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Basketball: How many wins do Bears need?

Don’t expect any enlightenment from Mike Montgomery by asking how his Golden Bears fit into the NCAA tournament selection picture.

“It doesn’t make any difference what I think,” he said this week. “If I was sitting in the room and drawing brackets, `Cal’s in.’ I’m not in the room. Everybody’s going to have a different opinion.

“There’s a lot of (Pac-12) teams capable of being representative in the NCAA tournament and we’re certainly among them.”

But how close — or how far — are the 19-12 Bears to hearing their name called on Selection Sunday as they enter the Pac-12 tournament as a No. 4 seed?

What do they have to achieve, beginning Thursday when they face Colorado or USC in the semifinals at the MGM Grand Garden Arena?

This much we can be fairly sure of: Cal had better win at least once this week.

Quite possibly, the Bears need a pair of wins. That would get them into the Pac-12 tournament championship game, and require a second victory over regular-season champ Arizona in the Friday semifinals.

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Basketball: What do the Bears need to achieve in Las Vegas to secure NCAA tournament spot?

Asked Saturday after Cal’s 66-65 overtime win over Colorado what the Bears need to get done at the Pac-12 tournament to assure themselves a spot in the NCAA field, senior Justin Cobbs acknowledged, “I wish I could tell you.”

Then he provided the only sure-thing road map to good news from the NCAA selection committee next Sunday.

“I’d be happy if we could win it,” he said. “Right now we’re playting with a lot of confidence. Just play every game like it’s your last.”

Now 19-12, 10-8 in the Pac-12 and owner of the No. 4 (and first-round bye in the conference tournament), the Bears won for just the second time in their past six games.

They were listed among the “first teams out” of the field in CBS Sports bracketologist Jerry Palm’s Sunday projections.

Palm said he’s constantly asked this time of year, “How many conference tournament games do we have to win to get in?”

His answer: “All of them. That’s the only sure thing. Yes, fewer might do, but the only way to control your own destiny is to win them all. Otherwise, your team is at the mercy of what other teams do.”

The Bears got no help Sunday when another bubble team, Nebraska, scored a big road win over No. 9 Wisconsin. The Cornhuskers improved to 19-11 overall, 11-7 in the Big Ten with their eighth win in nine games.

So it’s not just what Cal does beginning Thursday in the Pac-12 quarterfinals. It’s how others fare also.

A lot of moving parts, and the Bears still need a bunch of them to fall into place.

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Basketball: Lunardi still giving Bears love

ESPN.com bracketologist Joe Lunardi continues to include slumping Cal in his NCAA tournament projection, although he now says the Bears among his last four teams with byes into the main 64-team bracket.

Lunardi projects Cal as a No. 10 seed, shuffling off to Buffalo to face No. 7 UMasas.

He has seven Pac-12 schools in the field, topped by No. 1 seed Arizona.

Also making the cut are No. 5 UCLA, No. 8 Arizona State, No. 10 Stanford, No. 10 Colorado and, in a first-four “play in” game, No. 12 Oregon.

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In the NCAA’s new official RPI computer rankings, Cal checks in at No. 53 — six spots lower than before losing at Arizona and Arizona State last week.

Arizona is No. 1, followed by UCLA at No. 19, ASU at No. 28, Colorado at No. 30, Oregon at No. 33 and Stanford at No. 42.

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Basketball: UCLA tips off big week for Bears

With three weeks left in the Pac-12 regular season, the possibilities for the Cal and Stanford men’s basketball teams seem to be growing, not shrinking.

For Cal (18-7, 8-4), tied for third with Arizona State after a road sweep in Washington, there suddenly is a path opening to the conference championship.

And for Stanford (16-8, 7-5), still residing in the upper division of a conference getting increased respect from the bracketology crowd, the road to its first NCAA tournament bid in six seasons has become less cluttered.

But it all starts this week with UCLA.

The 23rd-ranked Bruins (20-5, 9-3) visit Cal on Wednesday and Stanford on Saturday. UCLA was impressive in beating both Bay Area schools in Los Angeles a month ago, but has shown vulnerability on the road in losses at Utah and Oregon State.

If the Bears or Cardinal can hold serve at home, the race at the top tightens.

Cal’s win over then-unbeaten Arizona demonstrated the Bears can play with anyone in the Pac-12, when properly inspired. They should be plenty motivated against UCLA, given what’s at stake.

Click here to read the rest of my college basketball column.

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Basketball: Bears play way into Lunardi’s field

Five straight victories — three of them on the road to open the Pac-12 schedule — have elevated Cal into ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi’s latest NCAA tournament field.

Lunardi projects the Bears as a No. 10 seed and has them playing No. 7 Michigan in St. Louis.

Update: RealtimeRPI.com has boosted Cal to No. 29 in its latest rankings.

Cal is one of six Pac-12 schools Lunardi now envisions in the field, including Stanford, whom he projects playing in the play-in game against Minnesota for a No. 12 seed.

Others he sees in the bracket are Arizona at No. 1, Oregon at No. 6, Colorado at No. 6, UCLA at No. 8. Arizona State is listed as one of the first four out.

