Columbia, South Carolina, is officially Bear Territory.
Cal women’s basketball is headed east as the No. 7 seed in the Albany Region, and it will square off with No. 10 Virginia on Friday afternoon. The Cavaliers, who finished seventh in the ACC, are coached by former Cal head coach Joanne Boyle.
The winner of the Bears and Cavaliers will face off with the victor of a matchup between No. 15 seed North Carolina A&T and No. 2 seed South Carolina on Sunday. Last year, the Gamecocks secured their first-ever NCAA national championship.
Sporting white long-sleeves with Under Armour’s predetermined slogan, “Unleash Chaos,” the Bears strutted into the Cornerstone Craft Beer and Live Music venue with their heads held high and the magical spirit of March Madness reflected on their shining faces.
One year ago, the team faced an uncertain reality — a ticket to the competition or a subordinate consolation in the National Invitation Tournament. With their fate in the hands of a selection committee crunching numbers in suits, ties and dresses, the Bears were ultimately rewarded and sent to Waco, Texas.
Before addressing a packed crowd at the team’s watch party Monday afternoon, head coach Lindsay Gottlieb was much more relaxed this time around as Cal tuned into ESPN’s “Selection Show” for the women’s tournament.
Unlike last year’s nervous emotions sitting on the bubble, this year’s squad was a near lock for an at-large bid to the big dance — the only questions were who they were slated to play and where they were headed for round one.
The Bears (21-10, 11-7) received their golden ticket and had their questions answered minutes after the clock struck 4 p.m. Slated by many analysts to receive a No. 8 or even a No. 9 seed, Gottlieb was thrilled to receive an advantageous No. 7.
“We’re thrilled to be in,” Gottlieb said. “It’s great to be in, and it’s great to gain the respect of a little bit of a higher seed than people thought.”