March 11, 2006

Is Cal On the Tournament Bubble?

In my four years at Cal (UC Berkeley), we only made one serious run through the NCAA Basketball tournament, when, led by coach Ben Braun, we made to the Sweet Sixteen, only to lose to the much-revered North Carolina Tarheels. That we made it that far was a surprise, as the team's leading scorer, Ed Gray, was out for the tournament with an injury. Since then, Cal hasn't done much in the tournament at all - in fact, in 1999, they even won the NIT championship, not that anybody noticed.

Flash forward to 2006, and we have an interesting story. Cal, with a double overtime defeat of Oregon yesterday, is now 20 and 9, and faces UCLA tonight in the Pac 10 Championship tourney final. The winner is a guaranteed lock for the NCAA tournament, and if UCLA loses, they will very likely still get in, thanks to a top 20 ranking. But if Cal loses? Who knows? The team will have 20 wins, which is a great start, but 10 losses, and only a small handful of meaningful wins. In ESPN's last "Bracketology" column, the author said Cal still had work to do to make it into the tournament rather than sit on the sidelines. And for Cal, it at times has seemed like a one man team. Last night, that one man, Leon Powe, scored 41 points, and the previous game, he literally outrebounded USC all by himself, 20 to 18.

After today's A's game, I'll do whatever I can to find out the Cal/UCLA matchup and be cheering on the Bears to claw their way to the NCAA tournament, but I don't trust the selection committee to do the right thing should they not win tonight. Cal has to pull it off.

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