First Four 2012: Cal Basketball's Path To The NCAA Tournament

The California Golden Bears were expected to be in good shape to make the 2012 NCAA tournament bracket as soon as they plowed through Pac-12 play early. As March Madness gets started, though, it makes sense to look back at their journey to becoming a No. 12 seed having to fight for the right to play in the actual tournament.

The squad is led by senior leaders Jorge Gutierrez, a solid all-around player who's best known for his defensive intensity, and Harper Kamp, an undersized but efficient power forward. The Bears get their main offensive spark from sophomore Allen Crabbe, an excellent and unselfish spot up shooter, with transfer point guard Justin Cobbs also providing a secondary offensive option.

Cal hit the top 25 early in the season, but a huge loss against Missouri and follow-up defeats to UNLV and San Diego State torpedoed those chances. The Bears might have avoided the play-in game if they'd managed to win the Pac-12 regular season or tournament titles, but losses to Colorado and Stanford down the stretch hurt them there.

Cal will have a short turnaround. They have to head Dayton on Wednesday at 6 PM PT on TruTV to play South Florida in a First Four matchup, then if they win that they'll face Temple on Friday.

For more on the Bears, check out the California Golden Blogs. For more on college basketball, check out our NCAA Tournament coverage at SB Nation Bay Area and make sure your grab a copy of our updated printable NCAA bracket 2012.

• Brackets on the brain? Us too! Play Yahoo! Tourney Pick’em and be a part of the craziest month of college basketball. It is fun, easy, and free.

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