The Sweet Sixteen round of the 2012 NCAA women's basketball tournament was a bubble buster. No Cinderellas survived, David did not defeat Goliath and the bracket chalk held as only No. 1's and 2's are left standing. Tonight's two games feature the left side of the bracket with games in Des Moines and Fresno to see who will earn a trip to Denver and the Final Four.
(2) Tennessee vs. (1) Baylor - 7:00 p.m. ET
ESPN (and online at ESPN3)
Over the weekend, Nate set this region up and called for Baylor to advance to the Final Four. But. Not without a fight. These two teams have met before this year, with the Lady Bears putting together a 76-67 win at Tennessee on Nov. 27.
If any of that changes in the Lady Vols' favor, the outcome could break their way. In addition, as noted above, if the Lady Vols play the type of defense they're capable of they could force Baylor into turnovers around the perimeter and stop Griner by stopping her from getting the ball. It's also no small matter that the Lady Vols have changed their starting lineup since then to go with an all senior starting lineup and it's working: more than anything else, they're coming out with more energy, especially defensively, and setting the tone for players like Massengale or Simmons to step in and be productive.
While that sort of talk of intangibles sounds sort of nebulous and fluffy, for a team like the Lady Vols it could make all the difference - whatever they've done since losing to Arkansas at home is working and that counts for something.
He went on to say it's easy to imagine Tennessee winning a rematch. That is where I differ. While the Lady Vols have obviously been playing good basketball of late, Baylor is no slouch. The Bears have outscored their opponents 240-165 in three tournament games, and - oh yeah - they're still undefeated on the season. So until someone does beat Baylor, I will remain a skeptic.
(2) Duke vs. (1) Stanford - 9:00 p.m. ET
ESPN (and online at ESPN3)
Nate also drew the chalk on the Fresno bracket, and is readying for the Cardinal to make it to back to the Final Four for the fifth-consecutive time and Tara VanDerveer's 10th total Final Four.
In other words, it's not easy to beat a team as efficient as Stanford offensively while squandering possessions one's own possessions.
That's before even getting to the question of how Duke would stop the Ogwumike sisters inside, something that nobody has actually figured out and Nneka is making it even harder on opponents with her ability to hit long jumpers.
Duke head coach Joanne McCallie answered that Ogwumike question to the AP this week. "Does it really matter?" McCallie quipped when asked who might match up with the talented tandem. "They're both so great. The process of elimination, we've only got eight." So can eight stop two? Maybe. But can those eight also stop Amber Orrange, Toni Kokenis, Joslyn Tinkle and the rest of the bunch? That's where I say no way.
I only wish that Baylor and Stanford were on opposite sides of the bracket because I'd love to see a Bear vs. Tree championship game. Alas.