Mike Montgomery has given his team a road map to the postseason:
“Coach says we need to win two out of these next three games,” senior Markhuri Sanders-Frison said.
At 14-13, two more regular-season wins would guarantee Cal a winning record. Even with a first-round loss in the Pac-10 tournament, the Bears could do no worse than 16-15, and that would make them eligible for the NIT.
“I just said that if you want to play postseason, you’ve got to win two out of these last three games,” Montgomery said. “Our goal is to win all three of them. The reality of it is to play postseason and have a winning record, you’ve got to win two out of three.”
Sanders-Frison said he can’t spend any time focusing on the NIT.
“We just want to keep on playing,” he said. “We want to aim for the stars and land on the clouds.
“We’d love to be in that March Madness. If it’s the NIT, as long as we’re playing, I think this group of guys will be satisfied with that.”
Montgomery said he believes there has been some communication between NIT officials and Cal’s athletic administration.
“At this point I think we would want to try to host (a game),” he said.
Cal is tied with Washington State for sixth place at 7-8 in the conference, just one-half game back of Oregon and USC, both at 7-7. USC plays first-place Arizona on Thursday, so a Cal win over the Ducks the same night could elevate the Bears to fourth place.
As much as the Bears would like a top-four finish, placing in the top six is critical because it would allow the Bears to avoid having to play in a 7-10 or 8-9 game on Wednesday night in the Pac-10 tournament.
“I think we’re going to make that happen,” Sanders-Frison said. “And I think personally we’re going to go into the Pac-10 tournament and do some damage.”
Asked to be more specific, he said, “Getting to the championship game. We owe a couple people some beating-ups. We let it slip by a couple times. They know that. We’re coming back during that tournament to get those W’s back.”
Montgomery said he’s not sure any team, except perhaps Washington (which beat Cal decisively twice) would welcome playing the Bears in the conference tournament.
“On any given game,” he said, “I think guys feel they can beat anybody, and I think that’s true. It’s proven itself out.”