There's no other way to frame it: Saturday afternoon/evening in HP Pavilion has the potential to be a memorable time and place for Pac-12 basketball, with two teams -- two No. 12 seeds, no less -- on the brink of trips to the Sweet 16.
Based on the solid support for both Oregon and Cal on Thursday, we should expect significant turnout from both fan bases Saturday.
It's the weekend, more tickets are available (thanks to four teams losing), and both the Bears and Ducks were surprise winners -- they've exceeded expectations, and that always bring fans out in force.
HP's capacity for basketball is approximately 17,000. I'd expect Cal and Oregon fans to fill two-thirds of the seats, at least.
I'd also expect Cal fans to root for Oregon and Oregon fans to root for Cal.
Yes, they are rivals, especially in football. But it's not a hate-filled rivalry like Oregon-Oregon State. It doesn't ooze disdain like Cal-Stanford.
The schools work together on a number of issues administrative, and Cal has hired many a Duck in the past dozen years, from Jeff Tedford to Jim Bartko, Oregon's' fundraiser extraordinaire who had a stint in Berkeley before returning to Eugene.
In this situation, you'd expect the fans of one Pac-12 team to support another. It's easy to envision all 12,000 -- 15,000 Cal/Oregon fans rooting for the Ducks against Saint Louis and for the Bears against Syracuse.
That would effectively eliminate the neutral-site
All of which got me thinking:
How did Syracuse and Saint Louis perform on the road this season -- not in all road games, mind you, but against tournament-caliber teams.
That is, after all, the situation they'll be facing Saturday.
Syracuse played true road games against five tournament teams, and went 1-4:
The Orange beat Louisville, the No. 1 overall seed -- a first-class win by any standard -- and lost to Villanova, Pittsburgh, Marquette and Georgetown.
Of the four losses, two were in overtime and a third was by three points. Clearly, the Orange don't cower against quality opponents on the road. But like so many teams, they struggle more often than not.
And Saint Louis?
The Billikens only have two games that fit our model: They lost at Temple (by 10) and won at Butler (by four).
I'm not sure that's a large enough sample size to draw any firm conclusions, but I wonder if the lack of experience will have an impact on SLU's performance.
I'd be surprised if either the Orange or Billikens comes fully unraveled -- if anything, the crowd will affect the Bears/Ducks in a positive fashion more than it affects SU/SLU in a negative manner.
But at the same time, it might not take a full-scale, multi-possession meltdown for the environment to change the game.
One jumper launched too quickly ... one brain-lock play there ... and the momentum could swing to the "home" teams.