A special edition of Golden Nuggets for this weekend as we gather all the remaining links on yesterday and tomorrow's games. Lots and lots of links as we recap the Louisville game and prepare ourselves for Duke. (To discuss today's games, scroll down a post or two or click here!)
First, of course, the highlights.
"I've been listening to a lot of things that have been said about the Pac-10, and honestly I feel like we have great players and great teams," Cal senior guard Jerome Randle said. "Just because we didn't have any Top 25 teams, people were trashing our league. But we were competitive every night. Luckily, Cal and Washington got in, and we were able to send a message in the first round."
"I was a little upset that Obama didn't put us in his bracketology," Randle joked, referring to the president's own Pac-10 doubting picks. "So I just wanted to come out strong."
More Cal, Louisville and Duke links after the jump.
California Golden Bears links
The postgame press conference starts about 8 minutes in with questions for Jerome Randle, Patrick Christopher and Theo Robertson, with final Qs for Montgomery. For those who don't want to view the video, here's a transcript.
Here is Monty's interview afterward with Clark Kellogg, with the video embed below.
Jeff Faraudo: Cal (24-10), which has won more games this season than any time since its Final Four campaign of 1960, scored the first 12 points against Louisville (20-13), led 22-4 and never let the bigger, physical Cardinals dictate the action. The Bears cut through Louisville's full-court press for layups and moved the ball crisply to disarm the Cardinals' aggressive zone defense. Cal led 30-12 after 10 minutes, and coach Rick Pitino's squad never got closer than six points until the final eight minutes. "I think we rocked them back a little," Montgomery said. "It took them a while to get their aggressiveness back."
Bear Insider report: "The Bears had the added bonus of having four players – again Randle, Christopher, Robertson and Gutierrez - who could all bring the ball upcourt. Often the Bears didn't bother having Randle involved in bringing the ball upcourt, which threw off Louisville's defensive focus. This also helped kept the Cardinals from burning out Randle who played the entire 40 minutes. "We knew what they were going to come with," said Randle. "They were going to extend the zone a little bit, and instead of us backing off and being on our heels, we just wanted to penetrate the ball and find an open man."
Ray Ratto has things to say: "The blow that made the difference was from Theo Robertson, the often undernoticed senior forward who had begun the game tentatively but closed it with a merciless 22-footer from the deep right corner with 6:55 left that pushed Cal into the second round Sunday against Duke. "I don't remember what play we had on or anything like that," Robertson said. "I think Pat (senior guard Patrick Christopher) just got some dribble penetration and the corners, we thought they were susceptible as an open area for us, so Pat just drew two (defenders) and saw an opening, and I just let it go."
Looking ahead to Duke, we look at this interview between Jamal Boykin and a Duke reporter reflecting on his time there: The Chronicle: So how has your career gone ever since you left Duke? Are you kind of happy you left? Jamal Boykin: Well, I’ve always been the type of person to appreciate what I have when I have it. And when I was at Duke, I was very appreciative of the opportunity. I remember waking up so excited every day. I was so excited [for] all the opportunities that Duke had. It was a dream of mine.... I really appreciated that experience just like I appreciate this experience. I’ve never been one to be bitter about anything that happens in life. I look at everything as a lesson learned, and I had a great experience at Duke. Now, I’m having a great experience here [at Cal]. The two together have combined so that I’ve had a very rich, versatile experience.
Louisville Cardinals links
Card Chronicle: "Negatives: Seriously, we have a whole week to come up with a game plan to play a team we know a) is going to shoot lots of 3s and b) is going to double team Samardo and that's how we play? Seriously?
The season is over. Lots of memories, lots of frustration, but for the rest of our lives we'll always look back at the last game at Freedom Hall and smile. And just add tonight to the blur of other seasons that ended too early, and it won't hurt that bad."
Louisville Mojo: "After following this team through 33 games, almost every one of which since January seemed to be of the "must" win variety, I still can't decide what kind of job Coach Rick Pitino did.
