Stanford Women Advance; Men's Final Four Set; Watson's Windfall
On a night that will be remembered more for Will Smith's bizarre behavior at the Oscar ceremony, Stanford's women's basketball team displayed a much different kind of toughness at the NCAA Regional Final in Spokane.
The Cardinal's three great players—Haley Jones, Cameron Brink and Lexie Hull (below)—all contributed mightily in a hard-fought, 59-50 win over No. 2 seed Texas, the team that had rallied from a five-point fourth-quarter deficit to hand Stanford an early season loss that spoiled its national championship celebration at Maples Pavilion.
This time, Stanford held on as Hull, playing before her hometown fans in Spokane, made the biggest basket of the game with 2:29 remaining, converting a three-point play to stretch a fragile two point lead to five. She led all scorers with 20 points.
Jones does everything on the court—score, rebound, block shots, handle the ball against pressure, and convert free throws down the stretch. She did it all against Texas, with 18 points and 12 rebounds, plus some timely assists and blocks.
Brink spent most of the first half on the bench in foul trouble, but scored all of her 10 points in the crucial third quarter and blocked six shots in the second half.
But the real star of the night may have been coach Tara VanDerveer, the winningest coach in women's basketball history, who made some key adjustments during the game that secured the victory.
VanDerveer went with Fran Belibi (pictured above with Lexie Hull) for most of the game, giving the Cardinal a size advantage that resulted in a 45-28 rebounding edge. Belibi had seven points and 11 rebounds in 25 minutes.
VanDerveer also went with the lesser-publicized Hull twin, Lacie, for the entire 40 minutes, recognizing that Lacie's ballhandling would be necessary to beat the Texas press. And she had her team switch to a zone in the third quarter when it became obvious that Texas guards were causing one-on-one problems with their quickness.
The Cardinal now will face the winner of the Connecticut-North Carolina State game in the semis and then, in all likelihood, No. 1 South Carolina in the finals.
I like their chances.
Cinderella Run Ends: St. Peter's University, the tiny New Jersey school with 2300 students, had upset No. 2 Kentucky, No. 7 Murray State and No. 3 Purdue to become the first No. 15 seed ever to reach the Elite Eight. But the Peacocks' storybook season ended against No. 9 North Carolina, perhaps the hottest team in the country since spoiling Coach's K's final home game at Duke.
Men's Final Four: The biggest icons of college basketball are featured in this year's Final Four. Kansas, North Carolina, and Duke rank No. 1, No. 3 and No. 4 in all-time wins. North Carolina is playing in its 21st Final Four, Duke in its 17th, Kansas in its 16th and Villanova in its 7th (third in the last six).
Between them, the four teams have a combined 17 NCAA Championships. Never before have all four teams come to the Final Four having won at least three national titles.
Rematch: Now North Carolina and Duke get a dream rematch in one Semi-final, with Kansas and Villanova meeting in the other.
Take these predictions with a grain of salt, as my men’s bracket blew up early, but I think it will be hard for North Carolina to beat Duke again. On the other side Kansas should be able to handle Villanova, as the Wildcats will be without one of their best players, Justin Moore, who tore his Achilles in the Elite Eight win over Houston.
On another subject…
Watson's Windfall: After a Texas grand jury declined to file criminal charges against disgraced NFL quarterback Deshaun Watson, several teams began bidding for his services. This despite the fact that 22 women have filed lawsuits against him for sexual assault.
Because in the NFL, money and winning are the only things that matter.
So Watson's employer, the Houston Texans, fielded multiple offers and presented the options to Watson, who had a no-trade clause in his contract. He ended up with a five-year contract for $230 million, all guaranteed, from the Cleveland Browns.
That's about $10 mil for each woman he assaulted.