Cal and the Pac-12 Conference got no respect from the NCAA selection committee Sunday and, guess what? They didn’t deserve any.
At one time, West Coast basketball in general, and the Bay Area in particular, were the class of college basketball, as USF won back-to-back national titles and Cal won its only NCAA crown within five years.
But that’s more than half a century ago. Now, the Pac-12 is one of the weakest conferences in the country, competitive because there are no standout teams. Yes, there is and always will be an East Coast bias because there is so much more population and media in the east, but bias is not the problem. If conference teams want respect, they have to earn it — which means beating some of the country’s top teams before the conference schedule starts.
As for Cal, the Bears have played for nearly a month as if the season ended on their Senior Day romp over Oregon State on Feb. 18. In the five games since then, they’ve played their best only in the second half against Stanford in the Pac-12 tournament, and that only came after a dreadful first half in which they committed 14 turnovers. They should have beaten Stanford by about 15 points because the Cardinal has good individual talent, but is poorly coached by Johnny Dawkins, who had 13 starting lineups during the season, not one because of an injury. The man obviously has an indecision problem. I can see him coming down to breakfast and thinking, “I’ll have scrambled eggs. ... No, maybe the Special K. ... Or an omelet. ... Oh, so many decisions.”
Otherwise, Cal struggled to beat a woeful Utah team, lost twice to Colorado and got thrown off its game at Stanford when the Cardinal chose to turn the game into a wrestling contest. That cost it a tie for the conference title with Washington, and they had the tiebreaker because they had beaten the Huskies in Seattle. That title would have put them in the NCAA Tournament without a play-in game.
I don’t like these postseason conference tournaments, which the NCAA allows because they bring in more money, but the fact is, the Bears had an excellent chance to win when both Washington and Oregon were beaten early. But, they lost to Colorado in a lackluster game.
That horrible season-ending five-game stretch is what the selection committee looked at, not the 24 season wins, 13 conference wins and 36 RPI that Bears coach Mike Montgomery pointed to.
Meanwhile, Colorado won the tournament, so the Buffaloes got into the NCAA field, but if I’ve ever seen a one-and-done team, Colorado is it.
The Bears have still another chance to redeem themselves, starting with Wednesday night’s play-in game against South Florida. They need look only to last year for inspiration: Virginia Commonwealth had to win a play-in game, but wound up in the Final Four.
Cal certainly has weapons, starting with Jorge Guiterrez, voted the conference Player of the Year, and an excellent coach in Montgomery. But if they don’t play well and get eliminated early, please, no more whining about East Coast bias. This time, the bias is correct.
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
No. 12 Cal vs. No. 12 South Florida
When: Wednesday, 6:10 p.m.
Where: University of Dayton Arena, Dayton, Ohio
Radio: KKSF (910 AM)
What’s next: Winner plays fifth-seeded Temple on Friday at Nashville, Tenn., in the Midwest Regional