for this game

UC Riverside-Stanford Preview

Mar 19, 2010 - 3:40 PM By JEFF MEZYDLO STATS Senior Writer

California Riverside (17-15) at Stanford (31-1), 10:30 p.m. EDT

Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer made sure to remind her team about the disappointment the program experienced the last time it played as a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

Looking for a much better result, the second-ranked Cardinal play as a top seed for the first time in 12 years when they host 16th-seeded UC Riverside in a first-round contest Saturday night.

Stanford (31-1) has won two national championships and is making its 23rd consecutive NCAA tournament appearance, but the most dubious moment in the program's storied history came the last time it was a No. 1 seed.

Playing at home, the Cardinal lost 71-61 to Harvard in the first round in 1998. That remains the only time in tournament history a top seed lost to a No. 16 seed.

VanDerveer plans to use that bad memory as a possible means of motivation this year.

"Just the fact that it doesn't matter who you're playing or where you're playing. You need to come out and really play well," said VanDerveer, in her 24th season at Stanford. "We all know what happened the last time we were a No. 1 seed and obviously we don't want that repeated."

While the 1998 Cardinal suffered some key injuries, this season's team appears relatively healthy and takes a 22-game winning streak into the tournament. Stanford's lone blemish was an 80-68 loss at top-ranked Connecticut on Dec. 23.

Stanford, which lost to UConn in the national semifinals last season, is looking to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the program's first NCAA championship by winning its first title since 1992.

The Cardinal certainly have the talent to contend for another national championship. Pac-10 player of the year Nnemkadi Ogwumike led the conference with 18.3 points per game and ranked second in rebounding (9.4). Senior forward Jayne Appel (13.8 ppg, 9.2 rpg) is back in the starting lineup after suffering a late-season ankle injury.

Stanford also caught a break by hosting the first two rounds. New Mexico was originally selected to host but its arena is undergoing renovations. The Cardinal are 22-4 in NCAA tournament games at Maples Pavilion.

That doesn't bode well for UC Riverside (17-15), making its third NCAA tournament appearance while looking for its first victory.

The Highlanders, who upset regular-season champion UC Davis to win the Big West tournament title, started 3-12 before winning 14 of 17 to reach the NCAA tournament for the third time in five seasons.

"A very hot team," VanDerveer said. "We're going to have to play very well."

Junior guard Alyssa Morris averages a team-leading 13.4 points and 6.3 rebounds for the Highlanders, who overcame some early season injuries to finish strong.

"Down the stretch, we had enough weapons and enough trust in each other to compete," Riverside coach John Margaritis said.

The winner of this first meeting between the California schools faces either eighth-seeded Iowa or ninth-seeded Rutgers on Monday.