COLLEGE BASKETBALL / NCAA TOURNAMENT : Stanford Women Wonder Why Vanderbilt Is No. 1


Top-ranked Connecticut, Tennessee and Colorado were seeded No. 1 as expected, but a No. 1 given to Vanderbilt raised some eyebrows Sunday when pairings were announced for the 64-team NCAA's women's basketball tournament.

Vanderbilt's No. 1 was of particular surprise to Pacific 10 champion Stanford. The fifth-ranked Cardinal (26-2) had anticipated being No. 1 in the West but wound up No. 2 behind Vanderbilt (26-6), which upset Tennessee in the Southeastern Conference tournament.

Three Southland teams made the NCAA tournament.

USC wound up in Nashville, UC Irvine in Palo Alto and San Diego State will play at home in first-round games this week. All three were placed in the West Regional.

Cheryl Miller's Trojans, who finished 10-8 (18-9 overall) and in fifth place in the Pac-10, were assigned to Vanderbilt's bracket and play Memphis (21-7) on Friday.

Irvine (19-10) achieved a major turnaround this year after finishing 5-23 last season. Now, the downside: The Anteaters play Stanford (26-2) at Palo Alto on Thursday.

"They're a very big, physical team," UCI Coach Colleen Matsuhara said. "They score inside, they have very good outside shooters, they have a great transition game and what makes them so tough is that they absolutely power the boards.

"I'm very surprised they weren't the top seed in the West."

San Diego State (24-5) had an 18-game winning streak snapped by Utah, 64-57, in the Western Athletic Conference tournament title game Saturday. The Aztecs play Montana (25-6) on Thursday.

The March 23-25 regional sites: UCLA (West), Connecticut (East), Tennessee (Mideast) and Drake (Midwest). The Final Four is April 1-2 at Minneapolis' Target Center.

Stanford Coach Tara VanDerveer seemed annoyed Sunday at the Cardinal's plight.

"It's disappointing. It was surprising," she said. "Was the NCAA making a statement about our conference? I don't know. I don't want to spend a lot of time wondering about it. But maybe it can be a motivating factor for our team."

Stanford lost only at Tennessee early in the season and at Oregon State. Vanderbilt was 14-6 against top-25 teams and 15-6 against 17 of the 64 teams in the tournament.

The NCAA selected half of the Pac-10 teams: Stanford, Washington, Oregon State, Oregon and USC. Only the SEC, with seven teams, had more.

The NCAA wasn't the only target of VanDerveer's ire Sunday. Stanford finished the regular season with a 55-50 victory at Washington, and when it ended, VanDerveer and Husky Coach Chris Gobrecht were screaming at each other at midcourt.

VanDerveer apparently knocked Washington's aggressive, physical style of defense during a pregame radio interview.

"We heard what she said, and she said some very disrespectful things about our players," Gobrecht said.

"And my players told me Tara was yelling at them during the game, calling them 'hackers.' I told her I didn't like that either."

VanDerveer's version differs markedly.

"I shook hands with her as the game ended, but she didn't let go," VanDerveer said. "She said something like, how dare I criticize her defense. . . . I was so surprised I didn't get all of it. I wasn't prepared for a midcourt lecture."

Washington (23-8), ranked 14th, was placed in the Mideast Regional, where it would be a decided underdog against Tennessee and Texas Tech.

Defending national champion North Carolina (28-4) was placed in the West. North Carolina beat Louisiana Tech on a last-second shot in last year's championship game at Richmond.

Tar Heel Coach Sylvia Hatchell said she hopes her team can deliver a message:

"The ACC credibility just isn't there (in the NCAA's view) and we'll use our seeding as a rallying cry. . . . We'll go out there and prove something."

Louisiana Tech (26-4) was seeded No. 2 in the East, behind Connecticut.

Last year's two other Final Four teams were Alabama and Purdue. Alabama (20-8) was seeded fourth in the East, and Purdue (21-7) fourth in the West.

USC tailed off markedly in the home stretch of the Pac-10 season, playing .500 basketball since a 72-52 loss to Stanford on Feb. 23.

Times Staff Writer John Weyler contributed to this story.

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