NCAA

The Van Derveer Era defines "The tedious monotony of victory"

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The Van Derveer Era defines "The tedious monotony of victory"

Tara Van Derveer has been here so many times, with so many teams, and done it the same way every time, that she has actually and without realizing it created the phrase the tedious monotony of victory.That sounds daft, and it is, but it is no less true for being absurd. A Stanford womens basketball season makes make the table of the tides seem madcap and unpredictable by comparison.Or you can stop me when we veer of course.Start season with high hopes, and a relatively equal sprinkling of senior leaders and precocious underclassmen. Schedule every tough game available, lose one, maybe even two. Run through Pacific 10 or 12 season with either zero, one or two losses, and crush the conference tournament. Advance through NCAAs, reach Final Four, lose to one of the game other three or four power schools.Repeat annually.Oh, within the team, which is where Van Derveer wisely keeps her focus, winning never gets old, or less enjoyable. The Ogwumike sisters smile just as broadly and with as much satisfaction as Jennifer Azzi did in the Pleistocene era of womens college basketball.But outside that group, there is a crushing one-note symphony that tends to diminish the yearly accomplishment, and it is there where we stand again tonight, as the Cardinals prepares to face Duke in the regional final at Fresno.Part of the problem, of course is that womens basketball remains stubbornly top-heavy. This year, not untypically, the four one-seeds face the four two-seeds. The same names are there all the time, and the best program has transferred from Tennessee to Connecticut with what was once a healthy dislike of each other but has matured into something less contentious as Pat Summitt has approached the end of her career and Geno Auriemma has stopped tilting at whatever windmill happens to wander by.Stanford is the logical third wheel then, with Baylor fourth and closing fast, and Duke, North Carolina and Notre Dame not far behind. And so it has been, and so seemingly it shall remain.Questions? Okay. Here are the last 25 seasons, and you tell us where theyve become zany and unpredictable.1988: Sweet 16.
1989: Elite 8.
1990: Champion.
1991: Final Four.
1992: Champion.
1993: Sweet 16.
1994: Elite 8.
1995: Final Four.
1996: Final Four.
1997: Final Four.
1998: Harvard (first round; dont ask).
1999: Maine (first round).
2000: Georgia (second round).
2001: George Washington (first round).
2002: Sweet 16.
2003: Elite 8.
2004: Elite 8.
2005: Elite 8.
2006: Elite 8.
2007: Florida State (second round).
2008: Title Game.
2009: Final Four.
2010: Title Game.
2011: Final Four.
With the exception of that Florida State loss, the Van Derveer Era is a nearly perfect upside-down bell curve, with no more surprises than the reading of the minutes at next months city council meeting.And over the years its become increasingly fashionable to ignore this success as, well, success. Yes, they had their version of the Mike Singletary era (see Harvard), but they havent gone eight years without a postseason (49ers), or nine (Raiders), or 18 of 19 (Warriors).They are the metronome on Van Derveers piano, and because the culture demands that we have constant change to keep from getting bored, we have ignored, sometimes willfully, what the Stanfords have done, and are trying to do yet again tonight.We have certainly lost the curiosity to understand how difficult it is, to the point where a loss to Duke would be regarded as failure except that nobody gives the program enough mental energy to determine if it is failure or not. Harvard and Maine were failures, and so was GW. This is not.Except that it would be, if only by a snobby few, and success wont be properly appreciated either. A win over Duke would get a nod, a win next week over Baylor in the semifinals would get a vigorous nod, and beating UConn would get as close to paroxysms of joy as the sport can manage. Auriemma is, if anything, more predictable.On the B-side, though, beating Baylor and then beating Tennessee would rob Summitt of perhaps her final best chance at a title, which would make it kind of a downer.But were getting ahead of the curve, which is as close to actual piefight-quality fun as it gets with this team. Its Duke tonight, in Fresno one more remake of the same movie. A skillfully done remake like most of the others, but a remake nonetheless.Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com

Cal fights USC into fourth quarter, can't complete the upset

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AP

Cal fights USC into fourth quarter, can't complete the upset

BOX SCORE

BERKELEY -- Stephen Carr ran for a fourth-quarter touchdown two plays after Southern California's defense forced one of its six turnovers and the fifth-ranked Trojans won their 13th straight game, 30-20 over California on Saturday.

USC (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) has dominated the series with its in-state rival by winning 14 straight against the Golden Bears (3-1, 0-1), but this was one of the tightest matchups in years as the game was tied early in the fourth quarter.

Sam Darnold threw for 223 yards and two touchdowns for the Trojans but also had an interception and was under pressure for much of the day.

It was the defense that stepped up for USC, intercepting a pass from Ross Bowers in the first quarter to set up a field goal and then delivering the big play early in the fourth quarter after Chase McGrath gave the Trojans a 16-13 lead with his third field goal of the game.

