So that didn't go as planned. Whenever Cal plays Stanford the specter of a blowout hangs over the game, and so it came to pass. For the first four minutes Cal played with the wild abandon of a team trying like mad to win the approval of a season-best crowd. The game calmed down, and then Stanford hit 4 threes in 3 minutes and the game practically felt over. Rather than playing with nervous energy, the Bears played with frustrated energy. Meanwhile Stanford played with the same robotic poise they always play with. Yes, I will find a way to twist their excellence into an insult - that's just how petty I am!
So yeah, Stanford shot the lights out and Cal never recovered. It's a shame that the Bears have lost an opportunity to showcase their talents in front of as many eyes as they'll get before the tournament, but I got the sense that 95% of Cal fans were curled up in the fetal position for the majority of the women's game anyway, so no harm no foul. If you're interested in reading actual analysis of Cal/Stanford, you're in the wrong place. I'm going to focus on fun things, like all-conference awards, and important things, like that it's March and Cal will be involved!
So, congratulations are in order for Layshia Clarendon, Gennifer Brandon, Reshanda Gray and Brittany Boyd! The first two were included in the 15 player First Team, and the latter two were included in the 5 player All Freshman team! Cal is in a weird position for post-season awards because of their extreme depth. I don't know if I've ever seen a team that has just one player that averages more than 25 minutes a game. Yet Cal is the 2nd best team in the conference and has to be represented in the awards despite the fact that few players will accrue the type of counting stats that demand attention.
In any case, I'm glad that team MVP Layshia and rebounder extraordinaire Gen made the first team, and Reshanda and Brittany had to be shoe-ins for the freshman team. I'd even like to think that Lindsay Gottlieb may have gotten a few votes as coach of the year, though it's impossible to argue with the job Scott Rueck has done at Oregon St.
Weekly Tournament Talk
At this week's chalk talk Charmin Smith unknowingly concurred with an argument I made - the Stanford game was a no-risk, high-reward game. And the only two women's basketball bracketology websites I can find seem to agree. Despite losing to Stanford we're still in a similar position.
ESPN's Charlie Creme has us as an 8 seed, which is actually the same as last week - sort of. We were technically a 7 seed, but I failed to notice that we were a 7 because he had to procedurally bump us up from an 8 to avoid conference rematches in the first few rounds.
Meanwhile, College Sports Madness has Cal as a 5(!!!) seed against UTEP in the first round . . . which would be pretty awesome, even if Ohio St. was waiting in round 2 and Baylor in the Sweet 16.
Frankly, I have a hard time putting a ton of stock in the later bracket because they make no effort to put teams in regions, they have potential conference rematches within sub-regionals, they have potential regular season rematches in the 2nd round . . . basically there's a decent amount of evidence that they haven't taken an especially careful look at how things could realistically shake out. I'm a Cal homer and a 5 seed seems generous.
That said, I still feel like an 8 seed is unduly harsh and of course is still the nightmare scenario. When Selection Monday comes around I'll be on my knees praying to my Oski shrine for a 6 or 7 seed, location be damned. Send us to Tallahassee Florida, send us to Norfolk Virginia, just don't send us to anywhere near Baylor, Notre Dame or UConn.
Of course, the best way to prevent that from happening is to take care of business in . . .
Pac-12 Tournament Preview
Here's the schedule:
Wednesday, March 7 • First Round (Galen Center)
Gm 1: #8 Washington vs. #9 Oregon 12 p.m. PT
Gm. 2: #5 UCLA vs. #12 Arizona 2:15 p.m. PT
Gm. 3: #7 Utah vs. #10 Colorado 5 p.m. PT
Gm. 4: #6 Oregon State vs. #11 Washington State 7:15 p.m. PT
live stream: YouTube.com/Pac12Conf
Thursday, March 8 • Quarterfinals (Galen Center)
Gm. 5: #1 Stanford vs. Winner 8/9 12 p.m. PT
Gm. 6: #4 Arizona State vs. Winner 5/12 2:15 p.m. PT
Gm. 7: #2 California vs. Winner 7/10 5 p.m. PT
Gm. 8: #3 USC vs. Winner 6/11 7:15 p.m. PT
live stream: YouTube.com/Pac12Conf
Friday, March 9 • Semifinals (Staples Center)
Gm. 9: Gm. 5 Winner vs. Gm. 6 Winner (FSN) 12 p.m. PT
Gm. 10: Gm. 7 Winner vs. Gm. 8 Winner (FSN) 2:30 p.m. PT
Saturday, March 10 • Championship (Staples Center)
Gm. 11: Championship Game (FSN) 11:30 a.m. PT
I've nicely highlighted the games particularly relevant for Cal fans. I suppose I'd marginally prefer for Colorado to beat Utah, but ultimately I would expect the Bears to beat either team decisively . . . even if Cal didn't have a massive depth advantage and an extra day of rest. Neither Utah nor Colorado are especially deep, so I'm expecting Cal to cruise. This is the one game we can't afford to lose.
USC will probably have to get past a tough Oregon State squad that has already beaten the Women of Troy at the Galen Center once this year, so it's no guarantee that the Bears will get a 3rd crack. But it would be much better for Cal's tournament profile to get a (technically neutral) court win over a top 50 RPI team. I'm not saying you should root for USC. Just have confidence that the Bears can beat either team that comes their way.
Should Cal advance to the finals I'll already be feeling pretty good about how things have gone. I doubt that Stanford will be losing, so we may as well take our 3rd shot at them. If it happens it'll be nothing to lose, everything to gain again.
Gosh to I love/hate March. It's going to be a tortuously fun next few weeks.