Stanford looking to finish NCAA run on a positive note

Thursday's third-round meeting between Stanford and Dayton in the NCAA men's basketball tournament (in Memphis, 4:15 p.m. PT on CBS) is about a pair of teams that could.

The Cardinal (23-12) started the Pac-12 Conference tournament as the sixth seed and got into the postseason with a No. 10 seed. Dayton (25-10) is the No. 11 seed.

Both teams reached the Sweet Sixteen by recording a pair of upsets, with Stanford beating seventh-seeded New Mexico, 58-53, on Friday and then knocking off No. 2 seed Kansas, 60-57, Sunday.

The Flyers own wins over No. 6 Ohio State, 60-59, and No. 3 seed Syracuse, 55-53. The Orangemen were ranked first at point in the season. Stanford played Arizona as a top-ranked team twice.

Stanford is in its first Sweet 16 since 2008, while Dayton is in the round for the first time since 1984. The Flyers reached the Elite Eight that year. The Cardinal is trying to reach the regional final for the first time since 2001.

The Stanford-Dayton winner will meet either overall No. 1 seed Florida or No. 4 seed UCLA in the Elite Eight.

"It's a matter of us coming out and believing in ourselves," Stanford junior guard Chasson Randle said. "We're confident in each other."

Dayton is making its seventh appearance in the Sweet Sixteen and its 15th appearance overall in the NCAA Tournament. The Flyers have an all-time record of 16-16.

"They like to push the ball up the floor," Randle said. "Our transition defense will be key and how we match them physically."

Dayton enters the game having won 12 of its last 14 games. The Flyers have given up 56 points per game in the tournament, while Stanford has allowed 55. They are unbeaten in 11 games this season when limiting opponents to less than 60 points in a game.

"They are an aggressive, physical team," Cardinal senior forward Dwight Powell said. "They play every possession hard. We need to be ready to lock in every possession."

Powell nor Randle is taking their first appearance in the NCAA tournament for granted. It's the first time the Cardinal reached the big dance with Johnny Dawkins as the coach. Powell was part of Stanford's NIT championship team in 2011.

"We feel this season has been the culmination of a lot of hard work since we first got to the school," said Powell. Our preparation allows us to experience what we have right now. We have a higher sense of awareness. We have a 1-0 mindset going forward."

Dawkins was handed a mandate by Athletic Director Bernard Muir before the season to not just reach the tournament, but also make a deep run. Stanford has a golden opportunity awaiting it this week.

"I've definitely spent a lot of nights wondering why we didn't get here before, or why we didn't go undefeated in conference play," Randle said. "At the end of the day, we use that as fuel. We're not really dwelling on the past but we had to learn how to work hard and to be a better team."

Powell, and other seniors like Josh Huestis, has been motivation for everybody.

"Dwight has been great the three years I've been here," Randle said. "(Against Kansas) he learned to leave it all on the line. He wants to leave on a special note and we want him to leave on a special note. We want all the seniors to leave on a positive note."


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