NCAA Bid: The Day After

Head coach Joanne Boyle reflects on getting into the tournament and looks ahead to facing St. John's.

A day after learning that her Bears had made the NCAA Tournament, Boyle was still buzzing with excitement.

"This morning, when I walked into the office, there was this strange feeling that someone would come tell me that it was not true," said Boyle. "It's the lingering effect of being on a high for so long. It doesn't feel real."

Parts of the excitement stems from the fact the Bears were not expected to make the Tourney this year.

"This was similar to the early days at Duke, and (again) at Richmond last year," Boyle said, comparing her experience yesterday with her previous invites. "After the first few years at Duke, it was about the seeding. But we were also a bubble team at Richmond, and it's just not knowing if you are in or out ... It was kind of surreal yesterday, because at Richmond too, it was down to the last 4-6 teams, the last bracket. And just the expression on the players' faces when we thought we would not get in, and then the jubilation when we did. So there's a parallel there."

Cal probably received the bid on the strength on their victories in the Pac-10, where they collected five wins against RPI top-50 competition, including two against the top-25 in Arizona State and UCLA. Boyle also felt that her team improved over the course of the season.

"As we went on to beat some Pac-10 teams, we gained confidence," said Boyle. "We played some good teams in the non-conference, but I think we progressed nicely through the year, and that we were a better team in January than we were in November. We had a conversation before that second Stanford game where we talked about how it was no longer good enough to be in the game against Stanford - we did that - but now we wanted to win."

Part of the improvement has been the growth of her freshmen stars. Boyle pointed to All Pac-10 forward/center Devanei Hampton, who became a more reliable go-to player down the stretch.

"Devanei is getting confident in herself," said Boyle. "She wants the ball, and she's starting to understand how much we need her. You look at Courtney Paris and how she gets double-doubles, but hers are in the twenties [20 points, 20 rebounds]. Dev understands now that we might need that kind of effort from her."

Boyle sees just as much growth from Pac-10 Freshman of the Year Alexis Gray-Lawson.

"I think she's learned so much about what leadership means. That it might mean different things - scoring, assists, leading others - for different games. And for Lexi, this is brand-new to her. At Oakland Tech, it was more that she and Devanei were able to do what they wanted, but now she's got to run all five people on the court. I've been pleasantly surprised at how much she's been able to learn in one year. But Lexi is just a really coachable kid.

"It's hard to be the point guard and have to go 94 feet every possession and play 36 minutes a game, all as a freshman. So I think our goal now is to have her fresh; it's about fresh legs, to be clear-headed, to have that mental edge - so Lexi will get less reps in practice this week. And Lexi typically bounces back; after a bad game, she'll have a great game. She's not a player who over-thinks things, so she just looks at the game ahead of her. That's a good thing about being young, I guess."

While there are advantages to being young, inexperience might be an issue for a team with zero NCAA experience on its roster. The fear is that the Bears might be overwhelmed by the occasion.

"This is new for our kids," agreed Boyle. "But today, even as they came in, they started talking about how this game will not be like the UCLA game where they fell short. I was excited that they had that conversation with me, that I was not the one who brought it up. I think that UCLA game helped us to realize that we needed to be ready when the ball goes up. I think yesterday will be motivation enough. To go through that, they feel so hyped and now they're focused on what they need to do in the post-season."

Besides being sent clear across the country, the Bears will have the additional challenge of playing an early game. Their match-up with St. John's is scheduled for a 9 a.m. PT tip-off.

"At the Pac-10 Tournament, we had an 11 a.m. game against UCLA, which meant we had no practice that morning. I don't know if that had any effect ... " said Boyle.

"But we might practice early one day this week. I think it might be more about getting them up early so they're ready to go than about whether we had a practice, though. But we're just happy to be in the Tournament, and little things like the time of the game, we can't worry about."

However, there is certainly one benefit to playing at University Park, as Boyle is a Pennsylvania native.

"It's great!" said Boyle. "I'll get to see cousins that I haven't seen for years. I don't think I'll have enough tickets, actually. During the selection show, it never occurred to me that we would be going to Pennsylvania. I never checked where we were going. But today, after the fact, I know that being able to share this experience with my family will be an added bonus."

In the meantime, the coaching staff and the players will be busy preparing for St. John's. Like Cal, the Red Storm are returning to the Big Dance after a long break; their last invite was in 1988.

"I've only seen one tape on them, but they seem like a good match-up for us," said Boyle. "They're very athletic - up and down like UCLA though maybe not as fast - but an athletic, transition team. Their posts can run, but they're a bit undersized, so maybe we can take advantage of that. They go eight or nine players deep. They have the upper hand with their experience, but I'll take my chances with who we have. We'll worry about what we do well. To be honest, I think we match up well against them."

Most important, Boyle wants her team and staff to enjoy the whole experience.

"I finally sat down with the tape at midnight, and there is the reality of the work to be done. But I also want to make sure to enjoy this, and to let my team enjoy it. I want them to enjoy the experience of the charter flight on Friday, of putting on the NCAA Tournament pins, the whole thing. And then we also want to have some of our best practices - short and intense. I want us to feel good about the practices and feel as confident and prepared as possible."


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If you haven't done so already, subscribe to The Bear Insider so you can participate in this active online Cal community and get access to the members-only content from the nation-wide Scout.com network.

Bear Insider staff writers visit the Insider discussion board regularly, and are available to discuss questions you may have about this article and Cal Athletics.


