Cal Faces San Diego in NCAA First Round

When they found out that they had received the coveted third seed for the NCAA Tournament, the California Golden Bears players and coaches leapt to their feet. They, like many of their fans, had endured a week of hand-wringing, worried that their late-season hiccups—including a blow-out loss to Stanford in the Pac-10 Tournament Final—may have doomed them in the eyes of the selection committee.

But perhaps even better than the third seed was the fact that after two years of being shipped to Pennsylvania, the Bears will open the Tournament right here in the Bay Area, at Stanford's Maples Pavilion. Cal head coach Joanne Boyle was ecstatic about her team's placement.

"It's the end of the season, and road-weariness comes into play," said Boyle. "So to be able to be at home and not have to travel two or three days ahead of time, that's big for us. And having that fan support—not only our fans, but also hopefully the Stanford fans, because there's been a lot of talk about supporting the Bay Area teams—that will be an edge for us. So I'm excited about that."

With the high seed and the advantage of practically playing at home, Boyle and the Bears have their best chance to make a run in the tournament after losing in the first round in the past two years. Cal will face #14 seed San Diego (19-12) on Saturday in the first round.

The Toreros earned their spot by winning the WCC tournament. They overcame an 0-5 start in their conference to finish at 7-7, good for third behind Gonzaga and Santa Clara, both teams they upset in the conference tournament.

"There are only 64 teams in this tournament, and all 64 are very good," said Boyle. "Everybody brings different things to the table in terms of match-ups—strengths and weaknesses and all that. I've watched a lot of film on San Diego, and they are a very very good team. They did really well in their conference. They beat UCLA and took Texas to within two. It's not like they haven't played at this level or with the top teams in the country. They're a veteran team, and they have many pieces to the puzzle."

San Diego is led by senior point guard Amanda Rego and junior post Amber Sprague, both of whom earned All-WCC First Team honors this season. Sprague, a 6'5 center, averaged 15.5 points and 8.8 rebounds per game, while the 5'10 Rego collected 10 points and 5.5 rebounds. Rego also is one of the top assist-maker in the nation, having already collected 264 this year (8.5 apg) to only 140 turnovers.

San Diego also has balanced scoring. Sophomore forwards Kiva Herman (12 ppg) and Morgan Henderson (9.5 ppg) and All-Freshman Sam Child (10.2 ppg) give head coach Cindy Fisher options at every position.

"Their two posts are more guard-like, agile and mobile," said Boyle of the Toreros' inside players. "We haven't really faced that this year. A team may have a ‘4' that is mobile—like with USC, but to have two post players who are mobile and kind of finessy, that will be different. They have long, big guards. All three of those guards are big. So I don't know that there's a team out there that matches up with them—they're different. It's not just an easy road. They're a great team. When it comes down to it, it's about match-ups, who's shooting well, who's rebounding well that day. We're nervous. By far it's not a cakewalk at all. Not at all."

But match-up challenges work both ways. San Diego will also have to contend with one of the best post games in the country in All-Pac-10 First Team honorees Ashley Walker and Devanei Hampton.

"We have to look at our strengths," said Boyle. "Dev has to guard their post on the outside and facing up, but then they have to guard Devanei Hampton on the blocks."

The losses to Stanford have provided a blueprint to other teams on how to beat Cal—clog the lane and dare the Cal guards to shoot. In response, the Cal coaching staff has put in extra preparation time for their backcourt.

"We tried to put them in situations in practice," said Boyle. "Shooting drills instead of lay-up drills. Double teams, just lots of double teams. And times when Dev was not allowed to touch the ball. We gave Dev an extra day of rest because of her knee, but also we put the team in situations where Dev is not on the floor or Ashley is not on the floor, where we have to score in other ways."

The Bears will need to be prepared to score in a variety of ways for another reason. Cal is not a deep team and is especially vulnerable to foul trouble, which has impacted their chances the last two visits to the NCAAs.

"The first two years, it was much more of a concern," said Boyle. "It's different this year, with a more mature team. It's not that we don't want to play our aggressive style, but you don't want to pick up a cheap stupid foul. We're also looking at a team who only goes six-deep on their end as well; I'm sure their concerns are very similar. If you're on the bench, you're not helping the team. We've made a very conscious effort to talk to them about that."

Boyle also believes that the Bears will not show any after-effects from their loss against Stanford.

"Our season isn't based on one game," said Boyle. "Our team is pretty resilient. We talked about what happened, and how not put ourselves in that situation again. But you have to learn from it and move on, and there are a lot of things to celebrate about this team this year. You have to build their confidence, which they have going into the Tournament."

As a high seed, Cal is now expected to make some noise in this Tournament. With the higher expectations, might Cal look past a lower-seeded team like San Diego?

"They know what to do," Boyle said of her team. "We've been in tough games and tough situations this year, knowing we have to grind games out, and we've been successful at times, and not successful at times. But I don't think they'll overlook anyone at this point."

The Bears will get the chance to prove that they are ready to take a leap forward. Boyle and her Bears will tip off against San Diego at 1:30 pm on Saturday, March 22. Should they win, Cal will face the winner of the match up between George Washington and Auburn on Monday.


