California men's basketball head coach Mike Montgomery spoke with the media following the NIT selection show on Sunday. Below are his comments regarding the Golden Bears' upcoming first-round game against Utah Valley.
On if he expected Cal to get a bid into the NCAA Tournament
You always keep your fingers crossed. I think we were one win away from getting in, whether it be the Utah game at home or Colorado in the Pac-12 Tournament. I think it was that close. At the end of the day, when you look at it in retrospect, you feel like you really put yourself in a tough spot. We’ve got nobody to blame but ourselves. We had so many opportunities to make it a no-brainer, but we just weren’t able to do that.
On Utah Valley
I’ve known Dick Hunsaker for a long time. He was a guard at Weber State when I was coaching at Montana. I’ve known Dick for a long time. He’s a feisty guy. His team will be well-prepared and organized. One of their better players is his son, Holton. I would expect that team will be well-prepared and well-organized. We’re still gathering information about them as we speak.
On how he will get the Bears motivated for the NIT
It’s a pretty impressive field. There are a lot of teams in there that are pretty big schools. Obviously, we’re disappointed to not be in the NCAA Tournament. Practically speaking, we didn’t put ourselves into the best position going into this thing. If you look at the field, this is a tournament filled with teams with proud basketball tradition. Our strength has not been playing hard in every game. We’re going to have to be sure that we come out and play hard. Once you get over the disappointment of not being in the NCAA field, and you start playing games again, it becomes pretty fun. If you can win, there’s going to be a lot of teams out early from the NCAA Tournament, but we might still be playing in the NIT. I’ve had experiences of going to the Garden and winning it, but the concern going into this first game is the mental health of our guys.
On if he preaches the history of the NIT to the team
You can tell stories about experiences, but really our concern is to play better basketball and prepare for Utah Valley. They’re going to come in here with a lot of pride and a lot of incentive. That’s a school that doesn’t have a big tradition of playing in tournaments, so they’re probably pretty excited. I’ve had the experience of playing teams in the NIT that really didn’t want to be there, and that is the death knell. I don’t think you should be anything but excited to keep playing, and to prepare to keep winning games.