California Set to Face Maryland in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament
March 17, 2009
California earned its 15th bid to the NCAA Tournament and will face Maryland of the Atlantic Coast Conference in a first-round game Thursday in Kansas City, Mo. The Golden Bears are seeded seventh in the West Region, while the Terrapins are the 10th seed.
The winner of Thursday's contest will play the winner of the game betweenNo. 2 seed Memphis (31-3) and No. 15 seed and Big West champion Cal StateNorthridge (17-13). The regional semifinals and final will be held in Glendale,Ariz. March 26 & 28, with the Final Four in Detroit April 4 & 6.This is the third consecutive time Cal will be facing an ACC team in the NCAA first round after squaring off against North Carolina State in 2003 and 2006. The Bears went 1-1 in those contests against the Wolfpack, winning in overtime in '03, but falling in 2006.
The Bears have an all-time record of 18-14 in the NCAA Tournament, whichincludes the 1959 national championship and a runner-up finish in 1960.More recently, Cal reached the Sweet 16 in 1993 and '97 and the second round in both 2002 and '03.
This year's Cal squad finished the regular season with a 22-10 overall record and an 11-7 mark in the Pac- 10, tied for third place. The Bears went 11-2 during the non-conference portion of the schedule, which included a road wins at Utah and UNLV. Once Pac-10play began; Cal knocked off regular season champion Washington twice and posted a sweep of NCAA-bound Arizona.
Taking a team that was predicted to finish eighth in the league, head coach Mike Montgomery has become the third consecutive Cal coach to win 20 games in his first season at the helm. He is one win shy of tying Ben Braun's record for most wins by a coach in his first season at the school (23, 1997). During his previous stint atStanford, Montgomery's Cardinal squad met Maryland once in the NCAA Tournament, but lost, 87-73, in the 2001 Elite Eight.
The 2008-09 Bears are built around a pair of first-team All-Pac-10 selections, junior guards Jerome Randle and Patrick Christopher. On Feb. 5, both Randle and Christopher scored the 1,000th point of their careers, and the players are moving up the school's all-time scoring chart (Randle 23rd 1,170 points; Christopher 27th, 1,144 points). Randle leads the team, averaging 18.4 ppg, and Christopher is second with 14.6 ppg.
Randle was among the conference's best in a number of categories this season. He finished conference play third in scoring and tied for first in assists at 5.0 apg. Randle earned a new personal best of 31 points at Arizona on March 5, when he drilled eight three-pointers, one shy of the school game record. Christopher opened up conference play on fi re, boasting four consecutive 20-point performances, which earned him back-to-back conference Player of the Week honors in wins over Arizona, Arizona State, Washington State and Washington.
One of the main reasons why Cal has led the nation in three-point shooting most of the year has been the play of junior Theo Robertson, who individually led the country in three-point shooting for the majority of the season. He paces the Bears from behind thearc at 49.1 percent, second best in school history. In addition, Robertson's career percentage of 43.5 is No. 1 in the history of the program.
The leader on the boards for the Bears, by a wide margin, is junior forward Jamal Boykin, who is pulling down 6.4 rpg and has led the team in 16 games. Twice this season he reached his career best of 14 rebounds and enters the NCAA Tournament with a total of 206. Not just a big boarder, Boykin also helps in the scoring column, as he owns five of the team's seven double-doubles. He recorded a career-best 22 points at Stanfordon Jan. 17.
The fifth starter for the Bears, center Jordan Wilkes, is the only senior on the team, having decided to forego his final year of eligibility for next season to graduate this May. Wilkes, one of Cal's two seven-footers (Max Zhang), leads the team in blocks with 14. He had a strong pair of games in his hometown of Los Angeles in late January, postingan eight-point performance at UCLA on Jan. 29 and followed up with a career-best 16-point outing at USC on Jan. 31. On Feb. 5 against Washington, Wilkes posted 14 points and led the Bears on the boards with eight.
The two biggest contributors who come off the bench are sophomore forward Harper Kamp and freshman guard Jorge Gutierrez. On Feb. 19 at Oregon, Kamp led the Bears in scoring with a career-high 18 points, including going 6-for-6 from the free-throw line. The team's most fundamentally sound post player, Kamp snared a best of eight rebounds vs. Stanford Feb. 14 and made his only start at Oregon State.