The Stanford Cardinal come into the 2013 NCAA Tournament as the top seed in the Spokane bracket, but everyone from Swish Appeal contributors to President Barack Obama has picked the rival California Golden Bears to win it. And there's even more uncertainty beyond that. Who will emerge with a trip to the Final Four?
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All season long the California Golden Bears have battled to prove themselves and pull out close games on pure heart. So it's fitting that it took overtime to beat the similarly gritty Georgia Bulldogs to make a first-ever trip to the Final Four.
They chose to defend the possession, which chewed up more than 20 seconds and meant that they wouldn't get the ball back until there were less than 40 seconds left...If they fouled Cal, whether the Bears made zero, one, or both free throws, it would still be a two possession game and they'd have have about a minute left to work with. Cal hadn't shot free throws well all game, and it was missed free throws that were a big reason why the game went into overtime. But after Clarendon's lay-up gave Cal a six point lead with 38 seconds left, Georgia [wasn't] able to [score] until there [were] 16 seconds left, but down four, it was all but hopeless.
Two things to add to this: first, for those still unfamiliar with Cal, it's not only that they were 12-for-24 last night but also that they're just not a good free throw shooting team period - they only shot 61% for the season.
The fascinating thing about California Golden Bears' season is that they've repeatedly shown the ability to adapt to the situation at hand.
Yes they stumbled against Duke, Stanford, and UCLA, but what made this such a great team to follow is that no matter how opposing teams tried to exploit their flaws as a unit, no matter how many weapons were taken away, or no matter which players simply suffering through off days, they've managed to keep winning.
The original plan was to post this breakdown of the Georgia Bulldogs' upset of the Stanford Cardinal earlier this morning. Then the Louisville Cardinals upset the Baylor Lady Bears and trumped the writing of that. But before Georgia plays for a chance to go to the Final Four, let's briefly take stock of how they took down the Cardinal.
norcalnick of California Golden Blogs noted in his summary of the California Golden Bears' 73-63 win over the LSU Lady Tigers that Cal's ability to hit their free throws was what made an somewhat ugly game look fairly routine.
Yet the number of free throws they shot was not exactly routine.
Although Cal's free throw percentage (63.41%) was around their season average, Cal made (26) and attempted (41) the most free throws in an NCAA Tournament game in program history. Leading the way was star guard Layshia Clarendon, who finished with 19 points including a team-high 9-for-12 shooting from the free throw line.
Clarendon bounced back from a tough, 2 point 1st half to score 18, and quietly managed six huge steals to fuel Cal's transition game...Clarendon in particular impressed me. ESPN talked about how hard she had to work just to get decent looks. Credit LSU's defense for denying her in the first half. From that point on she refused to let that defense stop her, and any slight opening resulted in a jumper falling through the hoop.
Clarendon also added her name to the record books on the defensive end: her six steals were a career-high and a program record for the NCAA Tournament.
Georgia beat Stanford 61-59 after the Stanford Cardinal's execution fell apart in the final minute of the game.
Chiney Ogwumike led the Cardinal with 26 points and 12 rebounds but the Bulldogs were more balanced with three players in double figures, including Jasmine James with a team-high 16 points and game-high five assists.
Once again, Pac-12 fans miss out on the rubber match between Cal and Stanford because someone else stepped up to prevent them from advancing.
A lot more to say about this game, but I CAN'T BELIEVE THE CARDINAL DIDN'T LIGHT IT UP FROM THREE THE WAY THEY DID AGAINST MICHIGAN what surprised you most about this one?
Since Selection Monday, the prospect of a third meeting between the California Golden Bears and Stanford has been discussed widely. Now with both teams a game away from making that happen, what's standing in the way of an Elite Eight meeting?
Sometimes when the words simply aren't coming as I want to them to, I take a step back and wonder why. That's how I arrived at writing this piece about my alma mater instead of any number of Sweet 16 preview angles - I couldn't seem to get this game off my mind. My apologies in advance.
She scored 27 points on 19 shots and punished USF for every defensive mistake. If they sagged off her (why would anybody do that?) she nailed a 3. If they played her tightly, she wove her way into the paint for a mid-range jumper or an assist. Her and-1 bank shot might have been the play of the game. Before the game I asked for her and Brittany Boyd to outplay the Smith twins. They did...With Layshia leading, everybody else played their part.
That last line is a great way to underscore what has made this team so special this season and what makes Clarendon a good candidate to contribute to a roster at the next level: she finds her spots on the court remarkably well, knows what she's capable of, rarely forces the action, and plays within the offense which allows her teammates to thrive even as she's dropping 27 on someone.
There's a lot to like there as a college starter and WNBA draft prospect.
It was a good weekend for Michigan Wolverines basketball. The men's team advanced to the Sweet 16 and the women's team won their first NCAA Tournament game in over a decade with a 60-52 win over the Villanova Wildcats. But to make the Sweet 16 for the first time in program history, the women will have to find a way to beat the #1 seed Stanford Cardinal at Maples Pavilion (6:30 p.m. PST). A fantasy, perhaps, but what would they have to do to have a chance?
Cal is a bigger, more plodding team that USF can absolutely beat. Though their leading scorers are two 5'9 guards in Layshira Clarendon & Brittany Boyd, they'll want to slow the pace vs. the Bulls. Cal averages 70.7 possessions per game, USF 75.3. If the Bulls can push that number over 80, find a way to make some 3's, continue to force deflections and keep Cal out of their half-court offense, they can absolutely win this game. Ignore the seed numbers next to the school names: USF is way underseeded considering their talent in this tournament. This very well could be the first USF team to ever get to a Sweet 16 in basketball. And they are very fun to watch.
The funny thing about people continuing to talk about a Cal-Stanford rematch is that Cal was known to have a difficult path ahead of them from the beginning. South Florida will definitely make this game closer than their seeding suggests.
Layshia Clarendon shared another journal with us last night about her emotions leading up to the California Golden Bears' game against the South Florida Bulls in the second round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament tonight. For more on the game, check out the preview at California Golden Blogs.
I got home from Stanford a few hours ago exhausted from a full afternoon of clapping and fist pumping, but after catching up on a few administrative things around the site and recaps of the day's games I got a second wind.
Their first round win over the Villanova Wildcats wasn't perfect, but it was a truly amazing day for the Michigan Wolverines program.
Michigan advances to the second round for the first time since 2001 with a 60-52 win over Villanova #GOBLUE
Although the Stanford Cardinal are the top seed in the Spokane bracket, the California Golden Bears appear to be the trendy pick to head to the Final Four as the two seed. And then there's Penn State, the second most proficient 3-point shooting team in the nation. Who will survive this one and advance?