13

Basketball: Stanford post-mortem

First of all, apologies for our technical problems Wednesday night. The Internet connection at Haas Pavilion was shaky too — probably the result of having 11,877 folks in the building — but that has nothing to do with our blog issues. I have informed the proper authorities and we will see if we can find a permanent remedy.

Now, about last night . . .

WHAT HAPPENED: The Bears played seven games in a row where they either performed superbly or, at worst, well enough to win. Defensively, they’d been very good. That was not the case against Stanford. Coach Mike Montgomery said they were “passive” on defense, and I thought they panicked on offense when the game started to get away early in the second half.

The fact is, Stanford’s not a great matchup for Cal because the Cardinal big men are effective playing on the perimeter, where Cal’s bigs cannot easily guard them. When Richard Solomon went out with his fourth foul, Montgomery actually went with Ricky Kreklow — who hadn’t played since Jan. 3 — instead of Robert Thurman, because Thurman can’t guard either Dwight Powell or Josh Huestis 20 feet from the basket.

Even so, a disappointing effort if you’re a Cal fan. The season’s first sellout, everything on the line, riding a hot streak and playing the rival school . . . you’d expect more from the Bears.

FALLOUT: None from the Pac-12 office, which announced Thursday there will be no further punishment for anyone involved in the late-game skirmish. To be honest, there were no real punches delivered, so it was more shoving than fighting. And we know shoving at Haas Pavilion this season, right?

Bottom line, the incident was unfortunate and got the two schools some unwanted airtime on ESPN. But it was hardly the crime of the century.

And, frankly, I didn’t see any way the Pac-12 office was going to suspend anyone from a team that may feel like it needs a win in the conference tournament to assure itself a spot in the NCAAs. One less Pac-12 team in the field, a lot less $$$. Pragmatism rules the day.

EMOTIONAL BAGGAGE: We’ll find out some things about this team next Thursday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Leadership has been a season-long question, and someone will have to make sure the Bears are able to put this game in their rear-view mirror. Certainly they have plenty of down time to get past it. Almost too much, Montgomery said this week. But maybe an extra day or two will help in this instance, where Cal must refocus to what’s next, not what was lost. 

SECOND CHANCES: Rumor has it the Bears still can earn a share of the Pac-12 title? Well, yes, but don’t count on it. They need two Oregon losses — tonight at Colorado (maybe) and Saturday at Utah (don’t think so), plus a UCLA loss Saturday morning at Washington (possible). At this point, they seem most likely to wind up with a No. 3 seed for the Pac-12 tournament. 

THE BIG PICTURE: The Bears dropped from No. 43 to No. 50 in the RealTimeRPI.com rankings — a sizable slide for one defeat. But ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi still doesn’t have them among his “last four byes,” meaning the last four teams to squeeze in to the dreaded “First Four” NCAA tournament games in Dayton, Ohio. If you slip to that point, you get very nervous. Short of that, Cal probably still is on solid footing.

On the other hand, a win next Thursday in Vegas couldn’t hurt.

Jeff Faraudo