Spokane Regional breakdown
Candice Wiggins will win, or collapse trying
Posted: Tuesday March 18, 2008 11:19AM; Updated: Tuesday March 18, 2008 2:34PM
Underrated: Pittsburgh. The Panthers lost six games between Feb. 2 and March 1; thus their No. 6 seed. But it's worth noting that they have since avenged two of those losses, to Notre Dame and West Virginia, and that their loss to Rutgers in early February was only by four points. With All-America candidates Marcedes Walker and Shavonte Zellous delivering a reliable inside-out attack, the Panthers are dangerous.
Overrated: Nebraska. The Huskers may have 20 wins, but they haven't been able to string more than two of them together since mid-January. Further, they have only one win against teams in the top half of the Big 12 (a 73-60 win over Texas A&M on Jan. 23) and, most alarming, they've lost twice to Kansas, accounting for half the Jayhawks' conference wins.
Bracket Buster: New Mexico. A) The Lobos are officially on a roll, having won six straight and seven of their last eight (their one loss in the streak was a four-point win for 18th-ranked Utah). B) In the first round they will face a West Virginia team that has lost three of its last five games. C) The Lobos get to play their first NCAA games at home in the unnervingly loud and mile-high Pit, where they win more than 80 percent of their games.
Home Cooking: Stanford. The Cardinal didn't get the No. 1-seed the were looking for, but they did get a geographically favorable path to the Final Four. Their first two games will be played in the comfort of Maples Pavilion, presumably to be followed by a relatively quick plane ride to Spokane with no need to leave the Pacific Time Zone. It should be noted, however, home cooking hasn't necessarily served Stanford well in the past. Last year the Cardinal played their first two games in Maples but lost to 10-seed Florida State in the second round, thereby missing a three-hour bus ride to Fresno.
Best Player You've Never Heard Of: Shavonte Zellous, Pittsburgh. The 5-foot-10 junior guard's exuberance shows up in more in her last name. Zellous is a terrific athlete who can create her own shot and is capable of huge offensive outbursts: She scored 30 points or more in four games and helped end Pitt's four-game February losing streak by scoring 29 points in an 77-75 OT win over West Virginia on Feb. 26.
Best Matchup: Stanford-Maryland. This is a great matchup in personnel and an interesting contrast in styles. Maryland's post tandem of Crystal Langhorne and Laura Harper combine for 31 points and 18 rebounds a game; Stanford's Jayne Appel and Kayla Pedersen combine for 27 points and 16.9 rebounds. The Terps' best perimeter player, Kristi Toliver delivers 16.8 points and 7.5 assists a game; Stanford's Candice Wiggins' scores 19.3 points and grabs 4.5 rebounds. But talk about a contrast in priorities: Stanford values the ball; Maryland will sacrifice it to push tempo.
The Pick: Stanford. Both Maryland and Stanford have something to prove, but this is Wiggins' last shot at the Final Four. She'll will lead the Cardinal there, or collapse trying.