Cal revived its program by nabbing two top-10 recruits and completing its best conference record since 2012-13. Now it's their chance to prove they are good enough to make an impact in the NCAA Tournament behind a solid veteran core and two potential NBA lottery picks out of the freshman class. Their opposition is a solid Hawaii team with nothing to lose and a chance to shock the world in its first time dancing since 2001-02.
Cal had ups and downs throughout the year but closed the regular season strong, with eight wins in its last 10 games, including seven straight. The Bears were edged out by Utah in overtime in the Pac-12 semis but their season can only be considered a resounding success. Now they will look for Ivan Rabb and Jaylen Brown to power them to a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.
Hawaii won the Big West crown largely thanks to the play of the Conference Player of the Year Stefan Jankovic. The versatile big man can score inside and out and has nice pick-and-roll chemistry with Roderick Bobbitt. There's some shooting in the roster but the Rainbow Warriors prefer to attack the basket and get to the free throw line, ranking No. 16 in the NCAA in free throw attempts. If Jankovic can force the Bears' centers to step outside, expect the rest of Hawaii's players to venture to the paint as often as possible.
When fully healthy, Cal had the right blend of offense, defense and depth to make an upset seem very unlikely. With point guard and leading scorer Tyrone Wallace out with a broken hand, however, things could change. There's still enough top-level talent and elite shooting in the roster to survive without him, but the Bears struggled without their leader earlier in the season and Hawaii could certainly be emboldened if they sense Cal is wounded.
The Bears could face a challenge earlier than expected in what could be a very entertaining first-round matchup.
How to watch No. 4 Cal vs. No. 13 Hawaii
Time: 2 p.m. ET
Place: Spokane Veteran's Memorial Arena, Spokane, Wash.
Online: Watch TBS