The Pac-12 is showcasing its strength at the NCAA Tournament in both the men’s and women’s events.
Six conference teams qualified for the women’s tournament: Stanford, Oregon, Oregon State, Arizona, Washington State and UCLA. The league was represented by five teams on the men’s side in Oregon State, Oregon, USC, UCLA and Colorado, the most since 2016.
There’s always been the complaint that Pac-12 games are on TV too late for East Coast fans, so the visibility from the tournament is welcomed by coaches. And it’s led to some mutual support: Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer has been texting Oregon State men’s coach Wayne Tinkle, among others.
VanDerveer says the Pac-12 is doing “awesome" and she's so excited for the league.
“I’ve been texting with Kelly Graves (Oregon women) and Cori Close at UCLA and Adia (Barnes, Arizona women),” VanDerveer said. "I think the West Coast is representing really well. And I’m really excited about how the Pac-12 is doing in both men’s and women’s basketball.”
Barnes didn't mince words about the strength of the Pac-12. Barnes and Arizona are set to play Indiana on Monday night for a spot in the Final Four.
“We play in the best conference in the country," Barnes said. "The Pac-12 has prepared us for this. Night in and night out in the Pac-12, we’re playing teams like Stanford, UCLA, great teams, Oregon State, Oregon. Coming and playing an SEC team is just different, but we’re prepared for that.”
DRAKE BET ON TEXAS
The Texas Longhorns have a new fan, at least for one game, in rapper Drake.
The rapper from Toronto who reportedly posts on the verified Instagram account @champagnepapi, had predicted Texas' upset of Maryland in an Instagram story that said, “ VEGAS RUN ME MY UPSET MONEY."
Drake followed with another Instagram story laughing and saying, “Hook 'em. Great game ladies, incredible game.”
Texas women's basketball shared that second post on Twitter, saying “I’m wayyyyyy up. I feel blessed” with a musical emoji and the hook 'em horns emoji.
Kyra Lambert wanted to play her final year closer to home by transferring to Texas after graduating from Duke. Now she's playing in the Elite Eight in San Antonio and couldn't get much closer to her hometown.
Cibolo, Texas, is about 25 miles from the Alamodome where sixth-seeded Texas upset Maryland 64-61 on Sunday night to reach the Hemisfair Region final.
“Honestly, this is a story I couldn't write, I couldn't imagine,” Lambert said Monday. "This is tangible evidence of how good God is. That's it. I mean grateful for this opportunity, excited to be here and excited to lead this team and excited to keep it rolling."
Texas plays top-seeded South Carolina on Tuesday night with a berth in the Final Four on the line.
FINAL FOUR MEMORIES
Tara VanDerveer remembers very well the feeling of finally coaching Stanford to the Cardinal’s first Final Four berth.
“It was an incredible, incredible time,” VanDerveer said Monday. “We got there and I just remember looking at Thompson-Boling Arena and thinking, ‘Oh my gosh! Wow!’ And I just said, ‘You know I don’t know if we’re ever coming back, so let’s try to win it while we’re here.’”
Stanford beat Auburn in 1990 in Knoxville, Tennessee, for its first of two national championships. Stanford will be trying for its 14th Final Four berth Tuesday night playing Louisville in the Alamo Region final.
Either Arizona or Indiana will earn its first Final Four berth Monday night facing off in the Mercado Region final. VanDerveer made clear it was really hard for her to root for either. She went to Indiana and played in an AIAW Final Four but coaches in the Pac-12. Vanderveer is splitting her support.
YOU GOT NEXT
South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said it’s up to the next generation of women’s basketball coaches and assistants to stay vigilant in making sure the game stays healthy.
“This is an incredibly beautiful game, and it can only get better if you pour into us,” she said Monday. “I’m not saying people haven’t poured into women’s basketball, but if you poured more into women’s basketball you’ll get an incredible product that will be revenue producing.”
Staley said those coaches and others who care about the game must remember to balance the game with ensuring they leave it better than when they first got involved. It’s similar, she said, to her making sure her players have tools to succeed away from the court, too.
“If they don’t grow and become young women when they leave our program, I’ve done them a disservice,” Staley said.