The area's top three women's college basketball teams--USC, UCLA and Cal State Long Beach--will be shooting to turn next week's NCAA West Regional at Pauley Pavilion into virtually a Western Collegiate Athletic Assn. tournament.
USC and UCLA open NCAA tournament play tonight, with the Trojans playing host to Idaho in the Sports Arena and the Bruins traveling to Seattle to meet Washington. Long Beach, meanwhile, plays host to Brigham Young on Saturday night.
If the three WCAA teams win their first-round games, they will join the Tennessee Tech-Georgia winner in the West Regional, which begins next Thursday.
A fourth WCAA team, San Diego State, travels to Nevada Las Vegas for a first-round game tonight, with the winner advancing to the Midwest Regional.
USC and Long Beach are considered favorites to advance to the second round, but UCLA will have the toughest road home. The 12th-ranked Huskies (26-1) have won 21 straight games, dating back to their 75-66 loss to Long Beach in the Dial Tournament last December, and will be playing on their home court--the Hec Edmundson Pavilion.
Washington is led by 5-7 senior guard Leteia Hughly, who is averaging 18 points and 5 assists a game, and senior forward Renee Avelino, a graduate of Westchester High in Playa del Rey, who averages 16 points and 8 rebounds.
The 18th-ranked Bruins counter with precision-shooting guard Anne Dean (14 points), forward Jackie Joyner (13 points, 9 rebounds) and center Annette Keur (13 points, 7 rebounds). The Bruins have won their last six games.
UCLA Coach Billie Moore feels that the strength of the Bruins' schedule compared to the Huskies' might work to UCLA's advantage. The Bruins have played 10 games against teams that advanced to the NCAA tournament, winning four, while the Huskies have played only one team in the 32-team field, Long Beach, and lost.
Strength of competition and the home court should give 15th-ranked USC the edge over Idaho tonight when the teams meet in a 7:30 game. The Vandals are 28-1, but have not played any of the post-season tournament teams.
Idaho is led by 6-4 junior center Mary Raese, who averages 19 points and 9 rebounds a game, but USC Coach Linda Sharp, who has seen the Vandals on videotape, said that forward Kris Edmonds may be a better all-around player. The Mountain West Conference champions are making their first appearance in the NCAA tournament.
USC, meanwhile, is the two-time defending national champion and has a well-known commodity in All-American forward Cheryl Miller, who is averaging 27 points and 16 rebounds a game.
Long Beach (26-2) is ranked third in the nation and seeded No. 1 in the West, but it should be challenged by BYU (19-8) Saturday night. The Cougars led the nation in scoring with a 90.2-point average and have an excellent player in 5-11 senior forward Cindy Battistone, who averages 22 points and 8 rebounds a game.
However, BYU's opponents have scored more than 100 points on three occasions this season. The 49ers also are an offensive-minded team, having finished second in the nation in scoring with an 87.7-point average. They'll be led by forwards Cindy Brown (20 points, 10 rebounds) and Kirsten Cummings (16 points, 10 rebounds) and guards Jackie White (15 points) and Roslind Boger (8 points, 6 assists).
Long Beach has not lost a game at home since January, 1984, when the 49ers were beaten by Old Dominion. In Coach Joan Bonvicini's six years at the school, Long Beach has lost only four games on its home court.
The two best players in the San Diego State-UNLV game won't even be able to walk onto the court in the Thomas and Mack Center at Las Vegas tonight. The Rebels' leading scorer, Misty Thomas, and the Aztecs' leading scorer, Tina Hutchinson, both underwent reconstructive surgery Tuesday to repair damaged ligaments in their knees.
Hutchinson had been slowed all season by her injury, but she still managed to average 17 points a game for 20th-ranked San Diego State. Thomas, who averaged 20 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists for 16th-ranked UNLV, tore a ligament last Saturday night during the first round of the Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. tournament.