Bears Break Into Top 25 After Wins Over USC, UCLA

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In recent weeks, the Cal men's basketball team has said a top-25 ranking isn't the goal of the season.

But the Bears aren't complaining about cracking the top 25 this week.

No. 21 Cal will travel to Arizona this week, fresh off a sweep of the Los Angeles schools and marked with the bullseye that comes with being ranked. The Bears haven't been ranked this high since coming in at No. 20 on Jan. 9, 1995.

Right now, the Bears aren't getting caught up in the hype.

"It certainly is not going to change who we are, but it's a nice acknowledgement," Cal coach Ben Braun said. "You always appreciate being recognized for effort and that is what our message is to our players."

Cal (20-6, 11-5 in the Pac-10) also cracked the ESPN/USA Today rankings at No. 25.

"I would look at it as a compliment," wing Ryan Forehan-Kelly said. "That's our goal. To be one of the best teams in the nation."

The national recognition comes on the heels of the Bears' last homestand. Cal beat UCLA by 18, followed by a 19-point thumping of USC.

The Bears are 5-3 against ranked teams this season, but respect has been hard to come by.

Following Saturday's contest, Trojans forward Sam Clancy said the Bears were a "middle" of the conference team, despite losing to Cal twice this season.

"Even with this ranking we're still going to be underestimated," point guard A.J. Diggs said.

In a lot of ways, the Bears are easy to overlook. There are no Wooden Award finalists on the team or names that are heard on Sportscenter every night.

Ryan Forehan-Kelly has been referred to as Tashaan-his younger brother on the team-when the Bears do make the national highlight shows when playing against a ranked team.

Diggs is a walk-on who is making a solid contribution along with Ryan Forehan-Kelly, who also joined the Bears as a walk-on. And Braun's recruiting classes aren't the who's who of high school basketball.

As solid as freshman center Jamal Sampson has been and as praised as he was coming out of high school, he wasn't the big name of the recruiting class. That honor went to Julian Sensley, who never achieved the minimum SAT score to play at Cal.

"I think we're unique in that we don't have a marquee player," Ryan Forehan-Kelly said. "You never know who's going to step up."

The Bears could win a share of the Pac-10 title this weekend and not have a player make the All-Pac-10 team. Not that it really bothers Cal.

"We'd trade personal accolades, personal glory, for team success," Braun said.


Point guard Shantay Legans hopes to play this week after missing Saturday's game with a concussion he suffered when UCLA forward Matt Barnes hit him with a forearm, knocking him to the floor.

Barnes was suspended for one game and did not play in UCLA's win over Stanford Saturday.

Diggs tied his career-high with 12 points in place of Legans and Donte Smith saw action as the back up point man.

Legans is expected to begin practicing with the team this week after undergoing more neurological exams yesterday.


With a sweep in Arizona and an Oregon loss to either UCLA or USC, the Bears would earn a share of the conference title, their first since 1960. . . . Sampson's 48 blocked shots this season are the fourth-best single season total in Cal history and second for best for a freshman.


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