Virginia hamming it up at courtside-not the scene Santa Barbara wanted to witness on Easter Sunday. But there it was, delivered by ESPN to those viewing UCSB’s first-round game in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament.
After crushing the Gauchos’ hopes by scoring 16 consecutive points in the second half-turning a 45-38 lead into a 61-38 blowout-Virginia’s Cavaliers were a happy bunch. They celebrated several more gleeful moments, like a wild shot that banked in for three points, each of them a bummer for Santa Barbara.
It all added up to an 86-52 Virginia victory, the most lopsided beating suffered by the Gaucho women in 19 NCAA games since 1992.
The gap between the “haves” and the “have lots” seems to be wider than ever in women’s college basketball. Only two double-digit seeds-10th-seeded Hartford and 11th-seeded Florida State-made it out of the first round of the NCAA tournament. In every other contest, the favorites prevailed by an average margin of 20 points. Tennessee and Connecticut, the twin powers that suck up the most talented players in the land, won by 49 and 42 points, respectively.
The NCAA men’s bracket is typically a lot messier, which turns both the clueless and the daredevils into office pool contenders. There were six big surprises in the opening round-and a near-miss by 15th-seeded Belmont against Duke. A pair of No. 12 seeds, Villanova and Western Kentucky, made it through to the Sweet 16, along with 10th-seeded Davidson.
I won’t be a boor and say I had those teams in my bracket (the one I failed to turn in). I am sticking to my prediction of this Final Four: North Carolina (champion), UCLA (runner-up), Kansas, and Texas.
It will be interesting to see how North Carolina does against Washington State-whose patient offense is quarterbacked by Taylor Rochestie of Santa Barbara-and how UCLA fares against anybody. Is the Bruins’ incredible run of luck due to run out, or are their recent cliffhangers-with officials coming to the rescue-just going to make them all the more battle-hardened?
The whistles were unfriendly to the Gaucho women in Norfolk last Sunday. They were outscored 31-12 at the free-throw line. UCSB coach Mark French rightly pointed out that Virginia was the quicker team. The Gauchos were missing two key components-the injured 6Ê¹4Ê° post player Jenna Green and first-year sharpshooter Courtney Collishaw-without whom they were able to win the Big West championship but not match up against a team as talented as the Cavaliers.
FINAL BOWS: Jessica Wilson tried to do it all for the Gauchos, and she fouled out of her final game trying to make a steal in the second half. Her inimitable style-starting with a defensive rebound that she turns into a breathtaking charge down the floor-will be missed. : Alex Harris became the UCSB men’s career scoring leader in his final game, the Gauchos’ 83-68 loss to Mississippi in the NIT last week. With 20 points, Harris increased his total to 1,696, nine more than Carrick DeHart. : Westmont lost by two points to Carroll College in the first round of the NAIA women’s tournament despite a terrific effort by Amber Stevens, the Warriors’ sophomore guard from Goleta. She led them in points (15), rebounds (7), assists (6), and minutes played (35). : Santa Barbara High grad Maria Cordero, a 6Ê¹3Ê° senior at Oklahoma State, hit a clutch three-pointer in overtime against Florida State as the Cowgirls advanced to the NCAA women’s Sweet 16.
FAST TIMES: Jordan Hasay, the 16-year-old phenom from Arroyo Grande, ran a 5:02 mile en route to her record-shattering victory in the girls’ 3,000-meter run at the Santa Barbara Easter Relays. Her time of 9:30.38 carved 33 seconds off the old mark. Finishing third in 10:19.99 was Santa Barbara High’s Krista Drechsler. Hasay is qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials this summer, but her coach Armando Siqueiros is taking a patient approach. He points out she’s facing an academically challenging junior year at her school, San Luis Obispo Mission College Prep. : Also qualifying for Olympic trials are UCSB swimmers Anne Marie May (100 freestyle) and Katy Freeman (200 breaststroke). May, a sophomore from Carmel, placed third in the 50 free at the NCAA championships last weekend. The Gaucho women scored 36 points, good for 25th place.