The California Golden Bears will get the chance to host at least two NIT tournament games if they decide to play up to their potential. But they do not have an easy bracket to get to Madison Square Garden.
The NIT bracket for Cal to get to MSG. Potential rematch with Arkansas in the 2nd round, then probably SMU. pic.twitter.com/fMZDqt3b61— GoldenBlogs (@GoldenBlogs) March 17, 2014
Cal starts with WAC regular season champions Utah Valley on Wednesday night. You can watch online on ESPN3. They then have a Maui Invitational rematch looming with Arkansas (if they can get past Indiana State). In all likelihood, they will then have to travel to Dallas and try and upset an SMU team that was the first team out of the NCAA tournament.
This isn't an easy bracket. Cal should be able to beat Utah Valley, but this could one of those dangerous "no one's motivated to play" games. Additionally, rematches are never fun, particularly against an athletic Arkansas team that was capable of sweeping talented Kentucky. and was peaking near the end of the season. The good news is both of our first two games are at home, we generally play really well against non-conference opponents at home, and we should have a good shot at getting to the quarterfinals.
There the road gets really difficult, as SMU possesses one of the best defenses in the country, has played Louisville and Virginia close, and beaten Cincinnati and UConn. Our best hope for getting to New York City would be an upset from UC Irvine, San Francisco or LSU.
UPDATE: Quotes from Monty.
Montgomery says #Cal was one game away from NCAA Tournament, but at the end of the day, Bears put themselves in tough spot.— Ryan Gorcey (@RGBearTerritory) March 17, 2014
"We've got nobody to blame but ourselves," Montgomery said. #Cal #NIT— Ryan Gorcey (@RGBearTerritory) March 17, 2014
Montgomery has known the Utah Valley coach for "quite a long time," and his team will be "very well-prepared."— Ryan Gorcey (@RGBearTerritory) March 17, 2014
"Our strength has not necessarily been in coming out and playing hard every game," Mike Montgomery says. #Cal #NIT— Ryan Gorcey (@RGBearTerritory) March 17, 2014
Concern for Montgomery is the "mental health" of his team right now.— Ryan Gorcey (@RGBearTerritory) March 17, 2014
"Our concern right now is to try and play better basketball than we have," Montgomery says. #Cal #NIT— Ryan Gorcey (@RGBearTerritory) March 17, 2014
Montgomery on Utah Valley: "They're probably pretty excited ... It's a death knell if you don't want to be there." #Cal #NIT— Ryan Gorcey (@RGBearTerritory) March 17, 2014
Montgomery says the Bears did not hang around all afternoon "just to be disappointed." #Cal #NIT— Ryan Gorcey (@RGBearTerritory) March 17, 2014