BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — Lindsay Gottlieb had barely gotten done talking to her California team about ignoring any outside NCAA tournament chatter when she learned President Barack Obama had picked her Golden Bears to reach the Final Four.
Getting by rival Stanford in the process, no less.
Her players quickly texted and teased. And, now, there's no way the coach won't let them enjoy the ultimate compliment — for a little while, at least. Even Gottlieb herself was giddy, calling her retired judge father, Stephen, and waking him late Tuesday on the East Coast.
"We could win a lot of games and my father will still be more probably excited if the president is talking about it," Gottlieb said, chuckling during a Wednesday conference call. "With everything that's happened this year you kind of try not to get too excited about things, but I'm a child of a political family and that was pretty cool. It's funny, literally my message to the team yesterday was, 'Anything that you hear from the outside, good or bad, predictions, block it out.' I did not expect that that would include anything from President Obama. I'm going to maybe have to give them a pass on that one. We'll probably laugh about it today."
Before Cal can even think about the program's first Final Four, it must travel to Texas to take on a familiar in-state opponent for Saturday's first round: feisty, postseason-tested Fresno State.
And there's still that probable matchup with Stanford in the Spokane regional final for a spot at the Final Four in New Orleans. The Cardinal have reached five straight Final Fours, Cal is looking for its first.
At No. 2 in its region, Cal (28-3) earned the highest NCAA seed in program history. The Bears wound up ranked No. 6 in the Associated Press poll and shared the Pac-12 regular-season title with Bay Area rival Stanford, then lost 70-58 in the conference tournament semifinals to UCLA.
Now, it's time to take the next step with a Final Four berth and put Berkeley on the map for elite women's basketball.
"What this team has done to put California in the public eye, we're proud of that," Gottlieb said. "We also know it means nothing unless we take care of business. We'll enjoy it for a little bit, then we'll worry about taking care of the first-round game."
Neither Gottlieb nor first-year Fresno State coach Raegan Pebley will complain about traveling to Lubbock for Saturday's game — each happy not to be heading cross-country.