On the one hand, you can make the case that because the parts never fit, because nobody ever really stepped up to fill the sneakers of Terrence Williams and Earl Clark, Pitino deserves credit for getting as much out of them as anybody could reasonably expect -- a 20-13 final record, an NCAA bid, and, of course, that glorious final victory over top-ranked Syracuse on March 6, the last home game for the Cards in Freedom Hall.
But on the other, you also can make the case that Pitino hurt the team by stubbornly refusing to play Samardo Samuels and Terrence Jennings together until the end of the season, by never starting Peyton Siva at the point and moving Edgar Sosa to shooting guard, and by erratic personnel moves."
Card Game: "Nice dream. The wishful thinking clashed with reality quickly, California getting off to a 22-4 start. Rick Pitino’s team making some runs, getting within four a few times, but losing more impetus every trip down the court.
Everybody that is except Rakeem Buckles, with unbridled bundles of energy, never seeming to tire. Just when he seems unstoppable and U of L is within reach, Buckles is pulled to the bench. All signs of offense going with him. "
Duke Blue Devils links
USA Today: "But Duke fans have another number in mind and it's greater than 32. Duke has only advanced beyond the Sweet 16 just once since the team won its last national title in 2001. Given the program's storied history, including three national titles in the previous 19 years, such numbers are especially meaningful. "The ACC championships and Final Fours and NCAA championships, we know those numbers, but for us, it doesn't come up much with us," senior guard Jon Scheyer said, adding that the Blue Devils are more focused on just what's immediately ahead."
Pete Prisco of CBS Sports: "This Duke team, though, is different from many of the others in the past. It doesn't have a lottery pick and it might not have a first-round pick in the NBA Draft. You look out on the court and wonder how this is a No. 1 seed. There is also no J.J. Redick or Christian Laettner to hate. "We play hard, we work hard, we play together and it's a locker room full of winners," Duke point guard Nolan Smith said. "No lottery picks. But we play defense. We have that desire to win every game we play. It's a different group. We have guys who can play at the next level. This is college and we have so many good college players in this locker room.""
Hoopsworld Interview with Coach K: "Coach K has a good feeling about this year's Duke team, but is hesitant to make any bold predictions. "I think you should know what horse you're riding. Do you have a horse that can win? Do you have a team that has to do something amazing to get by. For the last few years, we have had a team that, to win the whole thing, you would have to get really, really lucky. With this year's team, we need to be really, really good. We have some veterans. They are really old school like my teams from the '80s. They are more of a half-court defensive team. Everybody in the starting five has a good ego about who they are as players. We are coming along. We are not a great team, but we are a very good team. We have a chance to beat anybody, but we could lose to more people than some of the teams I have had in the past.""
Matt Hayes, Sporting News: "California has the athletes to push the Duke defense like few teams have this season, and another loss in the first weekend would be Duke's third early exit in the last four years. "We've got guys here who know what that feels like," said Duke guard Jon Scheyer. "It's not something I want to relive.""
Kyle Singler feature: "A 6-foot-8 forward who scores in the lane and from 3-point range, Singler was voted the ACC tournament's most valuable player and is averaging 21 points per game over Duke's past nine games. His true value to the team goes far beyond scoring, representing the essence of what Duke basketball players have been under Mike Krzyzewski. Many an opposing coach has admired the effort Krzyzewski gets out of his McDonald's All-Americans in a game where some elite recruits don't display the hustle to match their ability. Consider Singler the poster child for Duke's hustle . Krzyzewski said Singler "plays with abandon" and ranks among the top players he's coached in terms of being competitive."
Jon Scheyer Q&A with Matt Hayes: "How difficult is it to not look too far ahead in the tournament, considering the draw in the region—and considering Duke's recent history in the tournament? JS: I think this group of guys, we just scared ourselves two years ago when we were a No. 2 seed and we had a really close game. We know better than everybody that you have to be ready for every game in this tournament. There's no problem; we're going to be ready to go."