 4.9 ppg, 37.2%, 38.9% threes
Sr G LaSandra Dixon (5' 7")

Conclusions: My theory is when in doubt feel better facing smaller conference teams than BCS types because the latter have had plenty of experience playing top-level opponents and generally have more size and better athletes. By that theory, Stanford should prefer to face San Diego State in the second round, and by the seedings they should prefer the same.


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