Posted on: March 20, 2010 12:34 am
Edited on: March 20, 2010 12:37 am

NCAA Tournament Cliche #452: The Overlooked Team


Before you say anything: yes, I'm aware that Cal was higher-seeded than Louisville (8 to Louisville's 9), and yes, I know that general knowledge is that the Golden Bears were no slouch. But let's all be brutally honest with one another -- there were a lot of people who had already begun trying to figure out what would happen when Coach K faced Rick Pitino in a Duke/Louisville second round matchup. Because a lot of people assumed this was Louisville's game, even though the Cards had the higher seed. Don't deny it. I have eyes. I have ears. And I heard a lot of chatter about it, as did you.

Unfortunately, though, the Cardinals were going to have to get past Cal yet. And Cal had a unique station this season, the role of secret agent. You see, the Pac-10, by and large, was not very good this year. In fact, it was only expected to net one Tourney bid, and that was expected to go to Cal, which had won the regular season handily and was expected to win the Pac-10 tournament just as handily. That didn't happen, and Washington edged Cal out in the Pac-10 tournament, grabbing themselves a bid and bringing the number of Pac-10 dancers to two. 

So no one east of the Mississippi had much reason to regard Cal as much of a threat. After all, they didn't win their conference and were rarely televised in the east this season. And perhaps that's why while most people had heard of Cal hero Jerome Randle, who became the school's all-time leading scorer this season, very few knew that Randle had a key backup man in Theo Robertson, who netted 21 points tonight in a stellar performance. Even Cal's center Max Zhang, who is from China and whom I assume to be approximately 5,000 feet tall, was swattin' tonight.

I'm not saying Pitino didn't know about these guys. I'm sure his scouts had him prepared. I'm just saying that on the whole, these guys weren't on the radar much of the season. And tonight they showed Louisville just how good they are. Did the Cards overlook them with an eye on the Blue Devils? We'll never know. Just as we'll never know the outcome of the hypothetical Duke/Louisville game. But Louisville never had the lead the entire game, was down as many as 18 in the first half and as many as 15 in the second half. They clearly didn't know what to do with the Bears. A frustrated Pitino even got himself slapped with a technical with about five minutes left to go. It would certainly seem that Louisville -- who has been top-notch lately -- wasn't prepared for something like this. 

Your result? Cal 77. Louisville 62 and the Golden Bears will try their luck against Duke on Sunday. Let's just hope Duke doesn't make the same mistake Louisville may have made tonight. You best do your homework against this Cal team, you hear?
Category: NCAAB
Tags: Cal, Louisville, South
Posted on: March 13, 2010 8:25 pm
Edited on: March 14, 2010 4:46 pm

Huskies' Bubble Floats to Pac-10 Trophy


Never underestimate the bubble team. They are focused. They are determined. And, if they're anything like Washington, they refuse to go gentle into that good night.

Earlier today, we mentioned that Cal could be stepping into a trap if Washington -- one of the most formidable defenses in the Pac-10 -- was ready to stop them. At the half, Cal supertar (and current leading scorer in the school's history) Jerome Randle looked lost with four points. So I'd call that a big yes. As a result, Washington beats down Cal 79-75.

Washington's Isaiah Thomas, who is rumored to have gained his name when his father lost a wager on a 1989 Pistons-Lakers playoff game, received a text before the game from his namesake which allegedly read "Go get 'em little Isaiah." So he did. Thomas split duties with Quincy Pondexter, the former with 16 points and the latter with 18, to take down the regular season champs (and #1 seed) and prove what a motivator the bubble can be.

To be fair, it was never easy for the Huskies in a blink-and-the-score changes type of game, with Cal still alive in the final ten seconds as Randle stood shooting free throws at the 77-74 mark, making one and missing one before his own lane violation handed the ball back to the Huskies. And the rest is Pac-10 tournament history.

So the Huskies are dancing. And Cal, still likely a good shot for a bid with its regular season title, has to wait till tomorrow to see what happens. Tonight, all they know is that you don't underestimate the bubble team.
Posted on: March 11, 2010 11:46 pm
Edited on: March 12, 2010 12:19 am

Late night updates

John Wilkinson

And the Big East does it again. What a finish as West Virginia and De'Sean Butler escape at the buzzer, restoring a semblance of normalcy in an otherwise parallel bracket. 

We breezed through the first part of Conference Championship week and found it to be a bit chalky quite frankly, then the Big East goes out today and completely turns our blogging world on its head. The most feared conference in all the land with it's self-important "double-byes" and permanent NYC home, has been dwindled to four: an 8-seed, 7-seed, 5-seed and a 3-seed. 

And yes, De'sean Butler is nails. Stay tuned for more Big East updates.

--For the game of the night we go to the MAC, where the Akron Zips survived Eastern Michigan 97-89 in double OT. Eagles guard Carlos Medlock poured in 42 points in the upset bid, the second most in MAC tournament history. Even more amazing, the seven technicals called between the teams with three ejections. That's just how they do things in the MAC. Dog v. dog. Ohio University provided the other big news, as they throttled top-seeded Kent St. 81-64 to earn a spot in the semis. 

--PAC 10 regular season champs by default, the Cal Bears, disposed of the wounded Ducks of Oregon, 90-74 in quarterfinal action. The loss wrecks coach Ernie Kent's pre-tournament prognostication, and soon, his job. Cal guard Tajuan Porter set the PAC 10's career 3-point record with his 343rd to break the mark held by former Zona guard Salim Stoudemire. The win moves Cal to the semis and a date with UCLA, which surely makes Counting Crows frontman Adam Duritz quite happy, which will ultimately lead to the termination of the band. 

--The Mountain West held true today, with top seeds New Mexico, BYU, and San Diego St. all advancing despite each getting pushed to the end. UNLV tips off against Utah sometime before sunrise, I hope. On a day where conference MVP Darington Hobson racked up 28 points for New Mexico, runner-up Jimmer Fredette went off for 45 in a 95-85 BYU win over TCU. Fredette made 23-24 free-throws and topped 40 points for the second time this season. 

--The C-USA appears to be a one bid league now with a pair of bubbles bursting in Memphis and UAB. Memphis may still have a shot a a bid but they'll need some help or just a 96-team tournament. Also, Marshall fell to Tulsa tonight 80-64, meaning the most intriguing player most of us have never watched will not be in the dance. Seven-foot freshman Hassan Whiteside is being projected as a lottery pick and recorded a set of triple-doubles this season.

--In the Southland, my NCAA Tourney sleeper Sam Houston State survives 89-85 against SE Louisiana to set up clash of top seeded gents, Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin, for tickets to the deb ball. 


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