Saint Mary's, Cal walk fine line at tourney time


Saint Mary's, Cal walk fine line at tourney time

Everyone seems to agree that Saint Marys is an NCAA Tournament team whether they beat Gonzaga tonight in the WCC tournament final tonight or not.

Thats the kind of unanimity that makes me nervous.

Saint Marys is, in fact, the perpetual bubble team, and Randy Bennetts soul has the scarring to prove it. The Gaels have been an easy team for the committee to shunt off to the NIT over the past several years, and having WCC Commissioner Jamie Zaninovich in the room isnt necessarily the window in, either. After all, he has to cool his heels outside while the Gaels get the Now what conference are they in again? examination from the other committee members.

St. Marys, though, has one big thing going for them that trumps the late season losses.

The Pac-12.

RELATED: Pac-12 standings WCC standings

Cal, seemingly a lock a week ago, is suddenly on the edge of out by most reputable (read: traditionally reliable) mock brackets. Jerry Palm has them in one of the 12-seed games either Tuesday or Wednesday in Dayton, though presumably a moderate deep run in the conference tournament would take care of that.

But the only other Pac-12 team that seems like a sure-esque thing is Washington, and its hard to envision the conference getting a third when they typically are good for four.

In other words, two spots have opened up, and in the absence of a lot of other great teams out there (the Big 10 is up, the SEC is down, and the ACC and Big East are the ACC and Big East), this may be a big year for properly resumed mid-majors.

Or for a sea of mediocre big conference teams, heaven forbid.

A year ago, the Bay Area got shut out completely, a true rarity over the past quarter-century. The closest it got was Oakland (Michigan), which lost to Texas in the first round.

This wont be that year. Saint Marys looks OK (most folks project them as a seven-seed), while Cal should navigate the lower rungs of the conference tournament to escape even the Dayton round.

But its close, closer than two teams with 49 wins between them ought to be, and part of the problem is that the Pac-12 has gained two teams but lost much stature in the last few years. Not just because UCLA tanked, either.

This is a conference-wide problem, as more coaches have slowed down the game and suffered in recruiting wars because of it. Mike Montgomery, who was always falsely portrayed as an old-school offensive fud, still rolls up points, but he is also working with less incandescent talent than is typical for him.

Bennett, though, has always found something for casual fans (like committee members) to watch, typically from Australia though with the occasional Samhan-ian thrown in for amusement. This is not St. Marys best team, but it is good enough.

That is, unless the Gaels get boatraced in Las Vegas tonight, and end up having to bum money for cab fare home. They are pretty much in, but as Bennett will tell you, pretty much isnt the same as safe.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for

Efforts of Darnold, Jones lead USC over Cal


Efforts of Darnold, Jones lead USC over Cal


LOS ANGELES -- Sam Darnold threw five touchdowns passes, Ronald Jones rushed for a career-high 223 yards and Southern California downed California 45-24 on Thursday night.

Darnold threw for 231 yards, with Darreus Rogers making six catches for a career-high 97 yards, as the Trojans rolled up a season-high 629 yards of total offense. Aca'Cedric Ware contributed a career-high 130 yards rushing to USC's total of 398.

USC (5-3, 4-2 Pac-12) scored on three of its first four possessions, with Darnold finding Rogers, Jones and Deontay Burnettfor touchdowns. Rogers added a second touchdown catch with 28 seconds left, but two fumbles by Darnold allowed Cal (4-4, 2-3) to maintain a modicum of hope despite allowing 451 yards on 46 plays in the first half.

Webb threw for 331 yards and two touchdowns, throwing a ball up for grabs that was intercepted by safety Marvell Tell in the first quarter. Webb also rushed for a touchdown in the third quarter that cut USC's lead to 28-17 before Jones had a 37-yard touchdown run and Daniel Imatorbhebhe caught a 17-yard touchdown pass from Darnold.

Jones had 149 yards on eight first-half carries, as the sophomore broke out of a funk with starter Justin Davis (ankle) not in uniform.


Cal: The Bears have now lost 13 in a row to the Trojans since handing Pete Carroll's 2003 national championship team its only loss in triple overtime that season. Cal was always going to have trouble defending Darnold and USC's plethora of skill players, and that task was even tougher with a short week to prepare and mounting injuries. But with three home games left, Cal has a good chance at becoming bowl eligible if it can maintain its strong play in Strawberry Canyon.

USC: The Trojans are white-hot, with Darnold leading the way. The freshman quarterback has now thrown 16 touchdown passes in leading USC to four consecutive wins, playing with a fearlessness and fire that the team was missing at the start of the season, though his ball security must improve. The Trojans are more than capable of turning the conference race upside down when they travel to No. 4 Washington on Nov. 12.


Cal: The Bears host the Huskies on Nov. 5, a potential trap game for Washington.

USC: The Trojans host faltering Oregon on Nov. 5, seeking their first five-game winning streak since 2013.

Harbaugh could make over $10M in 2016, more than Saban


Harbaugh could make over $10M in 2016, more than Saban

When USA Today released their annual series on college football coaching salaries, it wasn’t a complete shock to see Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh top the list given how much the school has invested in him since he returned to Ann Arbor from the NFL.

What was a little surprising was the total compensation figure listed for the Wolverines’ head coach at a whopping $9,004,000. That’s a figure that’s more than $2 million more than the second highest paid coach (Nick Saban) and $3 million more than Big Ten rival Urban Meyer.