And even with them playing a higher seed than the California Golden Bears in the Sweet 16, things continue to look that way.
|Team||Sagarin Predictor||NSR Sweet 16 odds|
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Stanford vs. Georgia
Despite the odds, the Georgia Bulldogs are the type of team that could upset Stanford for similar reasons that Cal is such a tough matchup for them: they're athletic, a great offensive rebounding team, and not afraid to run. The difference between Georgia and either Cal or Stanford is their ability to force turnovers and push tempo that way.
The obvious problem, as it is for most teams in the nation, is that the Bulldogs don't have an obvious answer for Chiney Ogwumike.
If they can deny Stanford's perimeter players from from getting the ball inside to Ogwumike and make players like Taylor Greenfield, Sara James, and Bonnie Samuelson non-factors as scorers Georgia can win this game and they probably have the personnel to pull off some part of that. But this is what you could have written about Stanford all season against any team - two have pulled it off. The rest, even those that have come close, haven't been able to do it for 40 minutes. And when they come close, there's still the matter of contending with Stanford's defense that hasn't given up much to anyone except for Connecticut and UCLA (until the Cardinal put things together to win the Pac-12 title).
Georgia has a better chance to win this than, say, Iowa State or Michigan (RIP) but Stanford has seen similar teams before and could easily force Georgia into becoming a low-efficiency jump shooting team.
Cal vs. LSU
The LSU Lady Tigers have the athletes to compete with Cal and a coach, Nikki Caldwell, who has some familiarity with the bulk of their personnel from her days in the Pac-12.
The problem for the Lady Tigers mirrors that of their SEC counterpart against Stanford: at some point, you have to contend with Cal's post players either as scorers or rebounders. Even if they were to lock down the guards - which they're equipped to do and managed to do to Penn State - they'd have to find some way to keep Cal from getting second chance points. And Cal has one more advantage over LSU that might come into play: they don't turn the ball over much and, as you might expect from a Caldwell coached team, the Lady Tigers can force opponents into a lot of turnovers when they don't aim to take away an opponent's primary scoring threat.
If Cal can control the ball and show the type of balance that made them a #2 seed to begin with, they'll be fine. If Caldwell is able to do anything near what UCLA did to Cal - forcing them into a jump shooting team and making second chance scoring opportunities difficult - Cal could suffer a disappointment similar to Penn State.
Ultimately, shutting down a balanced team like Cal is an extremely difficult endeavor. And as much as Cal could be critiqued for their weaknesses, the bottom line is that they've managed to overcome them all season which makes it hard to bet against them.