March Madness Sweet 16 Thursday + Cal-Oregon Women's NIT Open Thread

Here is the info for the Oregon game.

Time: 7:00 PM PST 
TV: None 
Radio:
Calbears.com radio 
Streams: None, unless you want to pay Oregon $10 for their stream

Next, here is info on all the scores for today.

  (5) Butler (30-4)
7:07 pm EDT 
  (1) Syracuse (30-4)

  (6) Xavier (26-8)
9:37 pm EDT 
  (2) Kansas St. (28-7)

(11) Washington (26-9) 7:27 pm EDT 
  (2) West Virginia (29-6)
  (12) Cornell (29-4) 9:57 pm EDT 
  (1) Kentucky (34-2)

Remember, those times are all Eastern time.  After the jump, short previews of each game, including the WNIT game.  GO BEARS!

NorCalNick sez:

Just two days after an iffy but ultimately comfortable victory over Utah the Cal women have trekked up to Eugene for a 3rd date with the Oregon Ducks.  Cal has already defeated the Ducks by margins of 10 and 6, and another victory would put Cal into the 4th round of the NIT, facing either BYU or Wyoming for a trip to the NIT Final Four.

Cal seems to match up pretty well with Oregon - the Bears have enough team speed to hold Oregon in transition, solid perimeter defenders (particularly Alexis Gray-Lawson and Eliza Pierre) and post players who are capable of running the floor.  DeNesha Stallworth and Gennifer Brandon are fast enough to prevent Oregon’s speedy players from exploiting them, but still tall and strong enough to dominate the glass against the smaller Ducks.  Cal’s rebounding margin in their two previous games was 23 and 22, a huge margin that allowed Cal to win despite solid 3 point shooting from Oregon in both games.

So why does this game scare me?  There are a couple reasons.  For one, you never know when Oregon is going to get really hot from behind the arc and sink 12 three pointers like they did in upsetting USC.  Additionally, this might not be the best time to play a team that likes to play an extremely fast tempo for 40 minutes.  This will be Cal’s 34th game of the season.  The 5 freshmen are presumably at the tail end of the longest, most intense season in their careers thus far.  Alexis Gray-Lawson is still less than two weeks removed from a multi-day stay in the hospital.  And the team had only 48 hours to get to Eugene and prepare to play after their last NIT game.  Maybe I’m making a mountain out of a few molehills – after all, Lexi looked fine on Tuesday and Cal has played games on two days of rest all season.  Nevertheless, I’m worried we might see a tired team on the court, particularly if Oregon starts hot and jumps out to an early, demoralizing lead.  The first 10 minutes of the game may be critical in that regard.

The keys to victory are the same as the last two times Cal played the Ducks, so I’ll just go ahead and quote myself, because I’m just that lazy:

1)  Avoid turnovers, and when they happen, get back in transition.  Oregon thrives on quick baskets, but if Cal can force them to score in the halfcourt set Oregon will have a much more difficult time getting their points.

2) Defend the 3 point line, particularly Taylor Lilley.  Oregon kept up with Stanford in Eugene almost solely on their 3 point shooting.  They'll take any shot they can get.  Pressure them on the perimeter Bears!

3) Keep the offensive variety going.  Oregon will probably get their points.  Cal can help themselves out by spreading the burden and not letting Oregon key in on Lexi.

 

Butler v. Syracuse:

After two games in the unfamiliar role of a higher seed, Butler is back where the Bulldogs are much more accustomed to being.

Welcome back to the underdog Bulldogs, who face top-seeded Syracuse on Thursday night in the West Regional semifinals.

The Bulldogs may eventually shed this image, but they don’t seem to be in much of a hurry to do so. Actually, they really don’t seem to care either way.

"You don’t ever look at the seed or the number next to the team’s name, otherwise, you’ll let that become a factor in your mind," Butler coach Brad Stevens said.

Butler is unbeaten in the NCAA tournament as the higher seed. But that has only happened four times and the Bulldogs (30-4) are quite comfortable playing as one of the tournament’s lesser-known teams.

The No. 5 seed is the highest for the school in its 10 NCAA tournament appearances, matching the Bulldogs’ position in 2007, when they also reached the regional semifinals before losing to eventual champion Florida.

Xavier v. KState:

Time is supposed to ease the pain of past embarrassments.

The way Kansas State guard Jacob Pullen sees it, though, there are some things you simply can’t forget.

Locked in Pullen’s memory is the way he felt on New Year’s Eve 2007—the night his team got blown out by Xavier, the same team the second-seeded Wildcats face Thursday night in the West Regional semifinals.

"They laughed on the court, played around," Pullen said. "You don’t forget things like that. So when you get the opportunity to play against a team like that, you always remember that, no matter if it’s one person from that team or 10 people from that same team."

K-State got payback for the 26-point loss—the worst of coach Frank Martin’s short career—with a physical, grinding 15-point win this season in Manhattan.

Now, one of America’s hidden little rivalries resumes, this time with the stakes ratcheted up a few notches. Kansas State (28-7) is two wins from its first Final Four since 1964. Xavier (26-8) has never been.

"It rings a bell because they’re Xavier," Martin said. "I know their program, firsthand. I understand the winning culture they have, the expectations they have. Then, we’ve played them. We got absolutely annihilated by them on national TV on Dec. 31."

Cornell v. Kentucky:

Cornell has made itself the early tournament darlings of March. The Big Red win with seniors, goof off at news conferences, and have embraced every second of the sudden national spotlight.

Kentucky plays richly talented teams in the SEC, is on national television as often as "30 Rock," and counts the round of 16 as another step toward the national championship and not a reason to celebrate.

Kentucky coach John Calipari has a roster dotted with potential one-and-done players. Cornell (29-4) might be a one-year wonder.

There is no more fascinating round of 16 matchup than top-seeded Kentucky (34-2) trying to end 12th-seeded Cornell’s NCAA tournament run on Thursday night in the East Regional semifinal. Or is it the other way around?

"I’m enough of a fan to understand why this is so intriguing to everybody," Cornell coach Steve Donahue said Wednesday. "I get that. I don’t know if our guys really understand it. They believe that they’re a good enough basketball team, without all the other things that go along with it, to play with anybody in the country."

The Big Red have already proven they can play—and soundly beat—any team around. Just ask NCAA tournament first- and second-round victims Temple and Wisconsin.

The Wildcats are a different animal.

Washington v. West Virginia:

West Virginia’s Da’Sean Butler already was settled in his seat preparing for the news conference to begin while teammate Darryl Bryant — with his broken right foot—still was hobbling up the stairs of the riser.

"Hurry up," Butler yelled out with a playful smile to emphasize he was kidding.

"I’m trying," Bryant said, laughing as he carried his crutches and hopped to his seat on one foot Wednesday, a day after hearing something pop in his foot during practice.

Evidently nothing—not even the sudden news of losing their starting point guard—seemed capable of penetrating the seemingly unflappable upbeat mood of the second-seeded Mountaineers (29-6) a day before they faced the upstart 11th-seeded Washington Huskies (26-9) in the East Regional semifinal.

"I don’t see where the whole panic about everything will be. I think we’ll be fine," Butler said. "We’ll continue to smile and be loose and enjoy ourselves because this is, well, wow."

The Big East champions had reason to be confident. Following a 68-59 win over Missouri on Sunday, West Virginia was on an eight-game winning streak and led by a shutdown defense that held each of its past five opponents to under 60 points. They feature a clutch senior in Butler, who has made six game-winning shots this season and proved unstoppable in scoring 28 against Missouri.

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