The back-and-forth pattern of the Stanford and Tennessee women's teams is starting to get downright spooky. The two have alternated winning the national championship the past four seasons, and each time the team that won their regular-season matchups went on to win the title.
Because No. 1-ranked Stanford is the defending national champ, it's the second-ranked Lady Vols' turn to have the upper hand, if form holds. And sure enough, even with three key players unable to play, Tennessee eked out a 74-73 overtime victory over the Cardinal in the finals of the Wahine Classic in Honolulu on Sunday. Might as well hang up the uniforms, folks. The die is cast.
Of course, Stanford is not ready to hand over the crown, and the Cardinal will have another chance to break the pattern when the teams meet again on Dec. 21 in Knoxville; but circumstances will probably not favor the Cardinal as they did in Honolulu. All-America candidate Peggy Evans, the Lady Vols' leading scorer last season, sat out the tournament for committing an unspecified violation, of team rules. Senior point guard Jody Adams and highly regarded freshman Michelle Johnson were both out with knee injuries.
Tennessee won largely because 6'6" center Vonda Ward and 6-foot forward Lisa Harrison dominated the boards and because Stanford displayed a one-note offense. Center Val Whiting scored 31 points, including eight of the Cardinal's nine in OT, but no other Stanford player had more than 12. "Our plan was pretty obvious," Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer said. "Go to Val, go to Val, go to Val. We're more than that, but we didn't show it."
One other item of note: Last year, when Stanford was on its way to the championship, the Cardinal beat the Lady Vols early in the season. By one point. In overtime. Spooky.
THE NEW KIDS
The early departure, via the NBA draft, of such top underclassmen as Shaquille O'Neal, Jim Jackson and Harold Miner, coupled with this season's relatively weak senior class, left a talent vacuum in college basketball; but early indications are that newcomers like 6'4" freshman guard Jason Kidd of California and 6'8" Purdue forward Glenn Robinson, a Prop 42 sophomore, will fill that void in a hurry.
In his first two games, easy victories over Sacramento State and Oklahoma State, Kidd averaged 12 points, 8.5 assists, 4.5 steals and 4.5 turnovers. Kidd's most spectacular talent is his ability to deliver no-look passes, so expect his assists to increase and his turnovers to decrease as his teammates learn to keep an eye out for the ball. "There are not many people who can pass like him, even as seniors or as pros," says Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton.
Kidd's greatest feat may have been getting the attention of the San Francisco Bay Area, which is usually blas� about college hoops. Cal moved its opener from tiny Harmon Arena in Berkeley (capacity 6,578) to the Oakland Coliseum Arena in anticipation of the larger crowd Kidd would draw. Smart move. The 12,700 who showed up weren't there to check out Sac State.
But it seems that Kidd is finding all the attention overwhelming. A week before the opener Cal announced that at the request of Kidd and his parents, he would be off-limits to reporters except for postgame interviews.