Cal basketball: Charles Barkley expecting big things from Bears, who open vs. Hawaii

Analyst Charles Barkley may not always appreciate the Warriors but he gave some love to Cal on Selection Sunday, calling the Golden Bears the most talented team in the country aside from North Carolina.

“We appreciate Charles for the shoutout,” Cal freshman Jaylen Brown said. “Now we’ve got to make sure we live up to the potential everyone says we have.”

The Bears (23-10) were given a No. 4 seed – their highest since the selection committee began the seeding process in 1979 – and will face Hawaii on Friday in Spokane, Washington. The game will be televised on TBS, with an 11 a.m. PT tipoff.

Cal is playing in its 19th NCAA tournament, its first since 2013.

The Rainbow Warriors (27-5), coached by former Saint Mary’s College assistant Eran Ganot, were regular-season co-champs and tournament winner in the Big West Conference. One of their top players is senior point guard Roderick Bobbitt, an Oakland native and former Castro Valley High star.

The Cal-Hawaii winner will advance to Sunday to face either No. 5 Maryland (25-8) or No. 12 South Dakota State (26-7).

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Cal basketball: A quick look at Hawaii

A look at Cal’s first-round opponent in the NCAA tournament:


How they got here: Big West Conference tournament champion.

Record: 27-5 overall, 13-3/tied 1st in Big West Conference.

Streak: Won 3 in row.

Recent NCAA history: Hawaii is making its fifth NCAA appearance, its first since 2002.

All-time series vs. Cal: The Bears lead 11-1. The teams have not met since the 1998-99 season, when Cal won 71-60.

School location: Honolulu, Hawaii.

Coach: Eran Ganot, 1st season.

Top players: PF Stefan Jankovic (6-11, 245, junior) 15.7 points, 6.6 rebounds; SG Aaron Valdes 6-5, 190, junior) 14.6 points, 5.5 rebounds; PG Roderick Bobbitt (6-3, 205, senior) 13.3 points, 4.2 rebounds, 5.5 assists

What else you should know: Ganot came to Hawaii from Saint Mary’s College, where he served as assistant head coach. His staff includes John Montgomery, son of former Cal and Stanford coach Mike Montomery. . . . Bobbitt is an Oakland native and Castro Valley High graduate who scored 32 points in an 84-81 loss to Oklahoma and had two other 30-point games this season. He also dished 14 assists in a win over Montana State. . . . Leading scorer Jankovic began his career at Missouri, and has played the past two seasons at Hawaii.


Cal basketball: Bears earn No. 4 seed in NCAAs, to face Hawaii in Spokane on Friday

Cal earned a No. 4 seed will face Hawaii on Friday at Spokane, Washington, in the opening round of the NCAA tournament, ending a three-year drought in the event.

The Golden Bears (23-10) will tackle the No. 13 Rainbow Warriors (27-5), winners of the Big West Conference. John Montgomery, son of former Cal coach Mike Montgomery, is an assistant coach for Hawaii.

It’s Cal’s highest seeding in the tournament since the NCAA instituted the seeding process in 1979. Previously, the Bears were seeded No. 5 in 1994 and ’97.

Game times and TV information are expected to be announced late Sunday.

Cal, which tied for third in the Pac-12 and has won of nine of its past 11 games, faces the prospect of playing either No. 5 Maryland (25-8) or No. 12 South Dakota State (26-7) in a second-round game on Sunday.

This is Cal’s 19th trip to the NCAA tournament, its first under second-year coach Cuonzo Martin. The Bears beat UNLV then lost to Syracuse in their most recent NCAA appearance in 2013.

Pac-12 regular-season and tournament champion Oregon was tabbed as the No. 1 seed in the West, joining top seeds North Carolina, Kansas and Virginia.

Cal split two games with Oregon and nearly upset Virginia on the road.


Cal basketball: No heads hanging in Bears’ locker room after overtime loss to Utah

Disappointment mixed with exhaustion in the Cal locker room after the Bears lost 82-78 in overtime to Utah in the semifinals of the Pac-12 tournament at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Friday night.

But even after being denied just their third trip ever to the tournament’s final night, the Bears weren’t feeling sorry for themselves.

“It hurts, but at the same time it’s not the end of the season for us,” said Jabari Bird, who twice in the final 34 seconds of regulation seemingly won the game fopr the Bears.

“On to the NCAA tournament,” added teammate Jordan Mathews.

The 24th-ranked Bears (23-10) had plenty of chances to win before losing for just the second time in 11 games. They will learn their NCAA opponent and destination on Sunday.

Cal had designs on winning its first Pac-12 tournament title, but Utah center Jakob Poeltl had different ideas. The sophomore 7-footer from Austria, contained reasonably well in the first half, scored five of his 29 points in overtime and the 12th-ranked Utes (26-7) got the last word in a game that featured 16 lead changes and did not end until 11:45 p.m.

“Poeltl made big baskets,” Cal coach Cuonzo Martin said. “I guess that’s why he’s MVP of the league.”

The No. 2 seed Utes will play in the championship game Saturday night against top-seeded Oregon, which won its own overtime game, 95-89, to send home defending tournament champion Arizona.

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Pac-12 tournament: Oregon escapes Arizona in OT

Top-seeded Oregon survived a last-second inbounds gaffe in regulation to claim a 95-89 overtime victory over Arizona in the first semifinal game of the Pac-12 tournament at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on Friday night.

