But with nine wins in their past 11 games, the Bears (23-10) weren't falling apart emotionally after their 79-75 loss to Washington in the final of the Pac-10 tournament.
"Obviously, it doesn't feel good to come all the way and play in the championship game and lose," said senior guard Patrick Christopher. "But just like every other game, you put it behind you and prepare for what's next."
That would be a Friday matchup against Louisville (22-12) in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament in Jacksonville, Fla.
Cal has been here before. Last year's team, with basically the same cast of characters, was sent to Kansas City, Mo., where it lost to Maryland in the first round. That capped a 1-4 season-ending slide into the offseason and left the Bears with a bad taste in their mouths.
This year's squad, loaded with four senior starters, isn't interested in making a one-day appearance at the NCAAs. This is it for these guys, and they expect to win a game or two. Or more.
"I think our confidence is very high," senior forward Jamal Boykin said. "We've been challenged and I think our team will react very well to the challenge."
--Cal's four senior starters have combined to score 5,677 career points, led by PG Jerome Randle, who has set a school record with 1,802 career points.
--Cal had won 10 of its past 11 games, including seven straight -- all by double-digit margins -- before its 79-75 loss to Washington in the Pac-10 tournament championship game.
COACH: Mike Montgomery, two years at Cal, 14th year in NCAA Tournament as a head coach.
KEYS TO VICTORY: The Bears aren't very complicated. When they play hard and shoot the ball, they generally win. They don't have great size but are a solid rebounding team. Without a big man deterrent in the middle, they rely on defending at the point of attack -- not always a strength -- and providing good help defense. But when they play hard and if the 3-point shot is falling, these guys can play with most teams.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "This team has a lot of confidence. We feel like if we're playing hard and we're playing defense, we're hard to beat." -- Senior SF Theo Robertson.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SCOUTING REPORT: Without a starter taller than 6-foot-8, the Bears aren't a good fit for opponents equipped with multiple power players inside. Cal's thing is moving the ball among three experienced perimeter players, all of whom can shoot the 3-pointer or attack defenders off the dribble. Senior PF Jamal Boykin has been the club's unsung hero and owns a very dependable mid-range shot, especially from the baseline or free-throw area. Cal is best in transition, but doesn't want to play out-of-control fast. The starters play heavy minutes, partly because they are seniors and partly because the bench doesn't offer much beyond sixth-man Jorge Gutierrez.
GAME REVIEW: Cal 90, Oregon 74 (Pac-10 tournament quarterfinals)
Cal 85, UCLA 72 (Pac-10 tournament semifinals)
Washington 79, Cal 75 (Pac-10 tournament final)
vs. Louisville, Friday, March 19, NCAA Tournament, South Regional first round, Jacksonville, Fla.
--Senior PG Jerome Randle scored 58 points in three Pac-10 tournament games, breaking Sean Lampley's nine-year-old Cal career scoring record in the process. Randle, the Pac-10 Player of the Year, enters the NCAA Tournament with 1,802 career points.
--Senior SF Theo Robertson scored 20 points in Cal's Pac-10 semifinal win over UCLA and had 20 or more in all three games vs. the Bruins this season. He had 25 points in the title-game loss to Washington.
--Senior PF Jamal Boykin had 20 points and 14 rebounds against Washington and was joined on the all-tournament team by teammates Jerome Randle and Theo Robertson.