LOS ANGELES — Even while digesting a disappointing 79-75 loss to Washington in the championship game of the Pac-10 tournament Saturday, Cal began the process of looking to the next thing.
Of course, that's the much-anticipated annual business of Selection Sunday, when the nation's top teams find out if they're in the NCAA Tournament, whom they will face, how they are seeded and where they are headed.
"Obviously, it doesn't feel good at all to come all the way and play in the championship game and lose," senior Patrick Christopher said. "But just like every other game, you put it behind you and prepare for what's next. (Today's) a big day."
The Golden Bears (23-10), regular-season champions of the Pac-10 for the first time in 50 years and winners of nine of their past 11, know they're in. They'll get the details sometime after 3 p.m. today.
Still, minutes after coming up short in a bid for the school's first Pac-10 tournament title, coach Mike Montgomery was able to work himself into a minor lather when asked about a CBS report that suggested the Bears may still be a "bubble" team for the NCAA Tournament, not a lock.
"It would be astounding to me if the regular-season Pac-10 champion were not in the tournament," he said. "It would be absolutely incredible. It would set a precedent that's unheard of."
What's less certain is how the loss affects the Bears' seeding. Climbing to a No. 5 seed and possibly opening in San Jose were a long shot under any circumstances. Cal figures to be a No. 7 or No. 8 seed and will run up some more frequent-flier miles this week.
"As long as we're playing," Christopher said. "I think we've handled our business well enough to know we will be playing."
Jamal Boykin, who had 20 points and 14 rebounds, said one defeat won't dent the Bears' outlook.
"I think our confidence is very high," he said. "We've been challenged, and I think our team will react well to the challenge."
Montgomery lamented that his team, which has played at a high level for more than a month, came so close to winning even though it did not play well.
Jerome Randle, the Pac-10 Player of the Year, and Christopher each shot 3-for-11 against the Huskies, and the two combined to go 2-for-11 from 3-point range. The Bears' 26.3-percent 3-point shooting was their worst since Jan. 23.
Theo Robertson delivered a 25-point effort to complement Boykin's excellent game, but the Bears made mistakes at key moments, allowing the Huskies (24-9) to take a game they probably were more desperate to win.
Washington led 61-52 with 11 minutes left before Cal zoomed into the lead with a 14-0 run. Huskies sophomore Elston Turner, scoreless through the game's first 36 minutes, scored a layup and 3-pointer to break the game's final tie.
Randle's 3-pointer with 50.3 seconds left got Cal within 77-74, setting up a strange finishing sequence. With the score unchanged, the Huskies fouled Randle with 4.4 seconds left.
Randle made the first shot — his 34th straight — then missed the second intentionally, so Cal could try for the offensive rebound. But he was whistled for a lane violation after crossing the foul line before his shot hit the rim.
The violation kept Randle's streak intact — he is two shy of the school record — but gave the ball back to the Huskies. Venoy Overton's two free throws with 2.1 seconds left iced it.
Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar believes both teams are capable of propping up the Pac-10's woeful national image in the NCAA Tournament.
"Cal's a very good basketball team," he said. "Those guys are hard to play against. They're mature and experienced, they know how to win on the road. I think we've got a good ballclub, as well."
Note: Washington's Isaiah Thomas was named tournament MVP, joined on the all-tournament team by teammate Quincy Pondexter, Boykin, Robertson, Randle and UCLA's Michael Roll.
Stanford women put the hurt on Cal. Page 3