Nothing is more captivating about March Madness than improbable upsets in the early rounds of the NCAA tournament, and UCSB’s women have a chance to pull off a doozy Saturday night at San Diego State’s Cox Arena.
At 7:30 p.m. the Gauchos, seeded 15th - their lowest ranking in 13 tournament appearances - will take on Stanford, a No. 2 seed that many think deserved to be one of the top-seeded teams.
On the face of it, UCSB’s mission appears hopeless. Stanford (29-4) has won 16 consecutive games and went 10-0 against Fresno State, UC Davis, Arizona, Oregon State, and USC five teams that the Gauchos also played, but the only one they defeated was UC Davis. The Cardinal is outscoring its opponents by better than 20 points a game.
“We face no small task,” said UCSB’s first-year coach Lindsay Gottlieb. “Year in and year out, Stanford is one of the best coached teams in the country, and now it is as hot as any team in the country.”
The Gauchos (22-9) have won nine of their last 11 games, and Gottlieb said, “Our team loves big games.” Past Santa Barbara teams certainly were not intimidated by formidable opponents in the tournament. Twice, the Gauchos held the eventual national champions to single-digit victories - Stanford (82-73) in 1992 and Connecticut (63-55) in 2004. As a 12th seed, they stunned fifth-seeded Louisiana Tech 57-56 in 2002.
Stanford has won nine straight games against the Gauchos. The ‘92 NCAA second-round game was the toughest. The Cardinal, playing at home, did not secure the victory until the final minute when UCSB had only four players on the floor because the others had fouled out.
According to the seedings, Stanford was the victim of the biggest upset in NCAA tournament history in 1998, when it was a No. 1 seed and lost to 16th-seeded Harvard in the first round - the only time that happened in either the men’s or women’s tournaments, which combined have had 156 matchups between 1 and 16.
Last year, Coach Tara VanDerveer‘s Cardinal finished runner-up to Tennessee in the NCAA final, its best finish since the 1992 title.
The UCSB-Stanford game will be televised on ESPN2 and broadcast on AM radio 990 and FM 91.9.
Locally, the coming week brings a full panoply of spring sports. The 71st annual Easter Relays will feature community college competition at SBCC’s La Playa Stadium today (Friday, March 20) and high school action next Saturday (March 28). The 34th annual Dos Pueblos Invitational will bring 35 boys volleyball teams to UCSB’s Thunderdome this Saturday (March 21).
Soccer fans are looking forward to the March 29 game between Mexican professional powers Club America and Atletico Morelia at UCSB’s Harder Stadium. Tickets are on sale at local soccer stores and the Arlington Ticket Agency.
Here is a calendar of selected events for the next 10 days:
Friday, March 20
College track & field - Easter Relays, community college division, SBCC La Playa Stadium, 9 a.m.
College baseball - Principia (Ill.) at Westmont, 3 p.m.
College men’s volleyball - L.A. Pierce at SBCC, 6 p.m.
High school swimming - Buena at Dos Pueblos, 2:30 p.m.
High school boys volleyball - Cathedral (L.A.) at Bishop Diego, 6 p.m.
Saturday, March 21
Running - Carpinteria Education Foundation Orchard to Ocean 10K, 5K, and mile, Main School (5241 8th St.), 8 a.m.
High school boys volleyball - Dos Pueblos Invitational at UCSB Events Center, 8 a.m.
College baseball - Oxnard at SBCC, Pershing Park, 1 p.m.
College women’s basketball - NCAA tournament, first round: UCSB vs. Stanford, Cox Arena, San Diego State, 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, March 22
College baseball - UC Riverside at UCSB, 2 p.m.
College women’s tennis - Dartmouth at UCSB, 11 a.m.
College men’s tennis - Dartmouth at UCSB, 1 p.m.
Monday, March 23
Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table press luncheon, Harry’s Plaza Cafe, 12 p.m.
College baseball - UC Riverside at UCSB, 2 p.m.
College women’s tennis - Harvard at UCSB, 1:30 p.m.
College women’s water polo - Iona at UCSB, 12 p.m.
College women’s basketball - NCAA tournament, second round, Cox Arena, San Diego State, 6:30 p.m.
Tuesday, March 24
College softball - Cuesta at SBCC, Pershing Park, 2:30 p.m.
College men’s volleyball - Cal Baptist at UCSB, Robertson Gym, 7 p.m.
High school baseball - Ventura at Santa Barbara, 3:15 p.m.; Buena at Dos Pueblos, 3:15 p.m.; Nordhoff at San Marcos, 3:15 p.m.; Cabrillo at Carpinteria, 3:30 p.m.
High school softball - Villanova Prep at Carpinteria, 3:30 p.m.
High school boys volleyball - Oak Park at Bishop Diego, 6 p.m.
Wednesday, March 25
College softball - Santa Clara at UCSB (2), 12 p.m.
College baseball - Fresno Pacific at Westmont, 2 p.m.
College men’s volleyball - El Camino at SBCC, 6 p.m.
High school softball - Santa Paula at San Marcos, 3:30 p.m.
High school boys volleyball - Santa Ynez at San Marcos, 6 p.m.
Thursday, March 26
College baseball - Moorpark at SBCC, Pershing Park, 2:30 p.m.
High school baseball - Marist (Eugene, Ore.) at Carpinteria, 3:30 p.m.
High school boys volleyball - Oaks Christian at Bishop Diego, 6 p.m.
Friday, March 27
High school baseball - Dos Pueblos at San Marcos, 3:15 p.m.; Oaks Christian at Bishop Diego, 3:30 p.m.
High school softball - Buena at Santa Barbara, 3:30 p.m.; San Marcos at Dos Pueblos, 3:30 p.m.
Saturday, March 28
High school track & field - Easter Relays, SBCC La Playa Stadium, 9 a.m.
College women’s tennis - Santa Clara at UCSB, 11 a.m.
College baseball - Cal Baptist at Westmont (2), 12 p.m.
College softball - UC Riverside at UCSB (2), 12 p.m.; Bash at the Beach, Pershing Park: SBCC vs. Santa Ana, 12 p.m.; SBCC vs. Saddleback, 4 p.m.
College women’s water polo - UC Davis at UCSB, 12 p.m.
Rugby - Las Vegas at Santa Barbara Grunion, Elings Park, 1 p.m.
Sunday, March 29
Pro soccer - Club America vs. Atletico Morelia, UCSB Harder Stadium, 2 p.m.
College softball - UC Riverside at UCSB, 12 p.m.; Bash at the Beach, Pershing Park: SBCC vs. Golden West, 11 a.m.; SBCC vs. El Camino, 3 p.m.
College women’s water polo - Pacific at UCSB, 12 p.m.