Despite a lackadaisical performance against Pac-10 Conference champions UCLA, the Cal Bears mens basketball squad was invited to the field of 64 in the NCAA tournament this afternoon, and was rewarded with a #7 seed against North Carolina State of the ACC conference. Although Cal had been on-again off-again in regards to their potential to join the tourney, a late two-game surge in the Pac-10 conference tournament, combined with their 20 win record, and a third place finish in the overall conference rankings, provided them enough strength to make the tournament, though it's unclear how far they will go in a talented field that would see them playing the winner of Texas/Penn in the second round should they advance. Of course, with Texas being a #2 seed to Penn's #15, you can put good money on Texas coming out ahead there.
Overall, the Pac-10 Conference was awarded four spots in the tournament, with UCLA gaining a #2 seed, the Washington Huskies gaining the #5 seed, and Arizona pulling up with a #8 seed. This year's Cal team reminds me a lot of the 1995-1996 squad when I was a freshman, where one player (Shareef Abdur-Rahim then and Leon Powe now) was a single force that outshone the rest of the team. In that contest, Cal got waxed in the first game, and we can only hope the same doesn't happen again, should the Wolfpack choose to neutralize him.