Bears relieved to face Bull market

Late reveal causes some anxious moments for California, which now has a chance to reverse late-season slide against South Florida.

BERKELEY, Calif. – On Selection Sunday, California found out just how slim the margin for error was when it comes to making the NCAA Tournament.

If not for St. Bonaventure upsetting Xavier in the Atlantic 10 Conference championship, the Golden Bears might be looking ahead to Thursday or Friday already.

If not for Cal's win over Stanford, the Bears might be looking ahead to the NIT and wondering what might have been.

As it is, the Bears are in the field of 68, but will play the University of South Florida on Wednesday in Dayton, Ohio in the First Four.

The winner will be the 12-seed in the Midwest Regional and face fifth-seeded Temple on Friday in Nashville, Tenn. in the second round.

Cal (24-9) was one of the last teams revealed in the bracket, leading to some anxious moments as players and coaches watched at Haas Pavilion.

"I felt it," freshman forward David Kravish said. "I don't know if anybody else felt it, but I was getting nervous. 15 spots left and it could have gone anyway."

"We were just feeling like, ‘Man, are we not going to make it?'" sophomore guard Allen Crabbe said.

The Bears were the only team from the Pacific-12 Conference from the at-large pool, with regular-season champion Washington relegated to the NIT, the first time the champion of a "power conference" has been left out of the Big Dance.

"I thought that Washington would be in having won the regular season," senior forward Harper Kamp said. "It says a lot about how you finish the year. We didn't finish as strongly as we should have. I think people responded to that and our seeding was affected by that."

Cal nearly joined the Huskies on the sidelines after losing three of its last four games, only defeating Stanford 77-71 in the first round of the conference tournament last Thursday at Staples Center.

That win, head coach Mike Montgomery said, might have made the difference in terms of making the field.

"We had to put a lot of emotion into beating them in that first game in the tournament," Montgomery said. "Thank goodness we did or I'm not sure we'd be in this thing right now. That was a critical game for us."

Now the focus is on reversing that late season slide against the Bulls (20-13) and quickly. The Bears will leave for Dayton on Monday and will have only one practice before playing.

That negates one of the advantages Montgomery's teams have had in his 14 previous tournament appearances.

"We've thought over the years that one of our strengths was preparation," Montgomery said. "We're going to have to go play these guys with one day prep."

But being in the tournament gives Cal an opportunity to make amends for not winning the conference title or tournament. After all, Virginia Commonwealth made it from the First Four to the Final Four last season.

"If we just execute and get back to doing the things that we do best, we have a shot," Crabbe said.

Said Kamp: "Our goal is to beat South Florida and that's it. That is our first test."


BearTerritory.net Top Stories