NCAA

Stanford faces South Carolina in Fresno regional semifinals

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Stanford faces South Carolina in Fresno regional semifinals

Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer recalls how during Dawn Staley's college days at Virginia she wore a rubberband on her right wrist and snapped it each time she committed a turnover.

VanDerveer remembers how much she enjoyed coaching the ultra-competitive Staley on the 1996 U.S. Olympic team that captured gold in Atlanta. VanDerveer always told it straight, and that's what fueled the tough Staley, who grew up honing her game on the playgrounds of Philadelphia.

"When Tara found out we were playing South Carolina, she was ecstatic," sophomore forward Chiney Ogwumike said. "She was like, Yeah, we're playing Dawn Staley's crew!'"

On Saturday night, VanDerveer's top-seeded Cardinal (33-1) will face Staley's No. 5 seed South Carolina team (25-9) in the NCAA tournament's Fresno regional semifinals, with Stanford looking to extend its school-record 30-game winning streak and take another step toward reaching a fifth straight Final Four.

"Coaching Dawn was just awesome. I loved coaching her," VanDerveer said Friday at the Save Mart Center. "She's a competitor more than anything else."

A humble one at that. The Gamecocks played at Stanford last season, and Staley invited VanDerveer to the visiting locker room to give her players a pep talk. And Staley spoke to VanDerveer's players at a 2007 tournament in the U.S. Virgin Islands when Staley was still at Temple.

The Cardinal had just whipped South Carolina 70-32 in November 2010 when Staley asked her former coach to spend a few minutes with the Gamecocks players. VanDerveer also coached Staley assistant Nikki McCray.

"You don't really hear a lot of relationships like that when it comes to different coaches," said Stanford leading scorer Nnemkadi Ogwumike, who averages 21.8 points 10.1 rebounds and is eager to get to Denver and the Final Four in her NCAA tournament farewell tour. "It's nice to see those different types of dynamics. It's really cool. They have a lot of history together."

VanDerveer, Stanford's 26th-year coach, took a year away from the school to coach the U.S. Olympians to their gold medal in '96.

"Tara had a way of looking at basketball and seeing it played a certain way," Staley said, saying she learned from VanDerveer "to be more than just a player and build relationships. You learn all those little intangible things ... that made me one of the best point guards to play the game. Definitely Tara was one of those coaches who was really honest - she'll bring you to tears with her honesty. It fueled me."

Stanford and Staley's Virginia team each reached three straight Final Fours from 1990-92, with the Cardinal beating Staley in the NCAA semifinals on the way to its championships in '90 and '92. VanDerveer's Cardinal haven't won it all since then despite becoming a Final Four regular of late.

Current assistant and former Stanford guard Kate Paye guarded Staley in that 1992 game.

"Those are good years, 90 and 92. Hopefully that's a good omen. Dawn hopes it isn't," said VanDerveer, who cherishes a signed photo Staley gave her from when she was the Americans' flag bearer for the 2004 Athens Games.

The winner Saturday will face either No. 2 Duke faces third-seeded St. John's, who play the first game of the night.

VanDerveer, enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame last year, earned her 797th career victory in that game with South Carolina, then beat former Stanford star and University of San Francisco coach Jennifer Azzi to join the elite 800 wins club shortly thereafter.

Next season, Stanford will travel to South Carolina, where the women's basketball program has become a big hit in Columbia.

"They play much better defense than she did," VanDerveer quipped of these Gamecocks compared to their coach. "Dawn is incredibly competitive, to the point she has amnesia. We used to play chess together and she will say how she beat me, and I'll say, No, Dawn.' Her team is so competitive."

South Carolina has reached its first regional semifinal since 2002, third overall in program history and first under fourth-year coach Staley. The Gamecocks' top three scorers and six players total - including all five current starters - were there that day last season to hear VanDerveer's words.

Not that they remember it much. This group has come so far since then.

"I don't remember much about the game, but we weren't prepared as much as we are now," guard Ieasia Walker said.

Markeshia Grant leads the balanced Gamecocks at 11.0 points, while La'Keisha Sutton averages 10.5 points for a South Carolina team that already pulled off an impressive win over Tennessee.

Staley sported an "I BELIEVE" long sleeve T-shirt on Friday in what has become her team's mantra.

"They've been pretty catchy since we've been having a pretty successful season," Staley said. "We really don't have anything to lose. They're the big dogs, the No. 1 seed. We still have to play the game."

