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Stanford Women Advance, Get Lessons in Chemistry; Upsets Abound; Stanford Transfers Shine; CFP Split; Giant Moves

Last night's Stanford-Iowa State women's basketball game was an instant classic. The Cardinal won it in overtime, 87-81, advancing to the Sweet 16 thanks to a brilliant performance by Kiki Iriafen and some clutch shooting from Brooke Demetre.

Iriafen, who has out-played All-American Cameron Brink on several occasions this year, carried the load again with Brink in foul trouble most of the night. Kiki scored a career high 41 points, added 16 rebounds and 4 blocks in one of best all-around efforts you'll ever see on a basketball court. Brink fouled out with 8 points.

Sixth woman Demetre, labeled "Big Shot Brooke" by her coach, Tara VanDerveer, hit a three point bomb at the end of regulation, then another three to put Stanford in front in overtime, plus two free throws to seal the win.

Better Chemistry: One of the best kept secrets in local sports last year was the disharmony on VanDerveer's team. There were a couple of "me-first" types who disrupted the chemistry in the locker room. One is now playing for the Atlanta team in the WNBA, the other transferred to UCLA.

Stanford players have recently acknowledged that there was a problem last year. Consider this statement from Brink after Stanford's first-round win over Norfolk State: “I think a lot is different this year. We like each other a lot and we have good chemistry.”

Or this from Demetre: “We didn’t have a skill issue last year. Building as a team this year is the difference. It was a mentality last year. We fixed that, and I’m proud of that.”

The most VanDerveer will say is "we have a good vibe going. We're really having fun." Then, referring to last year's second-round exit, “It was very painful for people. “Everyone committed themselves to hard work in the gym and hard work on being better connected as a team, including coaches."

That new positive vibe showed itself last night, with Iriafen taking over after Brink fouled out, Demetre stepping up, and freshman Nunu Agara making several big defensive plays.

Despite the thrilling win, in which Stanford scored more points in the overtime (21) than in any of the four quarters of regulation, I don't think the Cardinal will make it to the Final Four because of inconsistent perimeter scoring and point guard play, not to mention Brink's frequent foul trouble.

Upsets Abound: One of the things we love most about March Madness is when David upsets Goliath, when a heavy underdog takes down one of the biggest programs in the country. The more obscure the "David," the better.

This year's tourney is continuing the upset tradition. The first round highlights included No. 14 seed Oakland upsetting No. 3 Kentucky, 80-76, and No. 13 Yale taking down No. 4 Auburn by almost the identical score, 78-76.

I'm always happy when Kentucky's John Calipari and Auburn's Bruce Pearl lose. To me, these coaches have long epitomized what's wrong with college basketball.

Calipari, more than any other coach, popularized the "one and done" philosophy. 

Pearl, a Stanford assistant in the 1980s, has made cheating an art form. Two years ago, Pearl was suspended for failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance, an assistant coach received a 10-year show cause judgment, and the school was placed on probation for four years. 

Ten years earlier, of course, Pearl was fired by Tennessee for a host of recruiting violations and lying to the NCAA.

All of which made Yale's win so delicious.

Ex-Stanford Men Flourish: As a Stanford fan, alum and former Athletic Department staffer, it was painful to watch three players who had transferred from the Farm play pivotal roles in North Carolina's win over Michigan State and North Carolina State's overtime victory over the Cinderella Oakland team in the NCAA Men's Tournament.

Harrison Ingram, a former Pac-12 Freshman of the Year at Stanford who has blossomed into an ACC all-star at North Carolina, drilled a career high five 3-pointers, scored 17 points and grabbed 7 rebounds, while Cormac Ryan, who left Stanford for Notre Dame and has ended up in Chapel Hill, had three 3-pointers and 12 points for the Tar Heels.

A few hours later, former Stanford point guard Michael O'Connell had 12 points and 8 assists, including the crucial 3-point play to give the Wolfpack the lead over the pesky Golden Grizzlies from Auburn, Michigan.

Speaking of Stanford, the team's three top returning players for next year--center Maxime Renaud, guard Kanaan Carlyle and forward Andrej Stojakovich--have all entered the transfer portal.

Stanford AD Bernard Muir needs to name a new coach...hopefully an impressive soon as possible, and hope that the new head man can convince the threesome to return.

With Kyle Smith's WSU Cougars eliminated from the NCAA Tourney, Muir should contact him immediately (if he hasn't done so already). 

Knight Moves: Another name being floated for head coach is Stanford icon Brevin Knight, the school's all-time assists leader and third leading career scorer. Knight was a three-time All Pac-10 selection and second-team All-American. He played for nine different teams over 12 years in the NBA and is now a broadcaster for the Memphis Grizzlies.

Another former broadcaster, Steve Kerr, who played for seven teams over 15 years in the NBA, has done pretty well as a head coach. 

Greed Kills: The conference commissioners who run the College Football Playoff agreed to a revenue distribution formula last week that, surprise, gave the lion's share to the SEC and Big Ten.

The Power Two conferences will reap 58 percent of the proceeds from the new $8 billion TV agreement with ESPN, roughly 29% each, more than $21 million annually per school.

The ACC will get 17%, or around $13M per school, followed by the Big 12 at 15%, or 12M per school. The poor schlubs in the Group of Five conferences get only 9%, around $1.8 million per school.

The Pac-2 was essentially shut out of the newly negotiated contract, with initial reports indicating that WSU and OSU would only receive $360,000 each in 2026 and beyond.

But new Commissioner Teresa Gould went to work and convinced the other parties that her two-member conference was worth $3.6 million per school, a 10-fold increase over the original split.

OSU and WSU will now receive the $3.6M in the first three years of the new deal. Future distributions will depend on how the conference rebuilds or merges, or where the two schools eventually land. 

Giant Steps: We've been critical of SF Giants general manager Farhan Zaidi for his failures in the free agent market and his sloppy handling of iconic shortstop Brandon Crawford's exit, but we have to give credit where credit is due.

Zaidi's late signings of Platinum Glove third baseman Matt Chapman and reigning Cy Young winner Blake Snell--combined with the early signings of Korean star Jung Hoo Lee and slugger Jorge Soler--represents quite an impressive off-season haul, enough to seriously upgrade the Giants' 2024 edition.

Of course, we'd prefer it if the Chaman and Snell agreements were actually long-term contracts, rather than ones that give the players an opt-out after this season, but hopefully they'll like it in San Francisco and decide to stay, even if they have banner years.

And the Giants spoiled a good week by pushing out popular public address announcer Renel Brooks-Moon after 24 years, just a couple weeks from opening day. 

Renel's messy exit was compounded by team president Larry Baer, who called her an "icon", and the team press release, which tried to shift the focus to the naming of the PA booth in her honor.

If she's an icon, and worthy of the PA booth bearing her name, why not pay her what she wants?

After all, the Giants just committed to $271 million in free agent signings, so they obviously have the money


Gary Cavalli - Bowl and League co-founder, author, speaker 

Gary Cavalli, the former Sports Information Director and Associate Athletic Director at Stanford University, was co-founder and executive director of the college football bowl game played in the Bay Area, and previously was co-founder and President of the American Basketball League.

Get in touch//@cavalli49//

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