Cal women’s basketball slated to face UNC in NCAA Tournament

A basketball player looks up with the ball in her hand as another player jumps up to block her.
Lorenzo Dela Cruz/File

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It didn’t happen as planned, but the Bears are dancing.

ESPN accidentally leaked the tournament bracket hours before it was scheduled to release, and Cal women’s basketball is in the tournament. The Bears are the No. 8 seed in the Greensboro regional side and are set to face off with No. 9 North Carolina on Saturday in Waco, Texas.

The Tar Heels (18-14) are led by a balanced starting lineup that combines for 69.7 points a game. In the middle of it all is 6’4” center Janelle Bailey, who puts up 16.7 points and 8.9 rebounds per contest.

On the perimeter are four guards who each bring a different element to the table. The leader of the group is redshirt senior Paris Kea, who averages 17.1 points a game. But everyone can score, and every starter for the Tar Heels plays more than 33 minutes a game.

“I know that they’re incredibly dangerous,” said head coach Lindsay Gottlieb. “The kids beat the No. 1 team in the country at the time … and they really have the ability to score the ball, so we’ve got our work cut out for us.”

If the Bears can get past UNC, their run may very well end there — next up would almost surely be Baylor, the unanimous No. 1 team in the country.

“I don’t think our players will allow themselves to look ahead,” Gottlieb said. “They’re too veteran and know that it doesn’t matter who the second game is if you don’t get out of the first round.”

The Bears of Baylor (31-1) are coming off of a Big 12 Tournament Championship and have dominated their competition this season by an average of a 26 point-differential per game. If it’s any hope for Cal, though, Baylor’s only defeat of the season came at the hands of Stanford, a team that Cal beat once in three tries.

“In general, I do think our team is confident,” Gottlieb said. “We’ve gotten some levels of production late in the year that we didn’t have all year, (and) we feel really more confident about our inside-outside game.”

Tim Sun covers women’s basketball. Contact him at [email protected].