I’m sorry, did the NCAA tournament start? Looks like it when perusing No. 5 Stanford’s schedule. Beginning December 19, 2012, seven of the Cardinal’s eight games are against currently ranked opponents, ending January 19 at Maples Pavilion against No. 14 UCLA (11-2, 2-0 Pac-12) .
The latest ranked opponent for Stanford (13-1, 2-0) is a back-to-back grudge matchup at No. 7 Cal (12-1, 2-0) this week. The favored conference pairing is part of month-long rivalry games planned to air on Pac-12 Networks. The Cards and Bears play at 7pm on Tuesday on the network.
No. 23 Colorado (11-2, 0-2) hosts Utah (9-4, 0-2) to open the double-header at 5pm on Tuesday. A budding in-conference rivalry for the schools, both joined the Pac-12 last season. The Buffs are 9-11 all-time against the Utes. The teams split the series last year.
And the newbies are part of the reason for the early scheduling quirk. Most of the schools will play its nemesis twice in the same week. Washington (10-3, 2-0) its hoops Apple Cup lineup against Washington State (5-8, 1-1) next week. Only UCLA-Southern California and Arizona-Arizona State don’t play their rival until February.
Stanford has won 80 consecutive Pac-12 games. But last week’s opening weekend wins at Colorado (57-40) and Utah (70-56) plus an upset to N0. 3 Connecticut (61-35) did show some weaknesses Cal maybe could capitalize. But the Bears had their own fight to make it through the road swing against the Mountain schools. It defeated Utah 55-50 and benefited from mistakes by Colorado to win 53-49 on Sunday
Stanford has defeated Cal 41 of the past 44 times. But in 2009, the Bears were the last Pac-12 opponent to defeat the Cards.
“There’s no question, if you want to be at the top of the basketball world, you have to beat the teams that are there,” Bears coach Lindsay Gottlieb told the San Francisco Chronicle, Cal lost at No. 3 Duke 77-63 in nonconference play. “In the process of trying to make this program elite, a win over Stanford would be huge.”
WNBA UPDATE: Storm All-Star Sue Bird has returned to playing after undergoing left hip surgery in October 2012. She played 25 minutes in her first game with UMMC Ekaterinburg, not scoring. Some asked how to see her (and other) games while most WNBA players are competing overseas. I’ve been told via Twitter that Love Women’s Basketball‘s website often shares links for games that are streamlined. The site describes itself as, “We are a team of women’s basketball fans and writers committed to bringing you the best coverage of women’s basketball in Europe and throughout the World in one place.”
You can also try FIBA.com. Some games may require a nominal fee Internet access fee.