NCAA

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.

Pac-12 basketball teams near Barcelona terrorist attack safe

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AP

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

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USATSI

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.