March Madness, mid-majors and Saint Mary's


March Madness, mid-majors and Saint Mary's

All righty then. So much for March Madness.

Im hanging all my hopes on Saint Marys, and they managed to get a draw that would make the Marquis De Sade proud.

Wednesday nights performance by Cal in its play-in game against South Florida told you everything you need to know about the Pac-12 this year. All thats left now is Colorado -- a nice little team from Boulder that's well-coached, has a whole bunch of nice kids and is right up there on the Most likely to win the tournament list with UNC Ashville and Vermont.

RELATED: Cal's season ends with ugly loss to South Florida

This is that time of year that we all start looking at upsets and surely there will be some. A No. 12 will beat a No. 5 and Im guessing a No. 4 gets snagged by a No. 13. A No. 15 will scare the hell out of a No. 2 and the No. 1s will all win by 30.

There are a number of good mid-majors, which will make things amusing for the first weekend. Wichita State, Long Beach State, Murray State, VCU, and even Harvard can provide a few moments of aw shucks, gee whiz, aint that a great David and Goliath story; but this year more than any that I can recall, the rich have gotten richer. I simply cannot see anyone getting into the final eight that doesnt truly belong there.

There was always that leveling factor -- great athletes at the big schools vs. senior-laden upstart teams that have been cultivating players for this one run, with a team thats stayed together, played together and finally, won together.

The problem is that now the level of athlete at the factories is so good that even if they dont play to their own expectations theyve got enough to beat anybody else in the country. Again, put it at the feet of the AAU programs. They may not breed great basketball players but they breed great athletes who, at this level, dont have to be great basketball players.

This year I believe Cinderellas carriage turns into a pumpkin at about 7:30 rather than midnight.

I keep looking for a team to jump up and beat the titans and I cant really find one. So let me say this. I think Kentucky -- the most talented team in the tournament -- will find a way to lose. They always do. I think Syracuse will run into a team that can solve their zone and they too will lose. They usually do. I just dont think Duke is good enough this year but I do think Carolina is.

I like Michigan State even though they have the toughest draw of the No. 1 seeds. Tom Izzos teams are always ready to play in March. I like Missouri too -- they can score. Kansas should do well but somehow finds a way to lose before they really get going. Could happen again (to Saint Marys, if the Gaels vanquish Purdue?).

As to dark horses: Vandy, Florida St., North Carolina State, and your choice of about 50 others. But dont book it. This year the biggest winners are the people who made the seeds. The top 8 are just that -- the top 8.

Im still rootin for Virginia Commonwealth. Or was that last year?

Barry Tompkins is a frequent contributor to and Chronicle Live.

Pac-12 basketball teams near Barcelona terrorist attack safe


Pac-12 basketball teams near Barcelona terrorist attack safe

Men's basketball teams from Oregon State, Clemson and Arizona were staying at a hotel in Barcelona, Spain, near where a van drove into pedestrians on Thursday, but team officials said everyone was safe.

Spanish police have confirmed they are investigating the bloodshed in Barcelona's historic Las Ramblas district as a terror attack. The area is a popular summer tourist spot.

Tulane also was playing in Barcelona, but it was unclear if they were staying in the same hotel as the other teams.

Oregon State assistant coach Gregg Gottlieb posted to Facebook: "We are all luckily ok. Our hotel/restaurant is located right on Las Ramblas. This tragedy happened right in front of us as our team just sat down for pregame meal. Thoughts and prayers for all those that are were hurt."

The Beavers' game Thursday night was canceled. It was supposed to be the first of a five-game tour.

Clemson was scheduled to play Thursday night against a Spanish All-Star team.

"We've been in contact with our men's basketball program currently in Barcelona and the entire travel party is safe and secure. Their exhibition game for tonight has been cancelled and the team will return to Clemson as previously scheduled tomorrow morning. Our thoughts are with the people of Barcelona," the South Carolina school said in a statement.

Clemson coach Brad Brownell confirmed in a text to The Associated Press that the three teams were staying in the same hotel.

"We are fine. Thankful to be safe and together," Brownell wrote.

Tulane athletic director Troy Tannen confirmed via social media that the Green Wave players and staff were safe.

Replying to a Twitter inquiry from a Portland television about whether the team was OK, Oregon State head coach Wayne Tinkle responded: "Yes we are, happened directly in front of our hotel while we were having a team meal in the restaurant, so senseless and sad! All accounted4."

Oregon State said it has not yet determined the remaining schedule for the team, which was supposed to be on the exhibition tour until Aug. 25.

A spokesman for Arizona said the Wildcats have canceled their third and final exhibition of their tour and "are currently working on travel plans to return home."

The future of Cal athletics, or lack thereof


The future of Cal athletics, or lack thereof

Your education dollars are always at work, so it is with pride and bewilderment that we report that the University of California’s incoming class (2021, for those few who can get out in four years) marched to Memorial Stadium and formed the world’s largest human letter.
It was . . . wait for it . . . a “C.” A 7,196-person-strong “C.”
But the school, as it occasionally does, missed a golden opportunity to seize a golden opportunity. All they needed to do was have a quick whip-round, get $55,586.44 from each and every one of the captives . . . er, students, and they could have wiped out their entire athletics deficit in one night.
You see, while forming gigantic letters is always fun (or as the kids used to say when double negatives didn’t mean voting, never not fun), Cal is staring at quite possibly the bleakest future a major athletic university ever has. The athletic department, whose chief officer, Mike Williams, has just announced his intention to quit, is over $400 million in debt between construction costs, ambition, shrinking allegiance and the absence of a Phil Knight-level sugar daddy to buy the pain away.
And before you blame Williams, he inherited this indigestible planetoid from his predecessor, Sandy Barbour, who grew it from her predecessor, Steve Gladstone, and hastened it from . . . well, you get the drift. 
Cal’s been blowing through money it hasn’t been taking in for years upon years, didn’t realize the deficit-cutting benefits of the Pac-12 Network (because they largely don’t exist), and the day of reckoning looms closer and closer, especially now that new chancellor Carol Christ (no apparent relation) described the deficit as “corrosive” and has insisted that the athletic department have a balanced budget by 2020.
In short, the school may only be able to afford a lower-case “C” before too long. Maybe in comic sans.