Everybody go read the EP interview. Now. - USA TODAY Sports
All the news that's fit to link, plus preview Cal's Northwest road trip and thoughts on the Pac-12 and NCAA tournaments.
NEWS OF THE WEEK
- Just two games left! One of which could see Cal historically earn a share of the Pac-12 title! But hardly anybody will be watching because neither game will be televised and both occur at THE EXACT SAME TIME as the Cal men's games against Utah and Colorado! Thanks, Pac-12 schedule makers! As always, CGB will have game threads for both contests, and I'll do my best to watch anything and everything. I suppose we all need to count our blessings - both our men and women will be playing at once, and both with a shot at a Pac-12 title. We're the only conference school still involved in both races. Shame we can't watch both.
- Bay Area News Group's Stephanie Hammon did a nice profile on Tierra Rogers. You're all familiar with the story by now, but there are plenty of insightful bits in this new piece.
- Bear Insider's Viet Nguyen has published another spectacular interview, this time with Eliza Pierre. Read it all. My favorite part?
I want them to remember that they gave me the name EP. I was not EP before I came here. I was Eliza, I was Lize, I was everything but EP. They gave me that name, so I want them to remember that, to remember that energy.
- Hopefully, you're already a regular reader at Swish Appeal. But if you're not, Nate's got some video you'll want to see.
- Gennifer Brandon is one of the best basketball players in the country! This isn't breaking news or anything, but it's nice to have non Berkeley types recognize it.
- VOTE FOR LAYSHIA. I'm voting as I write this, and at the moment she has 32.8% of the vote, a whopping 14.4% lead. Layshia's lead is nearly as big as the gap between 2nd place and last place. That is truly remarkable. The explosion of the #layshiafacts campaign has truly blown my mind, and has been spectacularly fun for me. And in case you weren't aware, I have had NOTHING to do with it. I haven't written a single Layshia Fact. All of you are incredible. Well, not as incredible as Layshia, but you know. You're cool anyway.
- Washington has suspended three players, including their best player, against Stanford. Yeah, we can forget about any shot at an unshared title. Is Washington intentionally resting players against Stanford to improve their chances against Cal? THERE'S NO EVIDENCE THEY AREN'T! YOU CAN'T FOOL ME MCGUFF, I'M NOT LIKE ALL THE OTHER SHEEPLE.
PREVIEWING WAZZU & (MOSTLY) UW
Cal has already played seven Pac-12 schools twice. They will finally play the Washington schools for the first time this weekend. Many Cal fans were worrying about the Huskies a few weeks ago, and although they are a good team capable of beating Cal in the right circumstances, the bloom came off last week.
The Washington schools have been the beneficiaries of an unusually weak conference schedule. There are four ranked teams in the Pac-12, meaning that a team can be unfortunate enough to play eight games against excellent opposition. The Huskies and Cougars were lucky enough to play Cal, Stanford and Colorado just once. Even weirder, they didn't play them until the final two weeks of the season. Their schedule was ridiculously backloaded.
This particularly benefitted Washington, a solid team that took advantage of a soft schedule to start their Pac-12 schedule 11-3. But there were signs that it was too good to be true. UW's best win was and still is a 2 point home win over St. Mary's. They don't have a single RPI top 100 win in conference play. They lost to USC, struggled against ASU and were taken to overtime by Oregon State. Finally, they took the mountain road trip and got soundly swept.
The Huskies will still be very dangerous, in part because a win over Cal or Stanford is needed to give them a shot at a tournament berth. And Cal's high-wire escape against Oregon State certainly shows that nobody can be taken lightly. Still, this is a game Cal should win. With a share of the Pac-12 title on the line, focus and effort won't be an issue.
I'll have more specific info about both Wazzu and UW in the game threads.
PAC-12 TOURNAMENT NEWS
Every team in the conference has just two games left on the schedule, and thus it is reasonably easy to predict how the Pac-12 tournament will shake out.
Cal's win over Oregon clinched at least the 2nd seed for the Bears, and it seems exceedingly likely that they will head to Seattle as the 2 seed. That means that they will receive a first round bye and play the winner of the 7/10 first round game. At the moment, those teams would be Washington State (7) and Arizona (10). Arizona seems very likely to stay in 10th place. However, the Cougars have to play Stanford and Cal this week, and thus are likely to lose twice. It's entirely possible that USC could jump the Cougars into 7th place. So root for USC to drop a game or two this week so that it's less likely for the Bears to have to face those darned Trojans again this year.
If the tournament plays to seed, Cal will almost certainly face UCLA, who would have to lose twice this week against the Arizona schools to fail to grab the 3 seed. That's good news for Cal fans - the Bears match up much better against the Bruins than they do 4 seed Colorado, and UCLA is a more valuable resume win to boot. I don't think anything short of three straight losses could cost Cal a 2 seed in the NCAA tournament, but if the Bears want that 1 seed they'll need all the resume juice they can squeeze out of the schedule.
NCAA TOURNAMENT THOUGHTS
It went mostly unmentioned in my previous bracketology article, but be aware: No matter what Cal's seed is, it is a virtual certainty that Cal will be sent to the home floor of a rival in their tournament pod. Charlie Creme's latest article went into detail as to why it is possible that 1 seed Notre Dame might have to go on the road. The same breakdown applies to Cal. His latest educated guess has the Bears in Iowa City across from 10 seed Iowa. Previous iterations had Cal in Lubbock with Texas Tech and Spokane with Gonzaga. All of those situations are possible.
At the moment, 15 sub-regional hosts are considered 'in' the tournament, and if a host school earns a bid, they are automatically placed in their home gym, no matter their seed. Should you be worried? Probably not. Cal already has three road wins (Stanford, UCLA, Colorado) that are more difficult than any potential 7, 8, 9 or 10 seed. Oddly, you could argue that the Bears have been meaningfully better on the road than they have been at home - thus far they beat UCLA, USC, Oregon, Oregon St., and Colorado by greater margins on the road than at home. And of course they lost to Stanford at Haas before winning at Maples.
I'm certainly not going to argue that it's better for Cal to be on the road. There are reasons for some of those unusual results, and plenty of random statistical noise. But the Bears have given zero reasons to make us believe that a road game would present any reason to fret.