STANFORD (CBS / AP) — The “Nerds” are headed East for the NCAA tournament.
With Stanford not hosting the NCAAs at home in Maples Pavilion this March, coach Tara VanDerveer hoped to hit the road and go across the country. She wanted a neutral site, where her team wouldn’t have to play an opponent on its own court.
The Hall of Famer got her wish with a 3,000-mile trek. The second-ranked Cardinal earned the top seed in the Fresno region and found out Monday they will travel to Norfolk, Va., to face three-time reigning Mid-Eastern Atlantic Conference tournament champion and No. 16 seed Hampton (26-4) in the first round Saturday.
“We don’t mind going to Old Dominion. That’s a place that has great basketball tradition,” VanDerveer said. “We have major incentive to win down there and come back and play here.”
And not only were they the first team announced, a snippet from the team’s new music video—recently debuted “Nerd City Kids” written by star sister tandem Nnemkadi and Chiney Ogwumike—was played during the selection show. It already had generated more than 12,500 hits on YouTube by Monday evening. Chiney Ogwumike wrote the lyrics, adapted from the rap tune “Rag City,” in about 40 minutes, and big sister Nneka did the fine tuning over the span of an hour.
“All we do is win is the swag that we bring,” so the song goes. “Nerd City Kids, Nerd, Nerd City Kids. A’s, A’s, A’s and B’s on my transcript.”
Hearing that was a real hoot.
“First we started jumping up because we were the first team
they announced, then we started jumping up because they showed our video. We were surprised,” Chiney Ogwumike said. “It was a double whammy!”
Stanford (31-1) won its 12th straight conference regular-season crown and is riding a school-record 28-game winning streak since a 68-58 defeat at Connecticut on Nov. 21. The Cardinal are vying for a fifth straight trip to the Final Four. Stanford hasn’t won a national title since 1992.
VanDerveer’s team is headed to the Eastern time zone to open the NCAA tournament for the first time since losing in the second round at Georgia in 2000. And Stanford hasn’t started out east of the Rockies since playing in Norman, Okla., in 2001.
“Put us where you want us to go. As long as we’re playing is all I care about,” Nneka Ogwumike said.
Hampton’s Lady Pirates will play in their third consecutive NCAA tournament under coach David Six, who is 71-23 during his three-year tenure. Hampton, located just across the bridge from Norfolk, should bring its share of fans.
California, the Pac-12 runner-up and Stanford’s Bay Area rival, earned a No. 8 seed in the Raleigh region and will face Iowa at Notre Dame on Sunday. The Golden Bears are back in the tournament for the first time since 2009 under first-year coach Lindsay Gottlieb.
“It was terrific to see our players celebrate. That was the best part,” Gottlieb said. “We don’t know too much about Iowa but we’ll be ready. Excited for the atmosphere in South Bend.”
Stanford’s potential second-round opponents next Monday are eighth-seeded West Virginia (23-9) and No. 9 seed Texas (18-13). If the Cardinal advance, they should draw well back in California’s Central Valley at Fresno from March 24-26.
The Cardinal back up their “Nerds” nickname fairly well. Through the most recent fall quarter, Chiney Ogwumike had a 3.46 cumulative grade point average, sister Nneka a 3.10 and sophomore Toni Kokenis a 3.27. Freshman Erica Payne led the way with a 3.71.
The team leaves Thursday and there will be plenty of studying on the plane—and not just game film. Stanford has finals next week.
Stanford hopes to make it another special March in Nneka Ogwumike’s final NCAA tournament run.
“Last year I understood the urgency,” she said. “You never know what game is going to be your last.”
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