Bears to Face North Carolina State in NCAA Tournament

March 16, 2003

California Golden Bears (21-8, 13-5 Pac-10) vs. North Carolina State Wolfpack (18-12, 9-7 ACC)
Thursday, March 20, Ford Center, Oklahoma City, OK
Radio: KFRC (610 AM)
Time: 9:25 a.m. PT

California makes its 13th overall and third consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament this week when the Golden Bears face North Carolina State Thursday in Oklahoma City. Cal is the eighth seed in the East Region, while the Wolfpack is seeded ninth.

The winner of Thursday's match-up will play the winner of the game between No.1 Oklahoma and 16th-seeded South Carolina State Saturday.

The regional semifinals and final will be held at the Pepsi Arena in Albany, N.Y., March 28-30, with the Final Four at the Superdome in New Orleans April 5-7.

Last year, Cal was the sixth seed in the South Regional in Pittsburgh, Pa., and defeated No. 11 Penn, 82-75, before losing to third-seeded Pittsburgh, 63-50, in the second round.The last time the Bears were a No. 8 seed, they lost their opening contest to Fresno State, 82-70, in Memphis in 2001.

Cal is in the East Region for the second time. In 1997, the Bears reached the Sweet 16 by beating Princeton (55-52) and Villanova (75-68) before falling to North Carolina (63-57).

Thursday's game will be the first ever meeting between Cal and North Carolina State. In fact, the Bears have not played a team from the ACC since edging Clemson, 61-60, in the championship game of the 1999 NIT.

This year's Cal unit is led by the trio of senior F Joe Shipp, sophomore F Amit Tamir and senior G Brian Wethers. Together, they average almost 70 percent of the Bears' point production, and one of the 'Big 3' has led the team in scoring 27 times in 29 games.

Shipp, the Pac-10's leading scorer at 20.3 ppg, earned All-Pac-10 honors this season. Ranked fifth on Cal's all-time scoring list with 1,622 points, he has reached the 30-point level four times this year, including a career-best of 35 against Oregon State in early January.

A two-time Pac-10 Player of the Week, Shipp has reached double figures in 35 consecutive games. Cal's most consistent threat, he has the ability to post up inside, or step out to the arc, where he ranks second in school history with 156 three-pointers made.

The 6-11 Tamir is one of the most versatile players in the country. Not only does he average 15.7 ppg, but he paces the Bears in rebounding (6.5 rpg), assists (3.1 apg) and three-pointers (59). The All-Pac-10 performer tallied a season-high 27 points twice - vs. Georgia in December and again at Washington in January. He owns five double-doubles on the year, in addition to grabbing a career-best 14 boards vs. Howard early in the season.

Wethers garnered honorable mention All-Pac-10 honors after pouring in 14.9 ppg. Cal's best all-around athlete, he often draws the toughest defensive assignment.

Wethers was voted MVP of the Golden Bear Classic in December and he earned the Pac-10 Player of the Week award in February after leading Cal to a road sweep of Oregon State and Oregon that included a 21-point, five-steal effort against the Ducks.

At the point, Cal starts freshman Richard Midgley, an import from England who played high school basketball at Modesto Christian HS in Central California. A hard-nosed player not afraid to drive to the bucket, Midgley is also Cal's top three-point shooter, having made 45.6 percent of his long-range attempts. He tallied 23 points to lead the Bears to a 73-68 win over USC at home, while he more recently drained four three-pointers in Cal's 69-46 win over Oregon State in the Pac-10 Tournament quarterfinals.

Junior Gabriel Hughes rounds out the starting five at the center position. The younger brother of last year's starter in the middle - Solomon Hughes - Gabriel owns a team-best 30 blocks.

Off the bench, Cal's primary two reserves are junior G A.J. Diggs and junior F Conor Famulener. Diggs is a defensive wizard who leads the Bears with 49 steals. In Cal's win at Cleveland State Nov. 30, he tied Jason Kidd's school record with eight thefts. Diggs also recorded five steals vs. UC Santa Barbara and four against both New Mexico and Arizona State.Like Diggs, Famulener is a former walk-on who earned a scholarship during the offseason. Cal's most fundamentally sound player, he backs up at the post position. Famulener snagged a career-high 10 rebounds at home against UCLA and he poured in 11 points at the Pit against New Mexico.

Senior G Donte Smith, who missed the first 14 games of the year due to quadriceps surgery in September, has increased his contributions of late. Able to play both guard spots, Smith gives the Bears an experienced ball-handler in the backcourt.

Freshman Erik Bond, David Paris and Rod Benson round out the rotation. Bond is a long-armed wing who ranks fifth on the squad with 11 three-pointers. Paris provides rebounding and defense inside with his 6-9, 260-pound frame, while Benson is an active post player who adds depth up front.

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