March 12, 2012
BERKELEY - California returned to the NCAA Tournament when the NCAA selection committee matched the eighth-seeded Golden Bears with ninth-seeded Iowa (19-11, 11-5) for a first-round game at 9:10 a.m. PT on Sunday, March 18, in Notre Dame Ind. Head coach Lindsay Gottlieb and her squad received the news Monday while watching the postseason selection show at Pappy's Grill and Sports Bar near campus.
The California Golden Bears (24-9, 13-5) will play in the NCAA Tournament's Raleigh Regional, which features Notre Dame as the No. 1 seed. The winner of that first-round game will face the winner of No. 1-seeded Fighting Irish (30-3, 15-1) and 16th-seed Liberty (24-8, 16-2).
"There is no feeling like it," head coach Lindsay Gottlieb said about seeing Cal's name added to the bracket. "It's such a nervous anticipation and then you see your name. It's a jubilation unlike any other feeling in sports. The best part for me is watching our kids celebrate because they deserve it. They have worked hard. To know that the work they have put in and to see them so happy, that is the best part of the job."
The Bears make a return to the "Big Dance" after missing out the last two seasons. It is Cal's eighth appearance in the tournament all-time and fifth since 2006. The Bears last NCAA Tournament appearance came in 2009 when Cal advanced to the Sweet-16.
None of the players on Cal's current roster have played in an NCAA Tournament game.
"We are all really excited," said junior center Talia Caldwell. "We are really excited to get there and stay. Iowa is a really good team. We are excited to do our work this week and work really hard in practice and get there and surprise some people. The first time thing is good, because we have nothing to fear. We are just going to go and do our best."
The Bears earned an at-large bid to the tournament after finishing second in the Pac-12 and were the runners-up in the Pac-12 Tournament. The Bears and Pac-12 champion Stanford are the only two teams from the conference to earn bids to the NCAA Tournament.