Randy Bennett said all the right things about Purdue, about the NCAA Tournament, about whatever he had to say about whomever he had to say them. So did Matthew Dellavedova and Rob Jones and Mark Orr.
But what they WANTED to say was this:
We wanted Cal. Were happy with what we got, we know Purdue blah-blah-blah, but we wanted Cal.
Cal, as in California, not Calipari. Nobody in Moraga is that goofball wacky.
Cal drew South Florida Wednesday in Dayton in one of the four play-in games, and whatever resentments the Golden Bear community expressed at being so close to missing the tournament entirely remain its own. As unlikely as a full omission seemed, having to wait until the 57th name to learn that it was in the tournament at all caused the atmosphere around Berkeley to be filled with whew!
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But as the bracket picked up passengers through the hour and neither Cal nor St. Marys (which was named 63rd) was mentioned, the more the people inside McKeon Pavilion dared to dream of the one bit of recognition they still crave.
Beating the big brother.
It is a statement of faith that Cal has wanted nothing to do with St. Marys for a long time now, and definitely since the Gallopers escaped the iron lung eight years ago. And whether or not that is fact, it is fact-ish enough for them.
So as the bracket narrowed, you could hear people inside the pavilion dare to hope that the NCAA Tournament Committee had a sense of humor independent of WCC commissioner Jamie Zaninovich, who was outside the room when any of his clients were discussed.
Indeed, the most interesting part of the bracket as it relates to St. Marys was not the Purdue matchup, or the potential third-round game with Kansas, but the other hidden fact that the committee couldnt separate the Gaels and Gonzaga, which was the seven-seed slotted RIGHT BEFORE St. Marys in the East.
That seems odd given Saint Marys beating the Zags in the conference and the conference tournament, but Gonzaga got its own punishment by drawing West Virginia in Pittsburgh, and then getting Ohio State in the next round if the Mountaineers get beaten. In short, the Zags play two road games against teams that will bring more fans.
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As for Cal, dealing two days early with the ugly-it-up Bulls is a tangible punishment of its own, with a hard-to-play Temple team on Friday and, if that is solved, Michigan on Sunday.
In short, the Gaels got the best setup, which is just given that it is better than Gonzaga by deed and better than Cal by performance. Kansas is no bargain, and is capable of making any team look profoundly bad, but the Moraganoids have no complaint. If they never play Cal, well, some things are just not meant to be.