Cardinal will open vs. Santa Clara

3/13/2005 - Stanford Cardinal

STANFORD, Calif. -- Tara VanDerveer has learned in nearly three decades of coaching college basketball not to fret the things she can't control.

When top-ranked Stanford received a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament on Sunday, VanDerveer urged her players to be diplomatic.

Still, they were a little shell-shocked.

"I thought we had a good shot," senior guard Kelley Suminski said. "I believe we are the top team in the nation. But I don't think we're disappointed."

The Cardinal (29-2), trying to reach their first Final Four in eight years, will play Saturday night in Fresno against West Coast Conference champion Santa Clara, their neighbor just a short drive south on the 101 freeway.

Stanford has a 20-game winning streak and won its conference games by an average of 24.9 points. But the Cardinal were docked because of a 62-58 loss at Oregon on Dec. 29. They haven't lost since.

Louisiana State, North Carolina, Tennessee and Michigan State earned the top seeds in the draw.

"No respect," Lisa Leslie, a former Pac-10 star herself at USC, said on the selection show.

It's the first time since Texas in 1984 that a team with the No. 1 ranking failed to earn a top seed. The Longhorns lost in the regional final that year.

"We're always making some kind of history," said VanDerveer, Stanford's 19th-year coach who has called this a "wow" season for the program. "We're still alive, still playing. ... Honestly, a long time ago I stopped trying to figure out the committee and seeds. What's much more important to me is the team being healthy. There's no sense in overanalyzing the thing."

In 1990, Stanford's bracket included a handful of the top 20 ranked teams in the country -- and the Cardinal weren't the No. 1 team at the time. On selection day, VanDerveer went home and had a "breakdown" before Stanford went on to win its first NCAA title. Since then, she has decided not to second-guess the selection committee.

Apparently, that attitude has rubbed off on her players.

"I think our team is hungry," said guard Susan King Borchardt, who didn't play in a loss to Tennessee and was limited by injury in the defeat at Oregon. "We play well that way, and I think we're going to turn it into a good thing. ... I think when we play well, we can play with anybody."

The Cardinal, who fell a shot short of the Final Four last season with a 62-60 loss to the Lady Vols, have a possible date with three-time defending NCAA champion Connecticut in the round of 16.

Stanford was seeded sixth for the tournament last year, lower than the Cardinal thought they should be. They haven't won it all since 1992.

"I believe in our team," VanDerveer said. "Our team seems to thrive when shown disrespect. Last year we did it, and more often than not we've beaten our seed. This is an overachieving bunch."

In a strange twist, Stanford senior forward Sebnem Kimyacioglu will face her little sister, Yasemin, a sophomore guard for Santa Clara. It will be their first meeting at the college level.

"If I need to go call Seb's dad to get a scouting report, I will. I'm not going to be proud," VanDerveer said.