The Ducks (27-6) will play either Cal or Utah on Saturday night, hoping to add a Pac-12 tournament title to the regular-season crown they won. Tipoff is 7 p.m.

Oregon never trailed and led by as many as 17 points before the defending tournament champion Wildcats (25-8) closed with a rush. They got within 77-76 on a 3-pointer by Gabe York with 0.7 seconds left, but Oregon only needed to inbound the ball to secure the win.

Instead, Chris Boucher briefly froze, then threw the ball to Arizona forward Mark Tollefsen, who was fouled as he tried hoisting a 10-foot shot from the left baseline.

A graduate transfer from USF and native of Danville, Tollefsen missed the first free throw, then made the second to force overtime.

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Pac-12 basketball: Conference tournament moving to new Las Vegas arena in 2017

After four seasons playing at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott announced Friday that the conference tournament will be moved to the city’s new T-Mobile Arena beginning next season.

The Pac-12 signed a three-year deal to play in the 18,500-seat facility after a unanimous vote of the league’s presidents and chancellors. The new arena is located virtually across the street from the MGM Grand.

“The fundamentals of why we’re here in Las Vegas have exceeded our expectations, and we’re confident there is a lot more capacity,” said Scott, who moved the event to Las Vegas in 2013 after a run at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

“Moreover, the T-Mobile Arena is going to be a place fans want to see. It will create a level of excitement that will help grow the event.”

The MGM Grand Garden Arena, with a capacity of 12,916, sold out every session this year for the first time. Because tickets in the early rounds are sold for two-game sessions, there often are empty seats when a particular fan base exits after its team has played.


Cal basketball: Five keys to beating Utah

Cal and Utah clash for the third time this season Friday night in the semifinals of the Pac-12 tournament at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

Tipoff is 8:45 pm, with the winner advancing to Saturday’s championship game. The Bears (23-9) split two games this season with the Utes (24-7) and are gunning for their first Pac-12 tournament title.

Here are five keys to Cal beating the Utes:

— Pressure Poeltl: The Bears are unlikely to stop Utah center Jakob Poeltl. The 7-foot Austrian, who was Pac-12 Player of the Year, totaled 40 points and 19 rebounds in two games against Cal. But big men Kingsley Okoroh and Kameron Rooks avoid severe foul trouble, stay on the floor and at least make Poeltl work for whatever he gets.

— Neutralize Kuzma: Poeltl’s frontcourt sidekick, 6-foot-9 sophomore Kyle Kuzma, is one of the Pac-12’s most underrated players. He shot 11 for 12 from the field and scored 23 points in the Utes’ quarterfinal win over USC. The Bears cannot allow a repeat of that performance. When the teams met in Salt Lake City, Kuzma shot 6 for 9 and scored 15 points in a Utah victory. But at Berkeley, they held Kuzma to 2 points on 1 for 7 from the field and the Bears won.

— Limit turnovers: When the Bears don’t give the ball away, they can be very good. Too often — including in Thursday’s win over Oregon State when they squandered an early 17-5 lead — they are careless with the ball. Five giveaways in less than 7 minutes allowed OSU to fight back within 19-17. It was game on from there.

— Stretch the defense: Utah, with its frontline size, will make it difficult for the Bears to score in the paint out of their halfcourt offense. Ball movement will be imperative as Cal tries to find good perimeter shots for Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews. If they find the range, the inside opens up.

— Finish strong: Only a collapse in the final 2 minutes at Arizona last week stands between the Bears and a 10-game win streak. It was not unlike their finishing fizzle at Virginia where they had positioned themselves for a huge road win. The difference against OSU on Thursday was an efficient dash to the finish line. They scored 19 points in the final five minutes, without a turnover.


Cal basketball: Coach Cuonzo Martin working second season without signed contract

Cuonzo Martin, coach of one of the nation’s hottest college basketball teams, is working his second season at Cal without a signed contract.

Cal athletic director Mike Williams confirmed that the Bears’ coach still is operating off his original term sheet – not a signed contract – but that Williams expects Martin to remain at Berkeley beyond this season.

“I certainly do,” he said. “I’m prepared to do what I need to do to keep him happy. I’d love to have him at Cal for as long as he wants to be at Cal.”

The 24th-ranked Bears (23-9) had won nine of 10 games entering Friday night’s semifinal matchup with No. 12 Utah in the semifinals of the Pac-12 tournament at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

The Bears are expected to be named Sunday to the NCAA tournament, where Martin likely will be the only coach operating without a signed contract. Williams said negotiations will resume after the season.

“I’ll tell you right now, we don’t want to rock this boat,” he said.

Martin was directing a game-day practice session when called and not immediately available for comment.

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Cal basketball: Pac Networks love for Jordan Mathews

Pac-12 Networks analysts Lamar Hurd and Kevin O’Neill dished some serious on-air praise toward Cal junior guard Jordan Mathews in the post-game show Thursday night after Mathews scored 17 points in the Bears’ win over Oregon State in the Pac-12 tournament.

Hurd, a former Beavers player, said: “He is the MVP of their team. Yes, even with the lottery picks, he is the most valuable guy. We’re talking about the guy that you cannot go without and it’s him.

“KO (O’Neill) uses the one word that describes him the best – constant. He is always going to show up and even if he’s off, you still have to defend him to 25 feet.”

O’Neill, the former Arizona and USC coach, has referred to Mathews as the Bears’ MVP in the past.

“He’s as good a player mentally and physically combined as there is in the Pac-12,” O’Neill said.