March 18, 2008
BERKELEY, Calif. -
A Look at the Golden Bears
No. 10/8 California (AP/coaches poll) earned its third consecutive bid to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history and will face San Diego Saturday, March 22, at approximately 1:30 p.m. PT at Maples Pavilion in Stanford, Calif. The Golden Bears, who have assembled the best season in school history at 26-6 overall and 15-3 in the Pac-10, are seeded a program all-time best of third in the Greensboro Regional, while the Toreros are the 14th seed. Cal, which garnered its sixth NCAA bid overall, was one of three Pac-10 teams selected to this year's tournament, with second-seeded Stanford and sixth-seeded Arizona State being the others.
The winner of Saturday's Cal-San Diego game will battle the winner of the contest between No. 6-seeded George Washington (25-6, 12-2 Atlantic 10) and No. 11-seeded Auburn (20-11, 7-7 SEC) Monday, March 24, in Stanford at a to-be-determined time. George Washington and Auburn will play each other Saturday at 11 a.m. PT prior to the Cal-San Diego game. Cal has never played any of its possible first and second-round opponents.
Cal owns a 1-5 NCAA Tournament record and is in pursuit of its first NCAA Tournament victory since the Bears defeated Kansas, 62-47, in the opening round of the 1993 NCAAs. The Bears have traveled to Pennsylvania for the first round the last two seasons, falling to seventh-seeded St. John's, 78-68, in 2006 in Cal's first NCAA appearance since 1993. In 2007, eighth-seeded Cal lost to ninth-seeded Notre Dame, 62-59.
Junior forward/center Ashley Walker has led Cal in the NCAA Tournament the last two seasons. Against the Red Storm, Walker posted 21 points and seven rebounds, and against the Fighting Irish, she contributed 20 points and 13 boards.
This year's Cal team has rewritten the program's history book. At 26-6, the Bears have surpassed the 1983-84 team (24-8) for the school record for wins in a season. This year's team also recorded at least 20 wins in consecutive seasons for only the second time in school history.
The Bears also thrived in the Pac-10 this season, finishing a Cal all-time best of second with a school-record 15-3 mark. Cal led or held a share of first place in the conference until the Bears lost the regular-season final at Washington, 74-66, March 2.
San Diego tied for third in the WCC but won the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament by winning the WCC Tournament final, 70-66, over regular-season champion Gonzaga on the Zags' home court.
Cal is 2-0 against the WCC this season, with victories over Loyola Marymount (75-54) and Saint Mary's (77-61) in Berkeley. The Bears haven't lost to a WCC opponent since a 71-64 setback at Saint Mary's, Dec. 21, 2002.
This season, Cal made its first appearance in the Pac-10 Tournament championship game with a 67- 60 victory over Oregon in the quarterfinals and a 65-61 triumph over Arizona State in the semifinals. Second-seeded Cal fell to top-seeded Stanford, 56-35, in the final.
Cal is 6-5 against this year's NCAA Tournament field. The Bears boast three wins over Arizona State and victories over then-No. 18 Vanderbilt, New Mexico and Fresno State.
Defense and rebounding have been critical to Cal's success this season. The Bears lead the Pac-10 in scoring defense (54.1 ppg), field goal percentage defense (34.8%) and rebounding margin (+7.9), putting them on pace to set school records in all three categories. Cal is 12th in the NCAA in scoring defense, sixth in field goal percentage defense and ninth in rebounding margin. Overall, the Bears rank in the top five in the Pac-10 in 14 of 19 statistical categories.
Walker and junior forward/center Devanei Hampton both were named first-team All-Pac-10. Hampton is Cal's only three-time first-team All-Pac-10 selection, and Walker is one of four Bears to earn at least two first-team honors. Walker leads Cal in scoring (15.0 ppg, 3rd Pac-10) and rebounding (9.3 rpg, 1st Pac-10), while Hampton is second on the 8.2 rpg. Hampton and Walker were both candidates for three national player of the year awards - the State Farm Wade Trophy, Wooden Award and Naismith Trophy.
Junior guard Alexis Gray-Lawson was a second-team All-Pac-10 recipient after ranking third on the team in scoring at 11.7 ppg and leading the Pac-10 in three-point field goal percentage (39.8%).
Rounding out Cal's starting unit are sophomore guards Natasha Vital and Lauren Greif. Vital, an honorable mention All-Pac-10 choice, is fifth in the conference in assists at 4.06 apg, and Greif is seventh in the Pac-10 in three-point field goal percentage (35.5%). Vital also was named honorable mention Pac-10 All-Defensive, and Walker earned a spot on the inaugural Pac-10 All-Defensive team.
Senior forward Krista Foster, junior forward Shantrell Sneed and freshman guard Rachelle Federico have also made contributions this season. Foster, the team's only senior, is a captain with Walker and Greif.