(12) California Golden Bears vs. (4) Syracuse Orange (-7, 125.5)
Twelfth-seeded California scored an upset over Nevada-Las Vegas in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday. The Golden Bears’ reward for that is a date Saturday in San Jose, Calif., with No. 4 seed Syracuse, which put on one of the most impressive displays of the entire second round in a demolition of Montana. The Orange nearly set a school record with their 81-34 victory and will be looking to book a trip to the Sweet Sixteen for the fourth time in five years.
California has the benefit of being within 50 miles of its campus, and a strong support from the crowd was evident in the 64-61 victory over the Rebels. Syracuse had little trouble with the environment against the Grizzlies, but will have to contend with a more partisan crowd when it faces the Golden Bears. The Orange are on a roll after reaching the finals of the Big East tournament and leaned on senior guard Brandon Triche for 20 points Thursday.
TV: 9:40 p.m. ET, TBS
ABOUT CALIFORNIA (21-11): The Golden Bears benefited from something that Syracuse has employed for years in the win over UNLV - a zone defense. California’s zone led to an 11:23 stretch in which the Rebels failed to score and the Golden Bears surged out to a nine-point lead before holding on in the final minutes. California was one of the last at-large teams to make it into the NCAA Tournament and has not advanced to the Sweet Sixteen since 1997. Coach Mike Montgomery’s team has a pair of guards in Justin Cobb and Allen Crabbe that average a combined 34.1 points and will try to push the tempo. Crabbe, who was voted Pac-12 Player of the Year, led the way with 19 points and nine rebounds on Thursday.
ABOUT SYRACUSE (27-9): The Orange’s zone confounded Montana into 20.4 percent shooting in a performance that nearly set Syracuse school records for dominance. The 47-point margin of victory was two off the team’s NCAA Tournament record of 49 in a first round victory over Brown in 1986, and it set an NCAA Tournament record for the biggest win by a team seeded third or lower. Triche and Michael Carter-Williams form a backcourt strong enough to challenge Cobb and Crabbe, and the Orange have plenty of size on the interior as well. Syracuse seems to be recovered from a rough stretch at the end of the regular season that saw it drop four of five - all to ranked teams.
* Golden Bears are 5-0 ATS in their last five games vs. a team with a winning % above .600.
* Under is 5-0 in Golden Bears’ last five Saturday games.
* Under is 4-0 in Orange’s last four games following a win of more than 20 points.
1. The Golden Bears have held five of their last seven opponents to less than 40 percent from the field.
2. Syracuse has never faced California in the NCAA Tournament and has not faced a Pac-12 team since beating Arizona State in the second round in 2009.
3. Orange F C.J. Fair is 9-of-12 from 3-point range in his last five games.
(6) Butler Bulldogs vs. (3) Marquette Golden Eagles (-1.5, 125.5)
After narrowly avoiding a second-round upset bid from Davidson, No. 3 Marquette plays No. 6 Butler on Saturday in the third round of the NCAA Tournament in Lexington, Ky. Vander Blue scored seven points in the final 1:33 - including the game-winning layup with one second left - as the Golden Eagles came back from a six-point deficit with 1:10 left to beat the Wildcats 59-58. Blue also hit a game-winning shot in Marquette’s regular-season finale against St. John’s to clinch a share of the Big East regular-season title. The Golden Eagles have won five of their last six games, but will have their hands full facing a Bulldogs team loaded with postseason experience.
Butler staved off 11th-seeded Bucknell 68-56, regularly double-teaming Bison star center Mike Muscala. Andrew Smith helped hold Muscala to nine points on 4-of-17 shooting and controlled the paint with 14 points and a career-high 16 rebounds. After one year away from the Big Dance, Butler is attempting to make its third Sweet 16 in four seasons - losing in back-to-back national championship games in 2010 and 2011. The Bulldogs beat Marquette 72-71 on Rotnei Clarke's 3-pointer at the buzzer on Nov. 19 at the Maui Invitational earlier this season.
TV: 7:45 p.m. ET, CBS
ABOUT MARQUETTE (24-8): Blue (14.4 points) has registered 16-plus points in three of his last four games, stepping up as the Golden Eagles’ go-to scoring option late in the fourth quarter. He and Jamil Wilson (9.6 points) combined for three 3-pointers in the final minute against Davidson, with Wilson’s second trey in the span pulling Marquette within one point with 10 seconds left. Davante Gardner adds 11.4 points on 58.4 percent shooting for the Golden Eagles, who are playing in their seventh consecutive NCAA Tournament and are looking for their third straight Sweet 16 appearance.
ABOUT BUTLER (27-8): The sharpshooter Clarke (16.7 points) scored 11 of his 17 points against Bucknell in the final 8:44, helping the Bulldogs recover from a six-point, second-half deficit. Clarke shoots 40.7 percent from deep and 88.2 percent from the foul line, scoring 20 points on Marquette earlier this season. Smith (11.1 points, 6.0 rebounds) could cause Marquette problems in the frontcourt, stretching Gardner with his speed and aggression on the boards. Roosevelt Jones (10.2 points) put up 14 points, five rebounds and four assists against Bucknell.
* Bulldogs are 0-5-1 ATS in their last six Saturday games.
* Golden Eagles are 0-4 ATS in their last four games overall.
* Under is 4-1 in Bulldogs’ last five Saturday games.
1. Butler has won 11 of its last 13 NCAA Tournament games - the two losses coming in the 2010 and 2011 title games.
2. The Bulldogs sealed Thursday's victory by shooting 25-for-28 from the foul line, including 18-for-20 in the last 4:43.
3. Blue scored 21 points and 3-for-5 from beyond the arc in Marquette’s loss to Butler earlier this season.