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Posted: Tuesday March 17, 2009 2:29PM; Updated: Tuesday March 17, 2009 5:15PM
Kelli Anderson Kelli Anderson >

Berkeley Regional Breakdown: Stanford heading back to Final Four

Story Highlights

Watch out for Mississippi State to turn a few brackets around

The best matchup will be a post battle between Duke and Stanford

Just like last season, Stanford will waltz back to the Final Four

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Stanford's Jayne Appel will lead the Cards back to the Final Four from the West Region.

Underrated: Eleven-seed Mississippi State.

Georgia coach Andy Landers considers the Bulldogs the most dangerous team in the SEC, and for good reason. Bolstered by the addition of three jaycee transfers from the Congo, including 6-5 Chanel Mokango, who averages 10.6 points and 3.0 blocks a game, the Bulldogs won eight games in the SEC (just one fewer than No. 5 seed Tennessee), including two over six-seed LSU and one over four-seed Vanderbilt.

Overrated: Ohio State.

Yes, the Buckeyes won the Big Ten regular season and tournament championships, but they are the only representative of the league ranked among the top 25. They have no impressive out-of-conference wins, and their best wins in-conference are two victories over six-seed Purdue and a win over nine-seed Michigan State at home (they lost to the Spartans in East Lansing). Yet, because they get two home games to start, the Buckeyes have a great chance to make good on the committee's high opinion.

Bracket Buster: San Diego State.

Interesting piece of trivia: Leading scorer Jene' Morris, a 5-9 guard, was part of the vaunted Cal recruiting class that included Ashley Walker, Devanei Hampton and Alexis Gray-Lawson before she transferred to SDSU after one season. Led by Morris, who averages 15.5 points and three steals, and 6-4 sophomore center Paris Johnson, who notches 14 points, 8.5 rebounds and three blocks a game, the Aztecs beat New Mexico, TCU and Texas this year.

Homecooking: Stanford

On the surface, it looks like another sweet travel itinerary for the Cardinal: A quick plane ride to San Diego for its first two games, potentially followed by a 45-minute bus ride to Berkeley's cozy and -- just this once -- friendly Haas Pavilion. However, the Cardinal may have to face No. 10 San Diego State in the second round, on the Aztecs' home floor.

Best Player You've Never Heard Of: Alysha Clark, Middle Tennessee State.

In two years at Belmont University, Clark, a 5-10 forward, averaged a double-double, was named Atlantic Sun Player of the Year twice and helped the Bruins reach the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history, in 2007. The start of Clark's act II at Middle Tennessee has been even more impressive: Her 9.8 rebounds a game leads her team and her 27.3 points a game leads the country.

Best Matchup: Stanford-Duke.

The most intriguing matchup is in the post, between the Blue Devils' 6-5 senior Chante Black and the Cardinal's 6-4 junior and Pac Ten Player of the Year Jayne Appel. But the game may come down to the supporting casts, both of which have demonstrated they can win when their stars are having off nights.

The Pick: Stanford.

Duke's press wore down Stanford's backcourt in December, and it could do it again. But Stanford six-foot sophomore Jeannette Pohlen has grown into the point guard role, and the towering trees around Appel -- 6-4 Kayla Pedersen, 6-2 Nneka Ogwumike and 6-1 Jillian Harmon -- are playing their best basketball at the right time. With a win over Duke, Stanford will make back-to-back trips to the Final Four for the first time since 1997.

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