ESPN college basketball analyst Steve Lavin expects Cal to play deep into March.

"It wouldn't shock me if they were playing on the second weekend (of the NCAA Tournament) and were able to do something special, to push through to the Elite Eight," the one-time UCLA coach said Tuesday in a phone interview.

Lavin said matchups in the tournament draw will be critical to Cal, which won't have an easy time against an opponent with great size up front. But that can go both ways.

"There's going to be matchups that Cal can exploit with whoever they play," he explained. "They may be tougher to face when they get into the NCAA Tournament than they are in their own league, where people know them so well and there's a lot of undersized teams that have similar personnel to Cal."

Lavin worked on the ESPN telecast of Cal's 95-71 win over Arizona last Thursday and came away impressed.

"For starters, Jerome Randle was lights out," he said. "And when he's on top of his game, that elevates everyone's play."

Lavin believes sophomore guard Jorge Gutierrez can be a difference-maker in the postseason.

"I think Gutierrez is one of those players because of his defensive prowess, he can take an opposing team's best player and disrupt, unnerve and shut him down," Lavin said. "I think he's probably one of the more underrated players in the country."

  • Cal's players plan to pay attention Thursday night, when a victory by visiting USC over second-place Arizona State would lock up the outright Pac-10 title for the Bears.

    Asked if he'll be rooting for the Trojans, Randle said. "I really don't care."

    "Our goal and plan," added senior Jamal Boykin, "is to secure our own fate by beating Stanford on Saturday."

  • Coach Mike Montgomery said he doesn't try to get inside the heads of the NCAA Tournament selection committee but believes the Pac-10 has three worthy teams in Cal, ASU and Washington. Still, he'll caution his players not to become complacent about their postseason prospects.

    "I would say if we were to lose Saturday, lose the first game in the (conference) tournament and somebody were to win the Pac-10 tournament that was not expected, it would probably cost somebody," he said.

    NEXT GAME: Saturday, at Stanford,
    3 p.m.