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March Madness Elite 8 Open Thread 3.28.10

Here we go! Day 2! West Virginia and Butler are already, somewhat surprisingly, in the Final Four. Who will join them today?

First up, at 11:20 PM PDT, we have Tennessee v. Michigan State:

With his hands flashing and fingers pointing, the moderator of the news conference looked like a cross between a referee and an overzealous flight attendant, and Bobby Maze just couldn’t resist.

The Tennessee guard started imitating him—subtly, of course, his fingers hidden behind his name card and his face blank. But Wayne Chism caught on eventually and tipped off Scotty Hopson, who burst into giggles.

Yes, the Volunteers are well aware fifth-seeded Michigan State is college basketball royalty, such a regular at the regional finals in recent years the Spartans may as well include it in their preseason itinerary. And that sixth-seeded Tennessee is a rookie, making its very first appearance in the round of eight Sunday.

But if anyone expects Tennessee (28-8) to be intimidated or feel even the tiniest bit overwhelmed, well, they don’t know the Vols.

"Our team likes to be free, our team likes to have fun," Chism said. "If we’re not doing what we usually do, our team’s not comfortable."

Tennessee has long been a powerhouse—in women’s hoops. On the men’s side? Not so much. When the Vols made the NIT semifinals four years ago, coach Bruce Pearl said the band and the cheerleaders didn’t even make the trip to Madison Square Garden.

"We looked like an SEC football school that was trying to play basketball," Pearl said. "It was embarrassing, and it was something we talked about trying not to (have) happen again."

Then, at 2:05 PM, we have Baylor v. Duke:

Scott Drew took on the daunting challenge of rebuilding a tattered program at Baylor nearly seven years ago with what seemed, at least to everyone else, to be an unrealistic vision.

At the only private school in the powerful Big 12 and stifled by significant scholarship restrictions in the aftermath of a tragedy and scandal of unprecedented proportions, Drew still envisioned having an elite program. Part of his plan when he arrived was to become "the Duke of the Southwest."

Drew’s hopes certainly don’t seem so far-fetched now.

he third-seeded Bears (28-7) are within one victory of the Final Four. To get there, they must beat top-seeded Duke (32-5) in the South Regional final on Sunday.

"When anyone takes over any program you have to figure out, what is your niche? Where do you fit in in the grand scheme of things? Not try to be like somebody that is not in your niche, but to fully develop your own identity," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "He’s done a really good job of figuring that out at Baylor, and they’re very good. … They could win the whole thing. They’re that talented."

This won’t be the only Baylor-Duke matchup with a Final Four berth on the line.

On the women’s side, Baylor and Duke are also playing in a regional final, marking the first time that two schools have met in the round of eight in both tournaments during the same season, according to STATS LLC.

Go Bears! Baylor AND Cal!