Stanford Regional breakdown

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All eyes are on Stanford as it hits the road and tries to prove it deserved to be a No. 1 seed. That went to South Carolina, which also must travel for its opening game. What are the other storylines in this part of the bracket?

Three observations

1. Iowa State, a No. 7 seed, is an early-round host, and could face No. 2 seed Stanford in the second round on the Cyclones' home court at Hilton Coliseum. But ... Iowa State's first-round game is not a pushover. The Cyclones meet No. 10 seed Florida State (ESPN2, 4 p.m. ET Saturday), which at 20-11 has a similar record to 20-10 Iowa State. The Seminoles played Notre Dame twice this season, by the way, which is great preparation for the NCAA tournament. Iowa State started the season 14-0, but then lost eight of its next 11 games. It has been that kind of peak-and-valley season for the Cyclones.

2. The 8-9 games are usually always competitive, but this region's "middle of the bracket" contest could be very good. No. 8 seed Middle Tennessee, the Conference USA champion, meets No. 9 Oregon State, which advanced to the Pac-12 tournament title game. Middle Tennessee lost to Tennessee, Arkansas and Kentucky all in the first two weeks of the season, which is an impressive nonconference slate. But the Blue Raiders have lost only once since, to Southern Miss on Feb. 5. And then they avenged that loss in the C-USA title game. Incidentally, if Middle Tennessee makes the second round, it could face No. 1 seed South Carolina, which would be the Blue Raiders' fifth SEC opponent this year; they beat Mississippi State in December.

3. So which Penn State team will show for the NCAA tournament? The one that tied with Michigan State atop the Big Ten regular-season standings at 13-3? Or the one that got blown out in two of its last three games coming into the NCAA tournament? Penn State lost 94-74 at Nebraska, and then fell in the first round of the Big Ten tourney 99-82 to Ohio State. The No. 3 seed Lady Lions will open with No. 14 Wichita State (ESPN2, 12:30 p.m. ET Sunday), and get to be an early-round host. -- Mechelle Voepel

Three players to watch

Hallie Christofferson, Iowa State: She is another of many seniors in the tournament who will probably exit without the full appreciation she merits, at least beyond the borders of the Big 12. Left as basically the extent of Iowa State's post game after the graduations of Chelsea Poppens and Anna Prins, Christofferson goes out and takes a pounding for 32 minutes a game from opponents who know that if they wear her down, they beat the Cyclones. She leads Iowa State in points, rebounds and blocks, and she gains some measure of revenge for the bumps and bruises by shooting 88 percent from the free throw line. Going head to head with Florida State's Natasha Howard, and if Iowa State survives that, potentially Stanford's Chiney Ogwumike, makes for a fitting final weekend at home.

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