NCAA

March Madness, mid-majors and Saint Mary's

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March Madness, mid-majors and Saint Mary's

All righty then. So much for March Madness.

Im hanging all my hopes on Saint Marys, and they managed to get a draw that would make the Marquis De Sade proud.

Wednesday nights performance by Cal in its play-in game against South Florida told you everything you need to know about the Pac-12 this year. All thats left now is Colorado -- a nice little team from Boulder that's well-coached, has a whole bunch of nice kids and is right up there on the Most likely to win the tournament list with UNC Ashville and Vermont.

RELATED: Cal's season ends with ugly loss to South Florida

This is that time of year that we all start looking at upsets and surely there will be some. A No. 12 will beat a No. 5 and Im guessing a No. 4 gets snagged by a No. 13. A No. 15 will scare the hell out of a No. 2 and the No. 1s will all win by 30.

There are a number of good mid-majors, which will make things amusing for the first weekend. Wichita State, Long Beach State, Murray State, VCU, and even Harvard can provide a few moments of aw shucks, gee whiz, aint that a great David and Goliath story; but this year more than any that I can recall, the rich have gotten richer. I simply cannot see anyone getting into the final eight that doesnt truly belong there.

There was always that leveling factor -- great athletes at the big schools vs. senior-laden upstart teams that have been cultivating players for this one run, with a team thats stayed together, played together and finally, won together.

The problem is that now the level of athlete at the factories is so good that even if they dont play to their own expectations theyve got enough to beat anybody else in the country. Again, put it at the feet of the AAU programs. They may not breed great basketball players but they breed great athletes who, at this level, dont have to be great basketball players.

This year I believe Cinderellas carriage turns into a pumpkin at about 7:30 rather than midnight.

I keep looking for a team to jump up and beat the titans and I cant really find one. So let me say this. I think Kentucky -- the most talented team in the tournament -- will find a way to lose. They always do. I think Syracuse will run into a team that can solve their zone and they too will lose. They usually do. I just dont think Duke is good enough this year but I do think Carolina is.

I like Michigan State even though they have the toughest draw of the No. 1 seeds. Tom Izzos teams are always ready to play in March. I like Missouri too -- they can score. Kansas should do well but somehow finds a way to lose before they really get going. Could happen again (to Saint Marys, if the Gaels vanquish Purdue?).

As to dark horses: Vandy, Florida St., North Carolina State, and your choice of about 50 others. But dont book it. This year the biggest winners are the people who made the seeds. The top 8 are just that -- the top 8.

Im still rootin for Virginia Commonwealth. Or was that last year?

Barry Tompkins is a frequent contributor to CSNBayArea.com and Chronicle Live.

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.