VanDerveer looks at the Gamecocks much like the offensive-oriented Arizona State and California teams the Cardinal face in the Pac-12 Conference.

After traveling East to Norfolk, Va., for the first two rounds of the tournament, the Cardinal are back in familiar territory in California's Central Valley, where they beat Fresno State in this arena on Dec. 4. They're at the same hotel this time.

"This is kind of our second home and we want to come out and play really well here," VanDerveer said. "I think there's a comfort level having been here, been in the locker room, less newness. Whether that translates into wins or translates into more baskets, that's yet to be seen."

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Pac-12 basketball teams near Barcelona terrorist attack safe

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AP

Pac-12 basketball teams near Barcelona terrorist attack safe

Men's basketball teams from Oregon State, Clemson and Arizona were staying at a hotel in Barcelona, Spain, near where a van drove into pedestrians on Thursday, but team officials said everyone was safe.

Spanish police have confirmed they are investigating the bloodshed in Barcelona's historic Las Ramblas district as a terror attack. The area is a popular summer tourist spot.

Tulane also was playing in Barcelona, but it was unclear if they were staying in the same hotel as the other teams.

Oregon State assistant coach Gregg Gottlieb posted to Facebook: "We are all luckily ok. Our hotel/restaurant is located right on Las Ramblas. This tragedy happened right in front of us as our team just sat down for pregame meal. Thoughts and prayers for all those that are were hurt."

The Beavers' game Thursday night was canceled. It was supposed to be the first of a five-game tour.

Clemson was scheduled to play Thursday night against a Spanish All-Star team.

"We've been in contact with our men's basketball program currently in Barcelona and the entire travel party is safe and secure. Their exhibition game for tonight has been cancelled and the team will return to Clemson as previously scheduled tomorrow morning. Our thoughts are with the people of Barcelona," the South Carolina school said in a statement.

Clemson coach Brad Brownell confirmed in a text to The Associated Press that the three teams were staying in the same hotel.

"We are fine. Thankful to be safe and together," Brownell wrote.

Tulane athletic director Troy Tannen confirmed via social media that the Green Wave players and staff were safe.

Replying to a Twitter inquiry from a Portland television about whether the team was OK, Oregon State head coach Wayne Tinkle responded: "Yes we are, happened directly in front of our hotel while we were having a team meal in the restaurant, so senseless and sad! All accounted4."

Oregon State said it has not yet determined the remaining schedule for the team, which was supposed to be on the exhibition tour until Aug. 25.

A spokesman for Arizona said the Wildcats have canceled their third and final exhibition of their tour and "are currently working on travel plans to return home."

The future of Cal athletics, or lack thereof

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USATSI

The future of Cal athletics, or lack thereof

Your education dollars are always at work, so it is with pride and bewilderment that we report that the University of California’s incoming class (2021, for those few who can get out in four years) marched to Memorial Stadium and formed the world’s largest human letter.
 
It was . . . wait for it . . . a “C.” A 7,196-person-strong “C.”
 
But the school, as it occasionally does, missed a golden opportunity to seize a golden opportunity. All they needed to do was have a quick whip-round, get $55,586.44 from each and every one of the captives . . . er, students, and they could have wiped out their entire athletics deficit in one night.
 
You see, while forming gigantic letters is always fun (or as the kids used to say when double negatives didn’t mean voting, never not fun), Cal is staring at quite possibly the bleakest future a major athletic university ever has. The athletic department, whose chief officer, Mike Williams, has just announced his intention to quit, is over $400 million in debt between construction costs, ambition, shrinking allegiance and the absence of a Phil Knight-level sugar daddy to buy the pain away.
 
And before you blame Williams, he inherited this indigestible planetoid from his predecessor, Sandy Barbour, who grew it from her predecessor, Steve Gladstone, and hastened it from . . . well, you get the drift. 
 
Cal’s been blowing through money it hasn’t been taking in for years upon years, didn’t realize the deficit-cutting benefits of the Pac-12 Network (because they largely don’t exist), and the day of reckoning looms closer and closer, especially now that new chancellor Carol Christ (no apparent relation) described the deficit as “corrosive” and has insisted that the athletic department have a balanced budget by 2020.
 
In short, the school may only be able to afford a lower-case “C” before too long. Maybe in comic sans.