BERKELEY -- A month ago, this probably isn't the way the Golden Bears imagined the Monday after Selection Sunday would play out. Instead of prepping for a Thursday or Friday tipoff in the NCAA Tournament, the Bears were scrambling to get out of town for a Wednesday matchup in Dayton, Ohio. They're not prepping for an NIT game, like many of their Pac-12 counterparts, but it's still not that assured seed they sought.
But as coach Mike Montgomery put it, his team is still playing -- and is playing in college basketball's grandest of all tournaments.
Montgomery was in high spirits as the team boarded a bus outside of Haas Pavillion just after 1 p.m. Monday afternoon.
He joked that the team better be ready for the task at-hand, as it's "do or die." He admitted the Bears hadn't had much time to digest the 12th-seeded play-in route that awaits. Cal was left in agony on Sunday, as it was one of the final teams to be revealed for the Big Dance. And once their ticket was punched, there's been no time to waste for the Bears.
The PR staff quickly dug up notes of past and present tourney facts for the Bears, while the coaching staff searched for any and all file on South Florida. Meanwhile, the players practiced one last time in Berkeley before boarding the bus for the airport.
The team is scheduled to arrive at the game site at 10 p.m. And rather than practice at the arena Tuesday, the practice has been moved off-site to accommodate security detail for President Barack Obama, who will be attending the first play-in games scheduled for Tuesday night.
The Bears then take the court Wednesday, hoping for their 25th victory of the year. The last time the team had a 25-win season was back in 1960 when the Bears were the tournament runners-up.
I've been told USF (not that USF, South Florida) is a team that doesn't allow its opponent to score more than 55-to-57 points a game, but then again, they usually only score 59 -- so this could be a close game. The uniqueness of this team, is that the Bears may wonder who to guard on Wednesday as South Florida does not have one player averaging more than 10 points a game -- USF seems to spread the scoring route.
The Bears didn't just pack carry-ons for this trip to Ohio. They brought out the big suitcases, hoping to extend this trip into Nashville. A win Wednesday, means they'll face No. 5 Temple Friday in Tennessee.
So, is there more to prove being that Cal was assigned to the play-in game? When asked about that, Montgomery just said the team has to show-up ready to play, if not ready yet.... and then he reiterrated they are proud to be in the tournament because although they may be on the outskirts of this 68-team depth chart, they are at least contenders.
And what do seedings really matter when it comes to the Madness of March? Just ask last year's Virginia Commonweath.