SAN JOSE, Calif. - One is a mid-major that has been carrying on the memory of its late coach. The other is a Pac-12 tournament champion that feels slighted by its No. 12 seed.
When fourth-seeded Saint Louis and Oregon meet today for a spot in the round of 16, neither side will be lacking motivation.
The Billikens (28-6) already have eclipsed the 1988-89 team's school record of 27 victories, staying on the path Rick Majerus set before he died in December. Now they're going for consecutive wins in the same tournament for the first time after overwhelming New Mexico State 64-44 in their opening game.
The Ducks (27-8) sent a strong statement to the selection committee in upsetting No. 5 seed Oklahoma State 68-55. They haven't advanced past the first weekend since going to the regional final in 2007, when they lost to eventual repeat champion Florida - a game coincidentally played in Saint Louis. With a chance to earn a spot in the Midwest Region semifinals in Indianapolis next week, one more win could do wonders for each program's profile.
Oregon earned high praise - and a viral rant about its seeding - from Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford after crushing the Cowboys. Another win could end the debate once and for all.
"We have confidence in ourselves that we can do it," Oregon guard Johnathan Loyd said. "So I think we'll just get a little more respect around the country knowing that Oregon basketball can really play with anybody."
Cal's tall task: Figure out Orange's trademark zone
SAN JOSE, Calif. - Jim Boeheim's teams at Syracuse have thrived on their zone defense for decades, using long, athletic players to disrupt opposing offenses to the tune of more than 900 wins and a national title.
California coach Mike Montgomery has been more of a proponent of man-to-man defense during his stellar coaching career, using the zone more as an occasional changeup than a base defense.
Montgomery has even jokingly mocked his friend, Boeheim, over the years for his reliance on the 2-3 zone. So Boeheim got a piece of vindication when he saw the 12th-seeded Golden Bears (21-11) stay almost exclusively in a zone defense in a win over UNLV that set up a matchup with No. 4 seed Syracuse (27-9) today.
Few teams have played it better over the years than the Orange. Boeheim recruits big, athletic wing players who can close out quickly on shooters and the players are so well-versed in the defense because they rarely play, or practice, anything else.
"They know exactly what they're trying to do," Montgomery said.
Butler, Marquette rematch
LEXINGTON, Ky. - Butler expects its next NCAA tournament opponent to be tougher than its last. The sixth-seeded Bulldogs have video to remind them of the task ahead.
Today's East Region game against No. 3 seed Marquette at Rupp Arena is a rematch of November's Maui Invitational showdown, which Butler won 72-71 on Rotnei Clarke's buzzer-beating three-pointer. The Bulldogs (27-8) are coming off Thursday's 68-56 victory over Bucknell, where they rallied from a six-point deficit in the final 10 minutes. Falling behind is something Butler must avoid against Marquette (24-8), which rallied for a stunning 59-58 victory against Davidson behind guard Vander Blue.
Matchup shows off stars
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - When Keith Appling plays well, Michigan State usually wins.
The same is true for Joe Jackson and Memphis.
One of the junior point guards and his team will advance to the round of 16 when the third-seeded Spartans (26-8) face the sixth-seeded Tigers (31-4).
Appling had 15 points, making three three-pointers, as Michigan State opened the NCAA tournament with a 65-54 win over Valparaiso. The 6-foot-1-inch, 190-pound Detroit native made a season-high four three-pointers and scored 16 points in his previous game, extending his streak of success that followed a three-game slump that coincided with a season-high, three-game Spartans' losing streak.
After starting ahead of Appling on USA Basketball's under-19 team two years ago, Jackson doesn't seem worried about how he'll fare.
"I played against him before and none of the guys on the court are NBA All-Stars," Jackson said. "He laces his shoes up just like me."