December 12, 2007 12:12 pm ET by Kyle Whelliston
Pacific (Big West) at Santa Clara (West Coast)
Leavey Center - Santa Clara, CA
10:05 PM EST
G!O!T!N! goes late night again, to a strange and wonderful land of silicon and dreams called Northern California. And tonight, we have two historically significant mid-major programs that have registered nary a peep on the hype mill, despite fine starts.
Pacific (6-3) rattled off three straight 20-win seasons and scored two consecutive first-round NCAA wins (2004 and 2005), pushing Boston College to overtime in the third. Then scoring stud Christian Maraker graduated, and the Tigers went through a gloomy 12-19 down year. They're already halfway to that win total this year, and are strong contenders to double it. Junior guard Steffan Johnson, a solid bench presence for the 2005-06 Big West champs before blossoming as a sophomore, leads all scorers with 16.2 ppg, including a 32-point outburst versus Pepperdine at Oregon's tourney that earned him the league's weekly top-dude honor. On the whole, the Tigers are shooting 50 percent as a team, just like they did when they were collecting Big West pennants like Magic: The Gathering cards.
Kerry Keating assisted UCLA to two straight Final Fours, and now he's the bench boss at the Mission Campus. Despite the coaching change, Santa Clara (6-2) isn't experiencing any turbulence after Dick Davey's final campaign, in which the Broncos won 21 games and came nine points short of the NCAA Tournament. Two losses to WAC teams (Nevada and Utah State) aside, Keating's kids lead the nation in shooting percentage (54.1 percent) and are among the nation's best carer-sharers, as 71 percent of their hoops have assists attached. The Broncos feature big 6-10, 305-lb. John Bryant, who has doubled his scoring output from sophomore to junior years, averaging 21.6 ppg and notching three double-doubles. There'll be a lot of good shooting and big offense in this one, so if you're staying up late you should dial this one up on the Intertron radio to stay awake.
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