BERKELEY -- Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb had just ordered her team to block out all distractions ahead of the first-round NCAA tournament game against Fresno State.
Then President Barack Obama weighed in, picking the Bears to reach their first Women's Final Four next month.
The leader of the free world chose second-seeded Cal over top-seeded Stanford to win the Spokane Regional. Obama also took top seeds Baylor, Connecticut and Notre Dame to join Cal (28-3) in New Orleans.
Gottlieb, the child of a political family, had to make an exception on her previous ruling.
"I did not expect that would include anything from President Obama," Gottlieb said Wednesday. "I'm going to have to give them a pass on that one."
But just for a bit. Gottlieb wants the Bears to enjoy their success but not forget the task at hand -- facing No. 15 Fresno State on Saturday in Lubbock, Texas.
"My first impression: this is a 15th seed?" Gottlieb said of the Bulldogs (24-8). "They have a style. Drive and kick and shoot a lot of 3's. It is a unique matchup for us."
Getting national attention from the President also is unusual for the Bears, who have been overshadowed in the Bay Area by Stanford.
The schools are headed toward a highly anticipated showdown April 1 in the Elite Eight in Spokane with the winner earning a trip to New Orleans.
Cal tied the Cardinal for the Pac-12 regular season title after the Bay Area rivals spit their two-game series in January.
Stanford (31-2), which is trying to reach its sixth consecutive Final Four, opens the tournament Sunday at Maples Pavilion against Tulsa.
Obama overlooked the Cardinal last year in choosing St. John's to win the Fresno Regional. But the Red Storm fell to Duke 74-47 in the regional semifinals. Then Stanford defeated Duke to advance to Denver.
Yet Obama went with liberal-minded Berkeley over the school with Hall of Fame basketball coach Tara VanDerveer and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Gottlieb, who earned a degree in political science at Brown, was thrilled. She knew the President's pick would resonate with her father, a retired New York state Supreme Court justice and former assemblyman.
The coach called Stephen Gottlieb on Tuesday night to tell him.
"The President picked us in his Final Four bracket," the coach said.
"President Obama?" he asked incredulously.
"We could win a lot of games and my father would probably be more excited if the President is talking about it," Gottlieb added.
Contact Elliott Almond at 408-920-5865. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/elliottalmond.