NCAA

Cal takes play-in status in stride

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Cal takes play-in status in stride

BERKELEY -- A month ago, this probably isn't the way the Golden Bears imagined the Monday after Selection Sunday would play out. Instead of prepping for a Thursday or Friday tipoff in the NCAA Tournament, the Bears were scrambling to get out of town for a Wednesday matchup in Dayton, Ohio. They're not prepping for an NIT game, like many of their Pac-12 counterparts, but it's still not that assured seed they sought.

But as coach Mike Montgomery put it, his team is still playing -- and is playing in college basketball's grandest of all tournaments.

Montgomery was in high spirits as the team boarded a bus outside of Haas Pavillion just after 1 p.m. Monday afternoon.

He joked that the team better be ready for the task at-hand, as it's "do or die." He admitted the Bears hadn't had much time to digest the 12th-seeded play-in route that awaits. Cal was left in agony on Sunday, as it was one of the final teams to be revealed for the Big Dance. And once their ticket was punched, there's been no time to waste for the Bears.

The PR staff quickly dug up notes of past and present tourney facts for the Bears, while the coaching staff searched for any and all file on South Florida. Meanwhile, the players practiced one last time in Berkeley before boarding the bus for the airport.

The team is scheduled to arrive at the game site at 10 p.m. And rather than practice at the arena Tuesday, the practice has been moved off-site to accommodate security detail for President Barack Obama, who will be attending the first play-in games scheduled for Tuesday night.

The Bears then take the court Wednesday, hoping for their 25th victory of the year. The last time the team had a 25-win season was back in 1960 when the Bears were the tournament runners-up.

I've been told USF (not that USF, South Florida) is a team that doesn't allow its opponent to score more than 55-to-57 points a game, but then again, they usually only score 59 -- so this could be a close game. The uniqueness of this team, is that the Bears may wonder who to guard on Wednesday as South Florida does not have one player averaging more than 10 points a game -- USF seems to spread the scoring route.

The Bears didn't just pack carry-ons for this trip to Ohio. They brought out the big suitcases, hoping to extend this trip into Nashville. A win Wednesday, means they'll face No. 5 Temple Friday in Tennessee.

So, is there more to prove being that Cal was assigned to the play-in game? When asked about that, Montgomery just said the team has to show-up ready to play, if not ready yet.... and then he reiterrated they are proud to be in the tournament because although they may be on the outskirts of this 68-team depth chart, they are at least contenders.

And what do seedings really matter when it comes to the Madness of March? Just ask last year's Virginia Commonweath.

Louisville has 'effectively fired' head coach Rick Pitino

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AP

Louisville has 'effectively fired' head coach Rick Pitino

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Louisville has placed coach Rick Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich on administrative leave amid a federal bribery investigation.

Jurich is on paid leave, while Pitino is on unpaid leave. The coach’s attorney, Steve Spence, told the Courier-Journal Wednesday that Louisville has “effectively fired” Pitino.

Pitino’s exit comes after the school acknowledged on Tuesday that the men’s program is part of a federal investigation into alleged bribery of recruits. The 65-year-old coach was not named in the indictment that resulted in the arrest of 10 people including four assistant coaches at other schools and an Adidas executive.

It is the latest black eye for the Cardinals program. Pitino and Louisville are in the middle of appealing NCAA sanctions following an embarrassing sex scandal.

Jurich has supported Pitino through his transgressions during the athletic director’s nearly 20-year tenure at the university.

Cal fights USC into fourth quarter, can't complete the upset

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AP

Cal fights USC into fourth quarter, can't complete the upset

BOX SCORE

BERKELEY -- Stephen Carr ran for a fourth-quarter touchdown two plays after Southern California's defense forced one of its six turnovers and the fifth-ranked Trojans won their 13th straight game, 30-20 over California on Saturday.

USC (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) has dominated the series with its in-state rival by winning 14 straight against the Golden Bears (3-1, 0-1), but this was one of the tightest matchups in years as the game was tied early in the fourth quarter.

Sam Darnold threw for 223 yards and two touchdowns for the Trojans but also had an interception and was under pressure for much of the day.

It was the defense that stepped up for USC, intercepting a pass from Ross Bowers in the first quarter to set up a field goal and then delivering the big play early in the fourth quarter after Chase McGrath gave the Trojans a 16-13 lead with his third field goal of the game.

Josh Fatu knocked the ball out of Bowers' hand and Uchenna Nwosu recovered the fumble at the 3. Carr ran it in two plays later from the 2 to make it 23-13.

Ykili Ross then intercepted Bowers' pass on the next possession, setting up Darnold's 4-yard TD pass to Deontay Burnett that put away the game.

Bowers finished 22 for 50 for 303 yards with one touchdown, four interceptions and two lost fumbles.

THE TAKEAWAY

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: The Trojans struggled for much of the game without starting RB Ronald Jones (ankle) and WR Steven Mitchell (groin) but managed to pull away late in their first road game of the season.

CALIFORNIA: The Bears used an improved defense to start 3-0 under first-year coach Justin Wilcox but this was supposed to be the test of how far they had come. Cal showed plenty by sticking with a national title contender for three quarters. A sequence on the opening drive of the second will haunt the Bears. Patrick Laird dropped a potential TD in the end zone and Matt Anderson then missed a 29-yard field goal that kept the game tied at 13.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

A win against an unranked team should do little to alter USC's poll position.

UP NEXT

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: Visits No. 18 Washington State on Friday.

CALIFORNIA: Visits No. 24 Oregon on Saturday.