NCAA

Saint Mary's, Cal walk fine line at tourney time

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Saint Mary's, Cal walk fine line at tourney time

Everyone seems to agree that Saint Marys is an NCAA Tournament team whether they beat Gonzaga tonight in the WCC tournament final tonight or not.

Thats the kind of unanimity that makes me nervous.

Saint Marys is, in fact, the perpetual bubble team, and Randy Bennetts soul has the scarring to prove it. The Gaels have been an easy team for the committee to shunt off to the NIT over the past several years, and having WCC Commissioner Jamie Zaninovich in the room isnt necessarily the window in, either. After all, he has to cool his heels outside while the Gaels get the Now what conference are they in again? examination from the other committee members.

St. Marys, though, has one big thing going for them that trumps the late season losses.

The Pac-12.

RELATED: Pac-12 standings WCC standings

Cal, seemingly a lock a week ago, is suddenly on the edge of out by most reputable (read: traditionally reliable) mock brackets. Jerry Palm has them in one of the 12-seed games either Tuesday or Wednesday in Dayton, though presumably a moderate deep run in the conference tournament would take care of that.

But the only other Pac-12 team that seems like a sure-esque thing is Washington, and its hard to envision the conference getting a third when they typically are good for four.

In other words, two spots have opened up, and in the absence of a lot of other great teams out there (the Big 10 is up, the SEC is down, and the ACC and Big East are the ACC and Big East), this may be a big year for properly resumed mid-majors.

Or for a sea of mediocre big conference teams, heaven forbid.

A year ago, the Bay Area got shut out completely, a true rarity over the past quarter-century. The closest it got was Oakland (Michigan), which lost to Texas in the first round.

This wont be that year. Saint Marys looks OK (most folks project them as a seven-seed), while Cal should navigate the lower rungs of the conference tournament to escape even the Dayton round.

But its close, closer than two teams with 49 wins between them ought to be, and part of the problem is that the Pac-12 has gained two teams but lost much stature in the last few years. Not just because UCLA tanked, either.

This is a conference-wide problem, as more coaches have slowed down the game and suffered in recruiting wars because of it. Mike Montgomery, who was always falsely portrayed as an old-school offensive fud, still rolls up points, but he is also working with less incandescent talent than is typical for him.

Bennett, though, has always found something for casual fans (like committee members) to watch, typically from Australia though with the occasional Samhan-ian thrown in for amusement. This is not St. Marys best team, but it is good enough.

That is, unless the Gaels get boatraced in Las Vegas tonight, and end up having to bum money for cab fare home. They are pretty much in, but as Bennett will tell you, pretty much isnt the same as safe.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com.

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.