Josh Fatu knocked the ball out of Bowers' hand and Uchenna Nwosu recovered the fumble at the 3. Carr ran it in two plays later from the 2 to make it 23-13.

Ykili Ross then intercepted Bowers' pass on the next possession, setting up Darnold's 4-yard TD pass to Deontay Burnett that put away the game.

Bowers finished 22 for 50 for 303 yards with one touchdown, four interceptions and two lost fumbles.

THE TAKEAWAY

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: The Trojans struggled for much of the game without starting RB Ronald Jones (ankle) and WR Steven Mitchell (groin) but managed to pull away late in their first road game of the season.

CALIFORNIA: The Bears used an improved defense to start 3-0 under first-year coach Justin Wilcox but this was supposed to be the test of how far they had come. Cal showed plenty by sticking with a national title contender for three quarters. A sequence on the opening drive of the second will haunt the Bears. Patrick Laird dropped a potential TD in the end zone and Matt Anderson then missed a 29-yard field goal that kept the game tied at 13.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

A win against an unranked team should do little to alter USC's poll position.

UP NEXT

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: Visits No. 18 Washington State on Friday.

CALIFORNIA: Visits No. 24 Oregon on Saturday.

From feeding homeless to doing the splits, Stanford's Phillips a rare find

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From feeding homeless to doing the splits, Stanford's Phillips a rare find

Stanford has a penchant for recruiting the overachieving student-athlete. Even among those standards, Harrison Phillips is a rare find. The senior defensive tackle helps feed the homeless every Friday morning at a local shelter. He often visits the kids in the oncology ward at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. He was named to the Pac-12 All Academic First Team and will graduate in December with a double major and a minor. He is a team captain and heir apparent to Solomon Thomas, the 49ers third overall pick in this year’s NFL draft.

“One thing you love about Harrison is, every day he’s going to get something done,” head coach David Shaw told NBC Sports Bay Area. “On the field, off the field, in the community, he’s always got a million things going on. But nothing ever suffers.

"He does everything at a high level.”

At 6-foot-4, 290 pounds, Phillips is a mountain of a man. His skill set is different than that of Thomas, but he can be just as disruptive. He plays over the center. He plays over the guards. His self-proclaimed job is to eat as many blocks as possible to keep the linebackers free.

“He’s such that hard point for us. He’s that guy up front that’s getting knock back, that force in the run game that you gotta have,” defensive coordinator Lance Anderson explained. “You have to have that strong solid point in the middle of your defense, and he provides that.”

Phillips had a game-high 11 tackles, five of them solo, in the Cardinal’s loss to USC. No other defensive lineman on the field had more than three.

“He’s outstanding against the run. He’s a very good pass rusher,” Shaw added. “He’s got a lot of tools that can work inside.”

Phillips main instruments of domination are strength, knowledge of leverage and abnormal flexibility for a man of his size.

“He can do the splits on command,” Thomas said laughing from in front of his locker after a recent 49ers practice. “He loves showing it off. We get on him for it. But he loves doing it.

And, according to Thomas, his former Stanford teammate loves to bench. So it comes as no surprise that Phillips’ upper body strength stands out.

“He’ll be really low in a position that you think he’d get knocked over in,” Thomas explained. “Because of how flexible he is, it’s not a problem for him to get in that position and stay there and move on from there. It definitely shows up on his film.”

No doubt, Phillips says, that ability comes from his wrestling experience. His high school curriculum vitae includes, “Nebraska State Wrestling Champion, Heavy Weight Division, Sophomore, Junior and Senior years.”

Phillips first year on The Farm, he vividly remembers his Stanford coaches testing him. Just a mere 245 pounds at the time, they put him up against Joshua Garnett and Andrus Peat, two offensive linemen now in the NFL and each well over 300 pounds.

“They’d double team me, almost 700 pounds on you, and I would somehow find leverage and be able to sit on some of those double teams,” Phillips said. “I think the violence that wrestling brings, and balance and being comfortable in weird positions, wrestling has a ton of scrambling, as it's called, you just know your body and know what you can do. I have tremendous flexibility, and I use everything to my advantage.”

One thing Phillips is not allowed to do is use his explosiveness away from the football field. At one time, Phillips could do a back flip off the wall, but he no longer attempts it.

“I’m not a big fan of the back hand springs,” Shaw said. “I’d like for him to stay on his feet.”

Phillips doesn’t argue. He lost his entire sophomore year to a knee injury, and doesn’t want to risk another. He has NFL aspirations and put himself in position to graduate in three-and-a-half years should he choose to enter the 2018 draft. But just as he has done at Stanford, he is looking to be more than just a name on a jersey should he play on a professional level.

“I want to build something that is really lasting,” Phillips said of his life goal, “and put my name on something to touch people’s lives and change people’s lives, pay it forward as much as I can.”