Basketball: Bears have only one route to NCAAs

The Pac-12 tournament begins Wednesday in Las Vegas, but don’t expect the results of the four-day event at the MGM Grand Garden Arena to create a seismic shift in the NCAA tournament landscape.

The bracket won’t be unveiled until Sunday, but the Pac-12′s fate is all but set, thanks to a season-long body of work that is short of impressive. Barring the unexpected, three Pac-12 teams — Arizona, Oregon and Utah — will receive NCAA invites.

Eight others, including Cal and Stanford, arrive in Vegas knowing that nothing short of winning the league’s automatic bid on Saturday night will get them to the NCAAs. Cal opens the tournament against Washington State at noon, and Stanford closes the first day with an 8:40 p.m. tipoff against Washington.

Only UCLA comes to the Pac-12 tournament on the bubble, with a shot at an at-large bid even if it doesn’t reach the tournament final.

Click here to read my preview of the tournament.


Football: Three priorities for spring ball

Here are three issues the Bears want to address during spring ball:

Embrace the possibilities

After improving from one victory in 2013 to five last fall, the Bears want more in 2015. The process begins this spring.

“I think everybody associated with the program is expecting better things,” Coach Sonny Dykes said. “We’re a program that’s growing up. When that happens, certainly you have higher expectations.”

“We want to win, but we have to get a lot better between now and fall. We know that,” said junior quarterback Jared Goff, who passed for 7,476 yards and 53 touchdowns his first two seasons.

“There were so many opportunities we had to be a bowl team and win seven or eight games last season. That’s the next step.”

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Football: Dykes likes early showing by young QBs

If Luke Rubenzer really does wind up playing defense next fall — or anywhere other than quarterback — the Bears are in the market for a backup to Jared Goff.

Coach Sonny Dykes liked what he saw Monday from redshirt freshman Chase Forrest and incoming mid-year freshman Ross Bowers.

“I was pleasantly surprised with both of them,” he said after the Bears’ opening spring workout. “I thought Chase Forrest kind picked up where he left off from the fall. And I thought Ross showed a lot of composure for the first time out. I thought he was good. I was pleased with Ross, I really was.

“Good things out of both of them. Obviously, a lot of work to do. It’s really early and the first time either of them got extended reps. We’ll see how it plays out. But I thought for Day 1, it was pretty good.”


Football: Rubenzer gets a look at safety


Cal backup quarterback Luke Rubenzer spent the first day of spring practice at safety.

Honest. I’m in Las Vegas covering basketball, so this was news to me, too.

Rubenzer said the coaching staff approached him a few weeks ago about possibly redshirting next season, likely because they didn’t want to use another year of his eligibility with Jared Goff as the clear starter.

Redshirting did not appeal to Rubenzer, who got a fair amount of game action as a true freshman last fall, giving the Bears a backup quarterback with running ability.

“I think it would be really hard to do that as much as I did last year. I think it would be really hard to sit out a year,” he told reporters after practice. “I just said I wanted to play.”

At that point, he explained, offensive coordinator Tony Franklin told him defensive coordinator Art Kaufman was interested in getting a look at him on defense. Rubenzer, who played safety in high school at Scottsdale, Arizona, isn’t sure his quarterback days may not be over.

“I just felt like I could help on that side of the ball a little more this year than I can on offense,” he said. “It’s not necessarily a 100-percent permanent thing. But I’ll give it a shot. Just try to find a way onto the field and find ways to win.”

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Football: Brennan Scarlett will transfer . . . to Stanford?

I’m in Las Vegas for the WCC and Pac-12 basketball tournaments, but word from Berkeley is that senior defensive end Brennan Scarlett has been granted his release to transfer and likely is headed to Stanford.

Update: After Monday’s practice, coach Sonny Dykes confirmed to reporters that Scarlett has received his released and intends to transfer.

Scarlett,  who will graduate this spring, has one year of eligibility year and is expected to be able to play immediately next fall. He would join his brother, freshman-to-be running back Cameron Scarlett, a four-star recruit from Portland, Oregon.

Staff writer Jimmy Durkin is covering Cal’s first day of spring workouts Monday and he filed this report.


Basketball: Wallace earns all-Pac-12 honors

Cal junior guard Tyrone Wallace picked up first-team all-Pac-12 honors as voted by the league’s coaches.

Wallace was one of the league’s most productive and versatile players, averaging 17.2 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.8 assists for the Bears, who open Pac-12 tournament play Wednesday against Washington State.

Oregon senior guard Joseph Young and coach Dana Altman, who guided the Ducks to a surprising tie for second place in the Pac-12, won the league’s top honors.

Young earned Pac-12 Player of the Year after scoring 19.8 points per game for an Oregon team that won 11 of its final 13 regular-season games. He also led the conference in free-throw accuracy and 3-pointers per game.

