STANFORD -- Fourth-seeded North Carolina offers a perplexing challenge for Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer and her staff.

The Tar Heels (26-9) hope to start three freshmen, a sophomore and a junior Tuesday night in an Elite Eight game against second-seeded Stanford in Maples Pavilion. The turn-over-every-rock Cardinal coaches might have trouble plotting against a group that sometimes plays unorthodoxed basketball.

"They do a lot of things on instincts, which are good instincts," VanDerveer said Monday. "Whether it is blocking shots or trapping people or switching on things. You're like, 'Really?' But it works for them."

Stanford (32-3) had a week to create defensive schemes that held All-American guard Maggie Lucas of Penn State to a season-low six points Sunday in the Sweet 16.

Now the coaching staff has fewer than two days to try to slow down freshman sensation Diamond DeShields, Carolina's leading scorer at 18.1 points per game.

DeShield's status won't be determined until before the game after the 6-foot-1-inch guard twisted her right ankle Sunday as the Tar Heels upset top-seeded South Carolina 65-58.

But last year's national high school player of the year from Georgia wasn't shy Monday about discussing ways others have tried to stop her.

"A lot of teams this season have tried to take me out of the game and haven't been too successful with it," said DeShields, a daughter of former major leaguer Delino DeShields.

The Atlantic Coast Conference's freshman of the year saw what Stanford's defense did to Lucas.

"But Maggie and I are two different players and I think that I will be able to make that adjustment," DeShields said. "If they do take me out of the game offensively, there is always a defensive side that I can control. In that end of the floor, I'm just going to be the Diamond that everyone expects me to be."

  • Carolina's 6-3 freshman forward Stephanie Mavunga expects rebounding to determine which school advances to the Women's Final Four next weekend in Nashville, Tenn.

    "We have to box out and get these rebounds, whether they are offensive or defensive," she said. "We have to do a good job on" Chiney "Ogwumike. She is a phenomenal player and the less she touches the ball the better."

    Associate head coach Andrew Calder underscored the point when reciting Ogwumike's offensive rebounding statistics.

    "She's very difficult to box out, because she reads the ball coming off the rim so well," said Calder, who temporarily took over the team while coach Sylvia Hatchell underwent treatment for leukemia. "She reads her teammates and the way the shoot. She has a good sense of where the basketball is going to come off the rim. And she can rebound out of her area maybe better than anyone in the country. She can go get it, and that will be a big concern to us."

  • What do the Tar Heels need to avoid if they hope to reach their first Final Four since 2007?

    "What we can't do is give up regardless of the score, up or down," said Mavunga, who averages 10.7 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. "We have to keep pushing, continuing to battle through it all. We can't lose our focus. We have to keep the enthusiasm, energy on the court, and just execute every play of the game."

  • Tara and Heidi VanDerveer were deep in planning strategy against North Carolina while on a walk Monday morning when approached by a UPS truck driver.

    The man also happened to be a huge Cardinal women's basketball fan who attended Sunday's game. He gushed about the 82-57 Sweet 16 victory over Penn State.

    "It made my day," VanDerveer said of the surprise encounter.

    The basketball coaching sisters were walking Tara's two yellow labs in her neighborhood when it happened.

    The Hall of Fame coach who lives close to campus gets recognized at grocery stores around town but "it doesn't happen like that," Tara VanDerveer said.

  • Senior guard Sara James has been a starter for much of the past two seasons because she has mastered the Cardinal playbook.

    But James, of El Dorado Hills, plans to shelve basketball once the season ends in the coming days. She will leave Stanford with a degree in biology and in May plans to enter a master's program in pediatric nursing at Columbia University in New York City.

    James returned this season after leg surgery for compartment syndrome, a condition that can cause muscle and nerve damage.

    "My legs are doing better now but it's always painful," she said.

    After a disappointing freshman season, James didn't think she'd ever earn a starting spot at Stanford. Many team observers would not have argued the point.

    "Things have gone full circle," said James, who usually is the first starter replaced with Taylor Greenfield or Bonnie Samuelson.

    "It has been hard for our coaches to figure out because it is an even playing field," James said. "It has been a little tough and I'm just trying to keep my mind right."

  • DeShields offered a tender response Monday when asked about her first name Diamond.

    "The baseball diamond, there is some correlation with the two for my dad," she said. "But for my mom, she just saw it as no pressure, no diamonds. And growing up, she just saw me as a gem, and really embodied the name that I was given. She even got a tattoo of it on her."

  • Mavunga wore black, horn-rimmed glasses to a news conference Monday, looking as if she could join Stanford's "Nerd Nation."

    "The difference is that they put tape in the middle of theirs and so I try not to do that, and plus mine also have lens on them and theirs are usually just an open hole," the talkative freshman said. "These are just my glasses that fit my 'swaggy look.' "

    Contact Elliott Almond at 408-920-5865. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/elliottalmond.