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But perhaps even better than the third seed was the fact that after two years of being shipped to Pennsylvania, the Bears will open the Tournament right here in the Bay Area, at Stanford's Maples Pavilion. Cal head coach Joanne Boyle was ecstatic about her team's placement.

\"It's the end of the season, and road-weariness comes into play,\" said Boyle. \"So to be able to be at home and not have to travel two or three days ahead of time, that's big for us. And having that fan support—not only our fans, but also hopefully the Stanford fans, because there's been a lot of talk about supporting the Bay Area teams—that will be an edge for us. So I'm excited about that.\"

With the high seed and the advantage of practically playing at home, Boyle and the Bears have their best chance to make a run in the tournament after losing in the first round in the past two years. Cal will face #14 seed San Diego (19-12) on Saturday in the first round.

The Toreros earned their spot by winning the WCC tournament. They overcame an 0-5 start in their conference to finish at 7-7, good for third behind Gonzaga and Santa Clara, both teams they upset in the conference tournament.

\"There are only 64 teams in this tournament, and all 64 are very good,\" said Boyle. \"Everybody brings different things to the table in terms of match-ups—strengths and weaknesses and all that. I've watched a lot of film on San Diego, and they are a very very good team. They did really well in their conference. They beat UCLA and took Texas to within two. It's not like they haven't played at this level or with the top teams in the country. They're a veteran team, and they have many pieces to the puzzle.\"

San Diego is led by senior point guard Amanda Rego and junior post Amber Sprague, both of whom earned All-WCC First Team honors this season. Sprague, a 6'5 center, averaged 15.5 points and 8.8 rebounds per game, while the 5'10 Rego collected 10 points and 5.5 rebounds. Rego also is one of the top assist-maker in the nation, having already collected 264 this year (8.5 apg) to only 140 turnovers.

San Diego also has balanced scoring. Sophomore forwards Kiva Herman (12 ppg) and Morgan Henderson (9.5 ppg) and All-Freshman Sam Child (10.2 ppg) give head coach Cindy Fisher options at every position.

\"Their two posts are more guard-like, agile and mobile,\" said Boyle of the Toreros' inside players. \"We haven't really faced that this year. A team may have a ‘4' that is mobile—like with USC, but to have two post players who are mobile and kind of finessy, that will be different. They have long, big guards. All three of those guards are big. So I don't know that there's a team out there that matches up with them—they're different. It's not just an easy road. They're a great team. When it comes down to it, it's about match-ups, who's shooting well, who's rebounding well that day. We're nervous. By far it's not a cakewalk at all. Not at all.\"

But match-up challenges work both ways. San Diego will also have to contend with one of the best post games in the country in All-Pac-10 First Team honorees Ashley Walker and Devanei Hampton.

\"We have to look at our strengths,\" said Boyle. \"Dev has to guard their post on the outside and facing up, but then they have to guard Devanei Hampton on the blocks.\"

The losses to Stanford have provided a blueprint to other teams on how to beat Cal—clog the lane and dare the Cal guards to shoot. In response, the Cal coaching staff has put in extra preparation time for their backcourt.

\"We tried to put them in situations in practice,\" said Boyle. \"Shooting drills instead of lay-up drills. Double teams, just lots of double teams. And times when Dev was not allowed to touch the ball. We gave Dev an extra day of rest because of her knee, but also we put the team in situations where Dev is not on the floor or Ashley is not on the floor, where we have to score in other ways.\"

The Bears will need to be prepared to score in a variety of ways for another reason. Cal is not a deep team and is especially vulnerable to foul trouble, which has impacted their chances the last two visits to the NCAAs.

\"The first two years, it was much more of a concern,\" said Boyle. \"It's different this year, with a more mature team. It's not that we don't want to play our aggressive style, but you don't want to pick up a cheap stupid foul. We're also looking at a team who only goes six-deep on their end as well; I'm sure their concerns are very similar. If you're on the bench, you're not helping the team. We've made a very conscious effort to talk to them about that.\"

Boyle also believes that the Bears will not show any after-effects from their loss against Stanford.

\"Our season isn't based on one game,\" said Boyle. \"Our team is pretty resilient. We talked about what happened, and how not put ourselves in that situation again. But you have to learn from it and move on, and there are a lot of things to celebrate about this team this year. You have to build their confidence, which they have going into the Tournament.\"

As a high seed, Cal is now expected to make some noise in this Tournament. With the higher expectations, might Cal look past a lower-seeded team like San Diego?

\"They know what to do,\" Boyle said of her team. \"We've been in tough games and tough situations this year, knowing we have to grind games out, and we've been successful at times, and not successful at times. But I don't think they'll overlook anyone at this point.\"

The Bears will get the chance to prove that they are ready to take a leap forward. Boyle and her Bears will tip off against San Diego at 1:30 pm on Saturday, March 22. Should they win, Cal will face the winner of the match up between George Washington and Auburn on Monday.


©Copyright 2007, 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 Bear Insider discussion board regularly, and are available to discuss questions you may have about this article and Cal Athletics.

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