Fruitful Season Ends With Cal Playing for Seed on Farm

Photo: <b>Guard Jorge Gutierrez</b> provided a spark off the bench with six points and two rebounds last Saturday as Cal clinched at least a share of the Pac-10 title by beating Arizona State.
Anne Marie Schuler/File
Guard Jorge Gutierrez provided a spark off the bench with six points and two rebounds last Saturday as Cal clinched at least a share of the Pac-10 title by beating Arizona State.

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Gabriel Baumgaertner asks Cal men's basketball beat writer Jeff Goodman about the significance of the Bears' regular-season finale against rival Stanford.

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Correction Appended

Jamal Boykin looked sharp in his new "Pac-10 Conference Champions" T-shirt, but the senior forward said he wouldn't be wearing it for long.

"After today," he said, "back to business."

That was Saturday. The Cal men's basketball team had just claimed at least a share of the league title with a win against Arizona State in its last home game of the season, setting off a confetti-filled celebration at Haas Pavilion. Members of the team cut down the net after fans stormed the court, soaking in the Bears' first conference crown in 50 years.

But Boykin acknowledged that the satisfaction accompanying the historic victory would be waiting for him at the end of the 2009-10 campaign, which, well, isn't quite over.

Cal (20-9, 12-5 in the Pac-10) closes the regular season on the road against rival Stanford on Saturday at Maples Pavilion at 3 p.m., and plans on playing well into March.

"It's a great feeling, but in the back of my mind we still have to win this last game," Boykin said. "I feel this team can accomplish so much. I think all the feelings will kick in once the season is over and we can look back on everything that we accomplished, but our goal is to go to the NCAA Tournament and go as far as we can."

The Bears' journey to a Pac-10 title began with a 92-66 trampling of the Cardinal (13-16, 7-10), which has lost seven of its last 10 games after starting conference play with a 4-3 record. Stanford's postseason prospects hinge on its performance at next weekend's Pac-10 Tournament at Staples Center in Los Angeles, where Cal will be the top seed.

With regards to the NCAA's 65-team field, though, the Bears -- who had a nine-game winning streak snapped in Palo Alto last season -- want to erase any doubts the selection committee might have about a team that hasn't defeated a top-25 opponent all season.

"We're playing for seeding right now," point guard Jerome Randle said. "I'm a little concerned about it. If we lose Saturday's game and someone else wins the Pac-10 Tournament, that could maybe bump us out."

Randle's biggest competition for conference Player of the Year honors is likely Stanford forward Landry Fields, who averages a league-leading 22.1 points per game.

He and sophomore guard Jeremy Green, who scores 17 points per game, combined for 43 in the Cardinal's first meeting with Cal and make up one of the best duos in the Pac-10.

"They've been solid," Bears coach Mike Montgomery said. "They've been a tough matchup for everybody."

Montgomery, of course, is making his second return to a familiar place. He coached Stanford to 12 NCAA Tournament bids and 10 consecutive 20-win seasons during his time across the Bay.

"They'll have lots of emotion to play against us," Montgomery said. "We're going to need to match that."


Correction: Monday, March 8, 2010
An earlier version of this article may have implied that Jeremy Green scores 17 points in every game. Green averages 17 points per game.

The Daily Californian regrets the error.

Contact Jeff Goodman at [email protected]

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