Golf: No. 1 Bears stunned in NCAA semifinals

Top-seeded Cal’s dreams of a national championship were derailed in semifinals of NCAA tournament match play on Saturday, as 15th-seeded Illinois posted a 3-2 upset victory over the Bears.

Cal had hoped to complete a spectacular season in which it had won 11 of 13 previous tournaments, including both the Pac-12 and NCAA regional events. Instead, the Bears bowed out in the semifinals for the second straight season.

The Illini will meet No. 2-seeded Alabama in the final Sunday morning.

Illinois’ Thomas Pieters clinched a 1-up victory on the 20th hole with a par. Cal’s Max Homa, the tournament medalist, made bogey when his 8-foot par putt missed to the left of the hole.

Michael Weaver got a win for Cal with a 1 up verdict over Thomas Detry. Brandon Hagy also prevailed, beating Alex Burge 4 and 3.

The Illini’s other wins came courtesy of Brian Campbell, who scored a 2 and 1 win over Michael Kim, and Charlie Danielson, who beat Joel Stalter 3 and 2.

Alabama defeated host Georgia Tech 3-0-2 in the other semifinal. Alabama will make its second consecutive trip to the final match; the Crimson Tide lost to Texas in the championship last year.

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Golf: Bears move into NCAA semifinals

Top-seeded Cal advanced to the semifinal round of the NCAA golf championships on Friday with a 3-2 match play win over Pac-12 rival Arizona State at the Capital City Club in suburban Atlanta.

The Bears, who have won 11 of 13 tournaments this season, face No. 5 Illinois in Saturday’s semifinals. Illinois knocked off fourth-seeded and defending national champion Texas 3-2.

Cal got victories from Max Homa — coming off his NCAA individual title on Thursday — Joel Stalter and Brandon Hagy.

Homa defeated Trey Ka’ahanui 3 and 2, Stalter defeated Max Rottluff 1 up, and Hagy beat John Rahm 2 up.

Michael Weaver lost on the 19th hole to ASU’s Austin Quick, and Michael Kim, the nation’s top-ranked collegiate golfer at season’s end, fell 1 up to Spencer Lawson.

Cal reached the NCAA semifinals last year before losing to Alabama.

In the other quarterfinal matches, No. 2 Georgia Tech beat UNLV 3-2 and No. 3 Alabama handled New Mexico 4-1.

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Golf: Max Homa wins NCAA individual title, Golden Bears earn top seed for match play

Max Homa became Cal’s first individual NCAA golf champion and the top-ranked Golden Bears earned the No. 1 seed entering Friday’s quarterfinal round of match play at Capital City Club in suburban Atlanta.

Homa (70-65-66 – 201), a senior from Valencia, birdied three of his first five holes Thursday, led most of the round and finished nine-under par after a bogey-free round.  

Cal (277-272-275 – 824, -16) posted the lowest team score at the end of 54 holes of stroke play and will play No. 8 seed Arizona State in the first of four quarterfinals Friday beginning at 10 a.m. ET/7 a.m. PT.

Also advancing to the quarterfinals are No. 2 Georgia Tech, No. 3 Alabama and No. 4 Texas, the defending NCAA champion. Match play runs through Sunday, when the national team champion is crowned.

Brandon Hagy (66-69-70 – 205) finished five under and in a tie for eighth place. Sophomore Michael Kim, (72-70-70 – 212) the nation’s top-ranked player entering the NCAAs, and Joel Stalter (69-68-75 – 137) finished in a tie for 75th and Michael Weaver , 

 

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Golf: Bears fifth after Day 1 at NCAAs

The top-seeded Golden Bears sit in fifth place after the first day of stroke play at the NCAA Championships at the Capital City Club in suburban Atlanta.

Cal shot a three-under par 277 and is seven strokes behind surprise first-round leader Arizona State, which is rated No. 38 nationally by GolfStat. The Sun Devils have a four-stroke lead over second-place Georgia Tech, with Alabama and Illinois five and six strokes back, respectively.

The teams will continue stroke play Wednesday and Thursday with the top eight after 54 holes advancing to the quarter-final round of match play, starting Friday. 

Brandon Hagy led the Bears with a four-under par 66 — the lowest round by a Cal golfer at the NCAAs since Jeff Hood had an opening-round 65 in 2004, the year the Bears won their only national championship.

Joel Stalter had a one-under 69 and Max Homa checked in with an even-par 70. Top-ranked Michael Kim carded a 72 and Michael Weaver, who played at the Masters this spring, had a birdie-free 74.

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Track: Bears’ Stewart earns NCAA bid

Senior Ray Stewart breezed to qualification for the NCAA track and field championships, winning his heat and posting the day’s fourth-fastest time at the NCAA West Preliminary meet at Austin, Texas.

Stewart, from James Logan HS and Merritt College, ran 13.65 seconds for the second-fastest wind-legal time of the day.

Senior Amanda Hunter qualified in the women’s triple jump with a wind-aided mark of 42 feet, 8 inches for 10th place. The top 12 qualified for the NCAA championships, June 5-8.  Earlier, Hunter also qualified in the long  jump.

Cal’s 4×100 men’s relay team of Julius Travis, Tom Blocker, Dash Oliver and Stewart ran fourth in 40.58, but moved up to third and a qualifying bid when Texas A&M was disqualified.