OK, this is it. This is crunch time. After weeks of battling, Cal Basketball’s Pac-10 fate will be decided over the next two weeks. 3 tough games, first against the Arizona schools, and then a rematch with Stanford, will make or break this season. Here’s hoping they’ve got what it takes.
Personally, I think Joanne Boyle’s team can pull this out.
Ben Braun’s scrappy underdogs? Perhaps not so much.
If you’ve been following the Cal Women’s Basketball team, you’ve been witnessing what might go down as the best season in school history. In fact, given this program’s humble past, it probably will. Let’s break it down:
- At 21-3, they’re only 3 wins away from the school record for wins (24-8, set in 1983-84). With 5 to play, plus the Pac-10 and NCAA Tournaments, they seem almost a lock to surpass that.
- They’re on track for at least a top-4 seed in the NCAA tournament, giving them a leg up on making the Sweet 16, something the Bears have never done.
- Their current No. 9 ranking is one off of their all-time high of 8th, which was set a few weeks ago.
- They already have 12 conference wins, equalling their highest total ever, and they still have 5 games to go.
- The Bears have never finished higher than 3rd in the Pac-10, but with a 4-game lead over 4th place UCLA and USC with 5 to play, it would be an incredible upset for them not to finish at least 3rd.
Yeah, OK, third place would be nice, but with a 12-1 record, currently sitting in first place in the Pac-10, the Bears want more. And if they’re going to get it, now is the time.
Cal’s Devanei Hampton, the reigning Pac-10 Player of the Year, wants more this year — specifically, a conference title. And no, she’s not the mysterious blogger ‘DHampton’ we occasionally make fun of around here.
On Thursday night, they host Arizona State, who is 10-2 in the Pac-10, a half game behind Stanford in 3rd place. Those two losses? Cal and Stanford. Still, if anyone is going to keep the Bay Area from claiming another Pac-10 crown, it’s going to have to be the Sun Devils — no one else has a chance. This is a good team, one that has been ranked for much of the season, and one that nearly upset Stanford last time out, blowing an 11-point halftime lead.
Saturday, the Bears host Arizona. Their 3-9 conference record doesn’t look imposing, but the Wildcats are playing well, with all three wins coming in the last couple weeks before a 3-point loss at ASU. Plus, as you may have heard in an email that may or may not have been from Jeff Tedford, tickets are only $3, and you can be part of a record-setting crowd!
Then — THEN — it’s the rematch with No. 8 Stanford. The Tree’s dominance of the Pac-10 has been somewhere between the Yankees’ dominance of the AL East and the Cal Rugby team’s dominance of everyone. It’s pretty staggering. But the Bears can end it all next week. Even if they fall to Arizona State, a win over Stanford all but assures Cal of its first-ever Pac-10 title, which would be only slightly more historic than Stanford *not* winning the conference. Yeah, they lost badly last month on the Farm. But now they get them at home, where the Bears are perfect this year. In fact, their only losses this year have been to Baylor (currently ranked 8th), Stanford (6th), and Rutgers (4th), all on the road. You can’t miss this. It’ll be one for the ages.
Oh yeah, I did bring up the men’s team earlier. I suppose I’ll throw out a little analysis.
The Bears visit Arizona, ASU, and Stanford over the next two weeks. These are all teams the Bears lost to at home, but all 3 losses were close, and for some reason, Cal seems to play better on the road lately. No idea why.
Cal is currently on the outside of the NCAA tournament, looking in. That home loss to Oregon on Saturday hurt, but I’m not sure if the selection committee will take into account how badly they lost. They’re certainly not out of the running for an at-large bid, but I think they can only afford to lose 2 more games down the stretch, and with a trip to LA looming, that means they can realistically only lose once on this road trip.
That’s 2 wins out of Arizona, Arizona State, and Stanford, or we get to hope the NIT committee really likes us.
Possible? I guess. Likely? Not really.
I’m pretty sure Braun has never won in Tucson, but perhaps that’s a Lute Olson thing. With him out of the way, can the Bears finally come away from the desert winners? Tune in Thursday to find out.