Pac-12: Better-shooting Stanford, Cal make run at Big Dance tournament

2013-02-13T00:00:00Z 2014-07-02T12:15:25Z Pac-12: Better-shooting Stanford, Cal make run at Big Dance tournamentPatrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
February 13, 2013 12:00 am  • 

There are eight Pac-12 teams within two games of first place.

The most noticeable movers, though, hail from the Bay Area.

Stanford has won four of five, Cal three of four.

The Golden Bears have defeated then-No. 10 Oregon and then-No. 7 Arizona in consecutive weeks.

"Two weeks ago," Cal coach Mike Montgomery said, "people probably left us for dead."

Not that Stanford (15-9, 6-5) and Cal (14-9, 6-5) - with RPIs of No. 57 and No. 59 - are likely NCAA tournament teams now, either. At least not yet.

"It only can help ya in the long run," Montgomery said of his team's two big wins.

"At least it gets you back on a board somewhere.

"You could be way down, but at least they have to look at that - and know that you're there."

Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said the Cardinal's "chemistry is better" and "continuity is better across the court" compared to early in the season.

It helps, too, that Stanford went from abysmal to excellent three-point shooting.

The Cardinal made 68 of 249 three-point attempts, or 27.3 percent, in nonconference play. But since, it has made 87 of 193 threes in league games, or 45.1 percent - tops in the Pac-12 Conference.

"They just shot it poorly at the beginning of the season," Oregon State coach Craig Robinson said.

"I don't think the beginning of the season was a true indicator."

Stanford made 14 of 25 three-point attempts against the Beavers two weeks ago.

"If they shoot the ball that well (going forward)," Robinson said, "they'll be a Sweet 16 team."

Just making the tournament would be a start, given that none of the major projectors currently have either Bay Area school in.

"We've had some good wins," Dawkins said. "We've had some other games we've been very close in.

"But that's for the committee to decide."

The star power of Allen Crabbe, the Cal junior guard who torched the Arizona Wildcats for 31 points Sunday, can only help.

UCLA coach Ben Howland called Crabbe "arguably the premier player" in the Pac-12.

"Some of (Crabbe's) shots the other night were just unbelievable," Howland said of the UA game. "He's really good at cutting without the basketball.

"He's maybe the best player in our conference at reading screens, whether to curl or rather to fade.

"He needs very little time to get his shot off."

Montgomery said that, with four weeks of regular-season play left, the Golden Bears are in no position to fret about the Big Dance.

He admitted, though, that teams in the middle of the conference pack likely "have to do something" in the Pac-12 tournament, be it earning the league's automatic bid outright or playing late into the event.

"We still are who we are," Montgomery said. "We make too many mistakes.

"We don't always concentrate or focus like we need to."

But they're in the conversation.

And so's Stanford.

"I look at both of those teams as not only teams that can be part of this year's NCAA tournament," UA coach Sean Miller said, "but if they would be in the tournament, they could advance."

Tourney worthy?

School Stanford Cal

Record 15-9 14-9

Pac-12 record 6-5 6-5

RPI Rank 57 59

Strength of Schedule 30 35

Vs. RPI 1-50 1-7 2-5

Vs. RPI 51-100 3-1 0-4

Vs. RPI 101-150 3-1 4-0

Vs. RPI 151-200 3-0 5-0

Vs/ RPI 200-plus 5-0 3-0

• CBSSports.com's Jerry Palm has Stanford as one of the first four out, and doesn't have Cal making the NCAA tournament.

• ESPN.com's Bracketology says Stanford is one of the first four out, with Cal one of the first eight out.

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