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","mobileBody":"

A day after learning that her Bears had made the NCAA Tournament, Boyle was still buzzing with excitement.

\"This morning, when I walked into the office, there was this strange feeling that someone would come tell me that it was not true,\" said Boyle. \"It's the lingering effect of being on a high for so long. It doesn't feel real.\"

Parts of the excitement stems from the fact the Bears were not expected to make the Tourney this year.

\"This was similar to the early days at Duke, and (again) at Richmond last year,\" Boyle said, comparing her experience yesterday with her previous invites. \"After the first few years at Duke, it was about the seeding. But we were also a bubble team at Richmond, and it's just not knowing if you are in or out ... It was kind of surreal yesterday, because at Richmond too, it was down to the last 4-6 teams, the last bracket. And just the expression on the players' faces when we thought we would not get in, and then the jubilation when we did. So there's a parallel there.\"

Cal probably received the bid on the strength on their victories in the Pac-10, where they collected five wins against RPI top-50 competition, including two against the top-25 in Arizona State and UCLA. Boyle also felt that her team improved over the course of the season.

\"As we went on to beat some Pac-10 teams, we gained confidence,\" said Boyle. \"We played some good teams in the non-conference, but I think we progressed nicely through the year, and that we were a better team in January than we were in November. We had a conversation before that second Stanford game where we talked about how it was no longer good enough to be in the game against Stanford - we did that - but now we wanted to win.\"

Part of the improvement has been the growth of her freshmen stars. Boyle pointed to All Pac-10 forward/center Devanei Hampton, who became a more reliable go-to player down the stretch.

\"Devanei is getting confident in herself,\" said Boyle. \"She wants the ball, and she's starting to understand how much we need her. You look at Courtney Paris and how she gets double-doubles, but hers are in the twenties [20 points, 20 rebounds]. Dev understands now that we might need that kind of effort from her.\"

Boyle sees just as much growth from Pac-10 Freshman of the Year Alexis Gray-Lawson.

\"I think she's learned so much about what leadership means. That it might mean different things - scoring, assists, leading others - for different games. And for Lexi, this is brand-new to her. At Oakland Tech, it was more that she and Devanei were able to do what they wanted, but now she's got to run all five people on the court. I've been pleasantly surprised at how much she's been able to learn in one year. But Lexi is just a really coachable kid.

\"It's hard to be the point guard and have to go 94 feet every possession and play 36 minutes a game, all as a freshman. So I think our goal now is to have her fresh; it's about fresh legs, to be clear-headed, to have that mental edge - so Lexi will get less reps in practice this week. And Lexi typically bounces back; after a bad game, she'll have a great game. She's not a player who over-thinks things, so she just looks at the game ahead of her. That's a good thing about being young, I guess.\"

While there are advantages to being young, inexperience might be an issue for a team with zero NCAA experience on its roster. The fear is that the Bears might be overwhelmed by the occasion.

\"This is new for our kids,\" agreed Boyle. \"But today, even as they came in, they started talking about how this game will not be like the UCLA game where they fell short. I was excited that they had that conversation with me, that I was not the one who brought it up. I think that UCLA game helped us to realize that we needed to be ready when the ball goes up. I think yesterday will be motivation enough. To go through that, they feel so hyped and now they're focused on what they need to do in the post-season.\"

Besides being sent clear across the country, the Bears will have the additional challenge of playing an early game. Their match-up with St. John's is scheduled for a 9 a.m. PT tip-off.

\"At the Pac-10 Tournament, we had an 11 a.m. game against UCLA, which meant we had no practice that morning. I don't know if that had any effect ... \" said Boyle.

\"But we might practice early one day this week. I think it might be more about getting them up early so they're ready to go than about whether we had a practice, though. But we're just happy to be in the Tournament, and little things like the time of the game, we can't worry about.\"

However, there is certainly one benefit to playing at University Park, as Boyle is a Pennsylvania native.

\"It's great!\" said Boyle. \"I'll get to see cousins that I haven't seen for years. I don't think I'll have enough tickets, actually. During the selection show, it never occurred to me that we would be going to Pennsylvania. I never checked where we were going. But today, after the fact, I know that being able to share this experience with my family will be an added bonus.\"

In the meantime, the coaching staff and the players will be busy preparing for St. John's. Like Cal, the Red Storm are returning to the Big Dance after a long break; their last invite was in 1988.

\"I've only seen one tape on them, but they seem like a good match-up for us,\" said Boyle. \"They're very athletic - up and down like UCLA though maybe not as fast - but an athletic, transition team. Their posts can run, but they're a bit undersized, so maybe we can take advantage of that. They go eight or nine players deep. They have the upper hand with their experience, but I'll take my chances with who we have. We'll worry about what we do well. To be honest, I think we match up well against them.\"

Most important, Boyle wants her team and staff to enjoy the whole experience.

\"I finally sat down with the tape at midnight, and there is the reality of the work to be done. But I also want to make sure to enjoy this, and to let my team enjoy it. I want them to enjoy the experience of the charter flight on Friday, of putting on the NCAA Tournament pins, the whole thing. And then we also want to have some of our best practices - short and intense. I want us to feel good about the practices and feel as confident and prepared as possible.\"


©Copyright 2006, BearInsider.com and Scout.com. All rights reserved.

If you haven't done so already, subscribe to The Bear Insider so you can participate in this active online Cal community and get access to the members-only content from the nation-wide Scout.com network.

Bear Insider staff writers visit the Insider discussion board regularly, and are available to discuss questions you may have about this article and Cal Athletics.

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