Saint Mary's no longer a Cinderella

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Saint Mary's no longer a Cinderella

Everything in Moraga right now has a tinge of the giddy about it, because the basketball program is now considered a standard-bearer for mid-major programs.

In other words, its time for a bit of a downer to keep everyone sharp and focused.

If Randy Bennett really owns Australia, how could he let Hugh Greenwood escape to New Mexico to go for 26 a game with the Mountain West champions? Or maybe Bennett isnt as thorough in Tasmania as he should be.

There. Thats the end of that. Now back to the era of good feeling before Fridays Midwest Regional opener with Purdue.

But among a huge number of mid-major at-large teams (Wichita State, UNLV, Xavier, St. Louis, Colorado State, Brigham Young, Iona, Gonzaga, Southern Mississippi, Temple, San Diego State), St. Marys is among the elite.

Oh, UNLV has history, but its long-ago history by most standards. Xavier and Temple are seeming perrenials, and so is Gonzaga, which by NCAA standards is St. Marys doppelganger.

But the Gaels have reached the point where they have as much throw-weight as any mid-major, to the point where they got what can be considered a favorable position in the bracket.

Well, at least as favorable as any seven-seed has any right to hope.

In facing Purdue, the Gaels get a team that has three strong three-point shooters in ultraveteran Robbie Hummel, Ryne Smith and D.J. Byrd, but is neither deep nor overly experienced. In other words, a well-selected 10-seed -- a live underdog, but an underdog nonetheless.

Then, if St. Marys can get by the Boilermakers, they get Kansas, a strong two-seed with a terrific starting five but not much depth. Historically, Kansas has been capable of extraordinary games as a high seed, and some brutal lows, most recently a second-round exit to Northern Iowa in 2010.

In short, St. Marys could have gotten crushed with matchups and wasnt. Kansas is an exceedingly difficult team to play, but not impossibly so. The Gaels got a fair shake, which is all a mid-major can ask.

And in fact is the proof that a mid-major has arrived. Sure, it may be a glass ceiling, maybe even a plexiglass ceiling (Kansas is really good, after all), but at least its glass and not concrete. And for most mid-majors, concrete is kind.

Often, strong mid-majors are pitted against each other to help thin out the herd, to hear the mid-majors tell it. Wichita State-Virginia Commonwealth is one of those, but it is the only one. The others were matched against BCS conference schools that either disappointed or were never all that inspiring to begin with.

So basically, St. Marys got what it merited and has no complaint to offer. Oh, maybe they could have gotten a six-seed so as to avoid Kansas, but it isnt like Georgetown or Florida State in round three is a palatable alternative. The Gaels got treated with as close to actual respect as mid-majors can hope to get, and that means they are taken seriously as more than just a Cinderella story.

Now, lets get back to Greenwood . . .
Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com.

Ex-Warriors, Kings coach withdrawns from consideration for Cal job

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AP

Ex-Warriors, Kings coach withdrawns from consideration for Cal job

BERKELEY — Nevada coach Eric Musselman said Wednesday he has withdrawn his name for consideration for the coaching vacancy at California, committed to continuing to build the Wolf Pack program after the school's first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2007 in his second season.

Musselman's team captured the Mountain West Conference regular-season crown and tournament title, a program first. The Wolf Pack lost in the first round of the NCAAs to fifth-seeded Iowa State last week as a No. 12 seed to finish 28-7. While he originally signed a five-year contract through the 2019-20 season, Musselman is working to finalize a new five-year deal that would keep at the school for the long haul.

"My family and I are so excited about Nevada," he said in a text message to The Associated Press. "I love our players and the bond we have created as a team and on campus and in the community."

The 52-year-old Musselman interviewed in Berkeley for the Cal opening to replace Cuonzo Martin, who resigned from the Golden Bears last Wednesday and was named Missouri's new coach the same day. Martin was formally introduced Monday.

Cal is not announcing the names of anyone brought in to interview for the head coaching vacancy.

Cal's Ivan Rabb declares for NBA Draft, plans to finish education

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AP

Cal's Ivan Rabb declares for NBA Draft, plans to finish education

BERKELEY — California star Ivan Rabb will declare for the NBA draft, a move that has been expected since the season began.

The sophomore star announced his decision Wednesday through the school. He says, "After careful consideration and discussion with my family, I have decided to forego my remaining NCAA eligibility and enter the NBA draft."

While Rabb says the timing is right to turn his attention to a professional career, he plans to finish school eventually — a promise he made to himself and his mother.

The 6-foot-11 sophomore forward was Cal's second-leading scorer at 14.0 points and top rebounder averaging 10.5 boards for the Golden Bears, who lost to Cal State Bakersfield in the first round of the NIT last week without him. Rabb was listed out with a foot injury.

Former coach Cuonzo Martin resigned the next day to become Missouri's new coach.