They've got the Bears this far so why change a thing? Same starting lineup as always:
G Brittany Boyd
G Afure Jemerigbe
G Layshia Clarendon
F Gennifer Brandon
C Talia Caldwell
After a film session yesterday evening, the Bears went out to a nice dinner at a Texas steakhouse. They then turned in for the night to get ready for this afternoon's game.
The Bears are currently going through their morning shootaround at the United Spirit Arena. It's a beautiful facility here on the Texas Tech campus, and the arena looks great and ready to host a pair of NCAA Tournament games today.
Cal tips off at 3:20 p.m. Central Time against Fresno State. At No. 2, the Bears have their highest seeding in program history.
Seniors Talia Caldwell, Layshia Clarendon and Eliza Pierre had barely gotten comfortable in their seats at the podium for their NCAA Tournament press conference when they were asked for their reaction to being picked to advance to the Final Four by President Obama.
ESPN announced earlier this week that Obama had chosen Cal to make the Final Four in New Orleans along with Baylor, Notre Dame and Connecticut. The president's entire bracket was shown today on ESPN.
Sure enough, the first question of the morning was directed at Caldwell, as she was asked how that has affected the team's focus.
"Our focus is completely on tomorrow's game and all week long we worked on just getting better at the little stuff," Caldwell said. "Just perfecting things we have done all year, so it is nothing completely different. Just focusing on them and doing the game plan and making sure we execute. Just the simple stuff we've done all year."
Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb joked earlier in the week that the news that Obama had picked her team to go to the Final Four came mere hours after she instructed her players not to pay attention to what outsiders were saying.
"I was like, 'Wow, I don't think I can ask them to block that out,'" Gottlieb said during Friday's news conference. "But our team is very mature and I respect them a lot and I knonw that I can talk to them about things and know that they will stick with me on it. So I said, 'You know, it is really cool. You all have put California basketball to the point where the president sees fit to pick us. This is great, but let's take it for what it is -- a really cool thing -- and let's focus on beating Fresno State. And I have every confidence that the young women I coach can do that."
For the record, Pierre was asked about it, too.
Shortly after the news conference, the Bears took the floor for a 90-minute practice inside the beautiful 15,000-seat arena. Then it was time for lunch and back to the hotel.
Before boarding the bus for lunch, the Bears ran into Texas Tech guard Casey Morris, who played at Cal as a freshman before moving on to Lubbock. Morris shared embraces with Cal's coaches, staff and veteran players that knew her. If the Red Raiders beat South Florida on Saturday and the second-seeded Bears get by No. 15 seed Fresno State, they will match up against each other on Monday night.
For now, though, the focus is on Fresno State. The Bulldogs have won 14 of 16, including three in a row to win the Mountain West Tournament.
"I don't think they seem like a 15 seed," Gottlieb said. "They are really good for a lot of different reasons. We have a lot of respect for them."
Cal will have a practice at the United Spirit Arena in the morning and a press conference. Seniors Layshia Clarendon, Talia Caldwell and Eliza Pierre, along with coach Lindsay Gottlieb, are scheduled to appear at the podium for the Bears.
For a few images from today, check out Twitter.com/CalBearBlog.
One of the Cal women's basketball team's strengths this season is the respect the players have for head coach Lindsay Gottlieb, and vice versa. Gottlieb has repeatedly said this season how much she has appreciated her team being engaged to what she is saying.
But a few days before the Bears open play in the NCAA Tournament, Gottlieb will cut her players a little slack if they slightly ignore one of her words of wisdom.
Earlier this week, just hours after Gottlieb implored her players to block out whatever is being said about them outside their locker room, President Barack Obama went on ESPN and picked Cal to advance to the Final Four.
It's one thing if a television analyst or bracketologist weighs in with an opinion about your team. It's another when the most powerful man in the world does so.
"Literally my message to the team was anything you hear, good or bad, block it out," Gottlieb said. "But I didn't expect that would include President Obama. We'll probably give them a pass on that one and laugh about it today."
For Gottlieb, it required her to strike the delicate balance between ignoring the pundits while also keeping with one of the themes off the season - having fun. She let her players talk about it for a short time Wednesday, and then took them back into full preparation mode for Saturday's first-round game against Fresno State in Lubbock, Texas.
"I love these kids and we can be real and talk about stuff like that," Gottlieb said. "We try to appreciate the moment and have fun, but certainly I'll let them know that's all it is - a chance to laugh and smile and then focus on Fresno State."
The president's endorsement meant a little more to Gottlieb because she comes from a civic-minded family. Her father, Stephen, is a retired New York Supreme Court and former assemblyman. Her sister is a law professor and her brother is a lawyer.
Gottlieb said she called her father around 11:30 p.m. ET that night, despite the fact she may wake him up.
"I said sorry it's late but I want to tell you something. The President picked us in his Final Four," Gottlieb said. "He said, `President Obama?' It was pretty funny and I explained bracketology and he was like, 'that's really cool.'
The women's basketball team is about to head to the airport for its flight to Lubbock, Texas for the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. The Bear Blog is going to be tagging along, following the Bears' throughout their NCAA journey. Stay tuned for in-depth coverage, on and off the court. Don't forget to also always follow the Bear Blog on Twitter (@CalBearBlog).