The good news is, most good teams will lose games they probably regret losing. Whichever team wins the NCAA tournament will lose a game this year and come off the court thinking, “what the hell just happened?” Cal took on a very tough team last night in the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos, one which featured a monster in the middle who just couldn’t be stopped. It happens.
People will bitch and moan about losing to a UC Santa Barbara team that hadn’t beat a Pac-12 team since the 2003-04 season. I already saw it last night on twitter. My reply stands: They were due. It nearly was UCLA (a fringe National Championship contender) who was the team to break the Gauchos’ long losing streak against the Pac-12. That shouldn’t make anyone feel better, but it should chill everyone out.
Cal has a good team. It has potential to be even better. It’s still early enough in the season to come back from a loss like this. If this was a bad loss to a rare non-conference opponent in February, this could be construed as bad. Right now, it’s just annoying.
In fact, yesterday, UCSB coach Bob Williams said that Alan Williams was the best player on the west coast. I actually cannot agree more. Or at least, if we revise that comment to include a “right now” at the end of it. He is the best player on the west coast right now. That could change at any point, and I
expect it to hope it will. But, no doubt, running into Alan Williams is like running into a a buzz saw right now.
Cal did get something out of last night’s loss other than the misfortune of being the first Pac-12 team to lose to the Gauchos in nearly a decade; they got to play in a hostile environment, they got to see how to play against a hungrier team and they got the opportunity to get back up. See, this game was one where Cal has no excuses. This isn’t a loss national contender like Syracuse or a sexy mid-major type like Dayton, this loss came without a built in excuse. This loss was to a team Cal – in theory – should be embarrassed to lose to. And while I, and most smart Cal fans, would know this UCSB is a solid team that could make a small run in the Big West, this game doesn’t come with any real excuses. This is a very good thing.
Losing a game like this means Cal has to finally face it’s problems and fix them. They will have to get back up, they can’t hide behind anything this time. Which means we will see what kind of heart this team has after this loss. We know they have the pieces to make this team something special, but we just have to find out what kind of soul this team has.
Cal moved to 6-3 on the year, and will be taking on fairly lame Nevada team on Tuesday at Haas. Santa Barbara moved to 4-3 and will have to take on a 7-3 San Diego team next Sunday.