Forget blind dates — this Thursday, the Cal women’s basketball team has reservations with a very familiar face. When the lights go down at KeyArena in Seattle, the mood will be set for the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament.
After scraping together an 11-7 conference record, Cal earned itself fifth place in the Pac-12 standings. Come playoff season — the more wins a team has, the better seeding it gets.
Cal’s seeding has set it up to face dead-last No. 12 Washington — which went an unsightly 1-17 in conference play — in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament.
The Bears are very familiar faces for the Huskies as Cal coincidentally recorded its final win of the season against Washington, 83-67 on the Huskies’ home court in Seattle. Earlier in the season in January, the Bears conquered the Huskies at Haas Pavilion in a much closer 69-60 contest.
Not even a week’s time will have passed between the time the Bears last laced up their kicks for their last game of the regular season and the first game of the conference tournament.
The Bears put on an offensive show in their last game of the season, shooting 51.5 percent from the field and 52.6 from beyond the arc with four players putting together double-digit performances.
If Cal wants to come out with another win, it will need to mirror is stellar shooting, get ahead early and contain Washington’s star sophomore Amber Melgoza. When the two teams have met this season, Melgoza has totaled a combined 39 points and 11 assists.
She’s no Kelsey Plum, but the Huskies’ leading scorer was the only player on the Washington roster to average double digits in conference play. Averaging 20.6 points a game while hitting shots at a clip of 43.7 percent from the field and 41.7 percent from the three, Melgoza is the difference maker.
If the Bears can contain Melgoza, their sailing of the Washington waters should be pretty smooth — but if they fail to stop Melgoza, they run the risk of sophomore guard capsizing their ship late in the game.
Whomever win the first-round battle will go against heavy-hitting No. 9 UCLA. Barring an upset, it is likely that either Cal’s or Washington’s tournament runs would end right there. The Bears and the Huskies are simply in different tax brackets than the Bruins.
While the Cal men’s basketball team would need a miracle — winning the Pac-12 Tournament to receive an automatic bid to March Madness — the women’s team does not necessarily have to win out in order to make it to the big dance.
The women’s solid outing throughout the 2017-18 season, paired with their momentous three-game win streak ignited by the upset of then-No. 14 Stanford, accumulate to a rather impressive resume for the NCAA to consider.
Nonetheless, the Bears will look to make it deep into the Pac-12 Championship bracket and solidify the notion that it is a squad is a serious postseason threat.
Christie Aguilar is an assistant sports editor. Contact her at [email protected].