The NCAA Tournament rolls on, and our second Saturday will trim the men’s field down to a mere six teams left alive. And that, my friends, means half the Final Four will be set tonight.
We’ll get to that in a moment, but as the women will take up the daylight hours, let’s check their schedule first. Things get underway in Bridgeport at 10:36am as the Maryland Terrapins face the surprising 10th-seeded Oregon Ducks. Thirty minutes after that game ends, the Connecticut Huskies will face the UCLA Bruins and attempt to win their 47 billionth game in a row.
In the afternoon, out in Stockton, CA at 3pm, another school which still has both teams alive — the South Carolina Gamecocks — will attempt to defend their top seed. Their opponent is the most surprising team still dancing of them all: the 12th-seeded Quinnipiac Bobcats, who’d never even won an NCAA Tournament game until last week. Thirty minutes after that ends, it’s the Stockton Regional’s 2-3 game, as the Oregon State Beavers and Florida State Seminoles face off. Yes, Leti Romero’s career is still breathing.
Saturday’s Women’s Sweet Sixteen Games
|Bridgeport||(3) Maryland||vs||(10) Oregon||Bridgeport CT||10:36am||ESPN||Dave O'Brien / Doris Burke / Kara Lawson / Holly Rowe|
|Bridgeport||(1) Connecticut||vs||(4) UCLA||Bridgeport CT||12:30pm||ESPN||Dave O'Brien / Doris Burke / Kara Lawson / Holly Rowe|
|Stockton||(1) South Carolina||vs||(12) Quinnipiac||Stockton CA||3:06pm||ESPN||Dave Pasch / LaChina Robinson / Molly McGrath|
|Stockton||(2) Oregon State||vs||(3) Florida State||Stockton CA||5:00pm||ESPN||Dave Pasch / LaChina Robinson / Molly McGrath|
And now, the main event.
In the early game (5:09pm, TBS), we’re guaranteed that one team will finally break through and reach their first Final Four in program history. On the one hand, we have the Gonzaga Bulldogs. The Zags had never made the tournament at all until their Cinderella run in 1999, when they were in this exact same situation: their opponent, Connecticut, had also never made the Final Four. Gonzaga lost, but they’ve returned to the tournament every season since; this is their third chance to advance to the biggest stage.
The Xavier Musketeers haven’t made the field as consistently, but they’ve been doing so regularly for much longer. After a pair of appearances back in the 1960s, Xavier has shown up 25 times in the last 34 years, and have only missed the field twice in this century. Like Gonzaga, this is their third appearance in a regional championship game (all since 2004); like Gonzaga, they have fallen short each time.
The late game features our most hated rival, the Kansas Jayhawks, whose history really need not be revisited. They’ll attempt to reach their 15th Final Four in their 23rd trip to the regional championship game.
Their opponent, the surprising-yet-not-so-much Oregon Ducks. Eugene will be hopping today as both their squads are in action when two weeks ago nobody there would have expected either to survive. The men are a 3 seed, which means their presence isn’t a complete shock. But injury concerns had the Ducks pegged as a likely early-round upset candidate.
Not so fast, my friend.
Oregon is in their seventh Elite Eight, and second in a row. But they haven’t reached the Final Four since 1939, the very first year of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship. They won the title that year, but between then and now spent a miserable 34 years failing to make the field before finally becoming a relatively consistent participant as the 2000s unfurled.
Saturday’s Men’s Elite Eight Games
|West||(1) Gonzaga||vs||(11) Xavier||San Jose CA||5:09pm||TBS||Brian Anderson / Chris Webber / Lewis Johnson|
|Midwest||(1) Kansas||vs||(3) Oregon||Kansas City MO||7:49pm||TBS||Kevin Harlan / Reggie Miller / Dan Bonner / Dana Jacobson|