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California's Allen Crabbe talks to the press at Haas Pavilion in Berkeley, Calif., Sunday, March 11, 2012, after the NCAA tournament bids were announced, slating the Golden Bears to play South Florida in a play-in game Wednesday in Dayton, Ohio. (D. Ross Cameron/Staff)

Cal was one of the final teams in the NCAA tournament -- and should feel fortunate.

Saint Mary's is scheduled to meet Kansas in the Round of 32 -- and should be excited.

The best college basketball teams in the Bay Area received good news on Selection Sunday, although they had to wait ... and wait ... to hear it.

The Bears easily could have been excluded from the field because of their spotty résumé (dearth of quality wins, losing record in road/neutral-court games, double-digit losses to Colorado, etc.).

Instead, they received a No. 12 seed and will face South Florida in the First Four (formerly the play-in round) on Wednesday in Dayton, Ohio. A victory would send the Bears to Nashville, Tenn., to face fifth-seeded Temple.

Neither matchup qualifies as daunting -- the Bears won't be overwhelmed athletically. And their travel logistics could have been much worse: BYU, another First Four participant, will play in Dayton on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Saint Mary's was awarded a No. 7 seed -- perhaps a bit lower than the Gaels hoped -- and has to play in Omaha, Neb., instead of, say, Portland, Ore.

But No. 10 Purdue isn't a bad matchup for Saint Mary's, and a potential tangle with Kansas presents a delicious opportunity.

The Jayhawks under coach Bill Self are the greatest of all March underachievers, having lost to No. 11 Virginia Commonwealth last year and No. 9 Northern Iowa two years ago.


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The Gaels have the patience and the perimeter moxie to hang with Kansas deep into the second half, at which point memories of past tournament collapses could cause the Jayhawks to implode.

Saint Mary's has a better chance of reaching the Sweet 16 by going through Kansas than it would any of the other No. 2 seeds.

Other winners and losers from Selection Sunday ...

Winner: West Coast Conference. Placed three teams in the tournament (Gonzaga, Saint Mary's and BYU) for the second time in league history.

Loser: Gonzaga. The Bulldogs are a No. 7 seed in the East and will play No. 10 West Virginia ... in its backyard (Pittsburgh).

Winner: Pac-12. Avoided becoming the first power conference to be awarded only one bid since the tournament expanded to 48 teams in 1980.

Loser: Pac-12. Duplicated its 2010 feat by earning only two bids, fewer than the Mountain West (four) and West Coast Conference (three) -- and just as many as the Metro-Atlantic.

Winner: The selection committee. One of the least-flawed brackets we have seen in years. The top seeds were placed where they should have been, and the teams that were excluded should have been excluded.

Loser: Washington. The Huskies missed the at-large field -- they weren't even close, in fact -- despite winning the Pac-12 season title. Conference affiliation and season titles don't matter in the selection process.

Winner: Mid-majors. Eleven teams from outside the Big Six football-playing leagues made the at-large field.

Loser: Michigan State. The Spartans won the Big Ten title and, as a reward, get the toughest path to the Final Four with No. 2 Missouri, No. 3 Marquette and No. 4 Louisville standing in their way.

Winner: South region. A bevy of intriguing matchups, including Kentucky-Indiana in the Sweet 16 and Kentucky-Duke in the Elite Eight -- the 20th anniversary of Christian Laettner's epic buzzer beater.

Loser: New Mexico. The Lobos won the rugged Mountain West and drew Long Beach State, perhaps the most dangerous double-digit seed in the field.

Winner: Iona. The biggest at-large surprise made the field on the strength of its nonconference schedule.

Loser: Missouri. The Tigers (30-4) were the No. 8 overall seed because of a poor nonconference schedule. The committee says it every year: Challenge yourself out of league or risk our wrath.

For more on college sports, see Jon Wilner's College Hotline at blogs.mercurynews.com/collegesports. Contact him at jwilner@mercurynews.com or 408-920-5716.