Caution: Major Sunshine Pumping Alert.
Cal fans should be ecstatic with the Men's Basketball Team's fifth place finish in the Pac-10 this year. But for dreamers/casual basketball fans like me, the big story is The Big Dance. Despite their valiant efforts, the Golden Bears will likely need nothing less than a win in this year's Pac-10 Tournament to qualify for this year's expanded 69(!) team field.
That said, I have to say I am almost giddy with optimism about our chances in the Pac-10 Tournament this year. This is a team that is prone to going on hot streaks and has won its last four conference games. Cal has played well above its fighting weight and generally stepped up, going back to Temple, to play winning basketball against high-quality teams this season (not named Washington). Moreover, this Cal team hasn't been subject to the LA curse of past squads and has held itself together against the LA schools both at home and on the road.
More than that, the Pac-10 tournament lends itself perfectly to a run by this type of Cal team. Since 2002, when the modern Pac-10 Conference Tournament was re-booted, the #1 seed has been far from a lock. The records:
#1 Seed - 2004, 2006, 2008
#2 Seed - 2002, 2005
#3 Seed - 2010
#4 Seed - 2007
#5 Seed - 2003
#6 Seed - 2009
With the #1 seed only winning a third of the time, and 5 schools winning over a nine year period, the field always has a chance in what is often an unpredictable and exciting conference tournament.
To be clear: I would see a Cal win in the Pac-10 Tournament as a monumental upset and a crowning achievement on what has been a year filled with over-achievement and inflated expectations for the next couple of years. It's quite likely that we'll make a quiet exit from Staples this year and take our almost-certain NIT entry with palms open. But, that being said, I love this tournament every year - and especially this year - because it is wide open and lends itself to the improbable.
So, I invite all of you to take a moment during your lunch break on Thursday to drink some blue Kool-Aid and join me in buying into the idea that a deep run in this year's Pac-10 Tournament starts that afternoon with a solid win over USC.