Poof! ‘Loaded’ Cal leaves legacy of March Badness

Geez, that didn’t last long, did it?

What had been called the most talented Cal team ever went down in the NCAA Tournament on Friday, and coach Cuonzo Martin’s team couldn’t have gone down much harder. In a matchup of No. 13 and No. 4 seeds, that juggernot named the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors beat the team with two NBA lottery picks. The final count was 77-66, and it wasn’t that close, really. So much for Schmoes versus Pros.

It was’t that Cal couldn’t win an NCAA tournament game that was such a disappointment but the way Team Turmoil did it. With too many bad decisions and bad fundamentals, too much bad karma and bad luck. With foul-prone, shot-happy, NBA-bound Jaylen Brown as a no-show again. With Jabari Bird (back spasms) and Tyrone Wallace (broken hand) unavailable. With their recently fired assistant coach nowhere to be seen amid sexual harassment charges. And with a bewildered head coach who was helpless to do much about it, not to mention under investigation himself.

The question is, Brown will be back next season? All along, the suspicion was that, as head coaches went, he made a heckuva recruiter. Little if anything in the last five months changed that notion. He and his staff were too slow to adjust, too reluctant to make tough decisions. The Bears’ boss doesn’t have signed contract. If there’s an opportune time for the two sides to part ways, it may have arrived

But if we’ve seen the last of Ivan Rabb in college ball, that’s a shame. The 19-year-old freshman played with smarts and maturity, traits that the team lacked otherwise, but he was rarely more than an afterthought at the offensive end. Some of you wants the Oakland kid to say no to the pros for now, bulk up in the summer and return to Berkeley next fall. A bigger part says it’s best not to waste another year.

PAC GETS SMACKED: The Pac-12 is quick to play the no-respect card, but until it steps up on the national stage, it doesn’t deserve more love and respect around the country
Pac-12 representatives dropped five of their first six games in the tournament. On Thursday, Arizona, Colorado, Oregon State and USC were sent home. (Please, will Arrid or Ban or Right Guard send Arizona coach Sean Miller a sample pack before he sweats through another shirt?) One day later, Cal joined them. Every stinkin’ one was a higher seed than its opponent. Only Utah escaped unscathed.

If you had a buck for every time ESPN motormouth Bill Walton refers to the Pac-12 as the Conference of Champions in a telecast, you could almost rent an apartment in the Embarcadero for a month. Conference of O-ver-ra-ted is more like it.

THEM AGAIN: The Warriors were in San Antonio for Game 2 of their best-of-10 series against the Spurs on Saturday, a showdown far more important to the home team for two reasons: The Champs owned a 3 1/2-game lead and flat out embarrassed the Wheeze Kids at Oracle Arena last month.

Then there was this: The Spurs hadn’t lost a regular-season game versus the Warriors since the Lewinsky Administration, and like the Champs, they were undefeated at home this season.

“We haven’t won there in the regular season for so long, so we’d love to end that streak,” the Warriors’ Stephen Curry said the other day.

Yeah, it would be nice to get off the schneid but maybe not necessary. Fact is, if/when the superpowers meet in the Western Conference finals, the lower seed will have to win at least one game on the road, and that’s the Spurs right now.

JUST SAYIN’: After second seed Michigan State lost in the first round of the NCAAs, the Warriors better hope alum Draymond Green vents on the Spurs and not a hard object.

FAT CHANCE: Mere hours after Pablo Sandoval made an even bigger ass of himself when a reporter brought up his shoddy defensive play, the former Giants third baseman tried to put the hissy fit behind him.

“I am still happy,” Sandoval lied through his teeth to reporters. “That happened yesterday. That’s it. It’s past. Today is a new day. Why are we going to talk about it?”

OK, Pablo, let’s talk about another one of your favorites topics — weight.

“I don’t got nothing to prove,” Sandoval said. “I just prepare myself to perform well, to support my teammates to play well, to try to get to the World Series. So I (have) some goals this year I’ve got in my mind. Keep working hard.”

More like hardly working. Last season Sandoval was the absolute worst third baseman in the major leagues, according to defense metrics. He also had sub-.300 on-base percentage and was paid $17.6 million to do it.

Balls don’t got nothing more to say.

DON’T SLEEP ON HOGAN: It’s easier to figure out IKEA furniture than Trent Baalke’s draft plans, but if the Niners’ general manager does select a local quarterback next month, don’t be floored if the guy is Stanford’s Kevin Hogan and not Cal’s Jared Goff.

Last week Baalke and coach Chip Kelly attended the Stanford pro day, where Hogan didn’t disappoint anyone at last report. Baalke also was seen at the Cardinal’s final home game last season, when Hogan engineered a comeback victory over Notre Dame in the final minute, although he might have been there to check out the punters.

Hogan has average arm strength and a long delivery, but he’s also experienced in a pro-style offense and a proven winner. Some team will do worse than to take him in the fourth or fifth round.

DUCK DYNASTY: The Niners have their sights on Oregon defense end DeForest Buckner, who would book-end with former Oregon defensive lineman Arik Armstead, who also played for Kelly, the ex-Oregon coach, and it may only a matter of time before there’s a roster full of ex-Ducks who wear Nike-made dayglo uniforms and fluorescent helmets each week.

Paul Ladewski

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