Altman, whose Ducks were picked to finish eighth in a Pac-12 preseason media poll, was voted the John R. Wooden Coach of the Year. Oregon will be the No. 2 seed in the Pac-12 tournament, beginning Wednesday in Las Vegas.

Arizona’s Stanley Johnson was named Freshman of the Year in a vote of the league’s coaches, Washington State’s Josh Hawkinson was named Most Improved Player of the Year, and Oregon State’s Gary Payton II was chosen as Defensive Player of the Year.


Women’s basketball: Bears fall short in title game

Cal lost 61-60 to 19th-ranked Stanford in the championship game of the Pac-12 women’s basketball tournament in Seattle.

The fourth-seeded Bears (23-9) fell short of winning their first Pac-12 tournament title. Third-seeded Stanford (24-9) won its 11th conference tournament crown and the league’s automatic NCAA tournament bid.

Both schools are expected to be first- and second-round NCAA tournament hosts. ESPN.com’s Charlie Crème had both projected as No. 4 seeds.

Cal played 13 first-half minutes without star senior point guard Brittany Boyd, who took an accidental elbow to her left cheek 4 minutes into the game and left the floor bleeding. She finished with seven points on 2-for-9 shooting, along with two rebounds, three assists and four steals in 27 minutes.

Likewise, senior forward Reshanda Gray was saddled with foul trouble and scored just six points in 29 minutes.

Stanford led by four points before Mercedes Jefflo made a 3-pointer for the Bears just before the final horn.

“That was a really good game. I thought Stanford was a little bit better than us in some critical moments and made some plays,” Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. “But we took a punch literally and figuratively — our leader and point guard goes out with blood gushing — and everybody else rallies and that was something I’m proud of.”

Courtney Range led Cal with 17 points, Jefflo scored 16 and Mikayla Cowling added 14. Taylor Greenfield scored a career-high 20 points for Stanford.


Women’s basketball: Bears into Pac-12 title-game

Seniors Brittany Boyd and Reshanda Gray powered the fourth-seeded Golden Bears to a 68-55 win over Colorado and into Sunday’s championship game of the Pac-12 women’s basketball tournament against Stanford.

The rivals square off at 6 p.m. in an ESPN game with the league’s automatic NCAA tournament bid on the line.

Boyd had 18 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and four steals and Gray had 17 points and 10 rebounds for the Bears (23-8).

Cal turned 16 Colorado turnovers into 20 points.


Basketball: Pac-12 tournament bracket


Wednesday-Saturday, March 11-14, 2015

MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas, Nev.

Wednesday, Mar. 11

Game 1 – No. 8 CALIFORNIA vs. No. 9 WASHINGTON STATE, 12:10 p.m., P12N

Game 2 – No. 5 ARIZONA STATE vs. No. 12 USC, approx. 2:40 p.m., P12N

Game 3 – No. 7 OREGON STATE vs. No. 10 COLORADO, 6:10 p.m., P12N

Game 4 – No. 6 STANFORD vs. No. 11 WASHINGTON, approx. 8:40 p.m., P12N

Thursday, Mar. 12

Game 5 – No. 8/9 vs. No. 1 ARIZONA, 12:10 p.m., P12N

Game 6 – No. 5/12 vs. No. 4 UCLA, approx. 2:40 p.m., P12N

Game 7 – No. 7/10 vs. No. 2 OREGON, 6:10 p.m., P12N

Game 8 – No. 6/11 vs. No. 3 UTAH, approx. 8:40 p.m., ESPN

Friday, Mar. 13

Semifinal 1, 6:10 p.m., P12N

Semifinal 2, approx. 8:45 p.m., ESPN

Saturday, Mar. 14

Championship Game, 8:05 p.m., ESPN


Basketball: Bears fall short at Arizona State

* Click here for our correspondent’s game story.

Cal closed the Pac-12 regular season with a 74-70 loss at Arizona State, dropping the Golden Bears into Wednesday’s 12:10 p.m. game at the conference tournament.

The Bears (17-14, 7-11) will be seeded No. 8 and face No. 9 Washington State in the Pac-12 tournament opening game. Cal and WSU split their two regular-season games, each winning on the other team’s floor.

If Cal beats the Cougars, it will advance to the quarterfinals to face top-seeded, regular-season champion Arizona on Thursday at 12:10 p.m.

Cal started fast against ASU, fell behind, then could not close out a late rally.

“We gave ourselves a chance,” coach Cuonzo Martin said. “We just came up short.”

The Bears have dropped four of their past five games.

Tyrone Wallace had 23 points and six rebounds for the Bears, Jabari  Bird scored 13, and Jordan Mathews and Sam Singer had 11 apiece.

Cal led 9-0 early and made eight of its first 10 shots. But the Bears converted just two of 20 shots after that before making one in the final 37 seconds of the half. Then they missed their first six free throws of the second half, eventually finishing at 8 for 15 for the game.

Down 63-53 with 6 1/2 minutes to go, the Bears got within striking distance but Mathews missed a late 3-pointer that could have tied the game.