BERKELEY, Calif. — California starting forward Omondi Amoke was suspended indefinitely by coach Mike Montgomery for a violation of team rules, a blow for the eighth-seeded Golden Bears heading into their East Region opener against No. 9 Louisville on Friday.
The school provided no further details about what the 6-foot-7 sophomore did to be suspended. Cal is coming off its first Pac-10 regular-season title in 50 years.
Amoke became a starter late in the season. He averages 4.8 points and 4.6 rebounds.
obama's bracket: President Barack Obama predicted that Kansas and Kansas State will join Kentucky and Villanova in the Final Four, with the Jayhawks defeating Kentucky for the title. Obama filled out a bracket for ESPN for the second straight year.
The Jayhawks agreed that if they won the title, they would like to run with Obama in one of his top-secret pickup games, and they would not take it easy on him. "I'm going hard," forward Marcus Morris said. "Never let him win."
Meanwhile, Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl thinks there might be a political motivation behind Obama picking the No. 6-seeded Volunteers to beat No. 11 San Diego State in the first round of the Midwest Region. "I think President Obama overwhelmingly carried the State of California," Pearl said. "He doesn't need to be concerned there. He didn't carry Tennessee."
BAD GRADES, STAY HOME? U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is pushing a proposal to bar men's teams from the postseason if they fail to graduate 40 percent of their players. If put into practice this season, 12 NCAA Tournament teams would be ineligible: Maryland (8 percent graduation rate), California (20 percent), Arkansas-Pine Bluff (29 percent), Washington (29 percent), Tennessee (30 percent), Kentucky (31 percent), Baylor (36 percent), Missouri (36 percent), New Mexico State (36 percent), Clemson (37 percent), Georgia Tech (38 percent) and Louisville (38 percent).
FORMER NEIGHBORS: Villanova coach Jay Wright will be playing a former neighbor when his No. 2 seed Wildcats take on 15th-seeded Robert Morris in the South Region today. Colonials coach Mike Rice used to live right down the street in Philadelphia when he was an assistant at Saint Joseph's from 2004-06. "I'm just upset that Mike told a story about me smoking a cigar when I told my wife I wasn't smoking cigars at my kids' Little League games," Wright said jokingly.
animated opponents: New Mexico's Darington Hobson, the Mountain West Conference player of the year, is already predicting a run to the region final for a bunch of NCAA Tournament first-timers. His Montana counterpart, Anthony Johnson, made it known the Grizzlies expected a first-round date with a high-profile Big East Conference school and not somebody from the mid-major Mountain West. These two star players will take center stage when their teams play in a first-round game of the East Region tonight, each providing bulletin-board material for the other. "They get a little bit giddy," Montana coach Wayne Tinkle said. "It's still part of the deal." "The bulletin board stuff's fun," New Mexico coach Steve Alford said. "We're not the Big East. We've said it all year long: We're New Mexico."
best of buddies: Here's an interesting locker room pairing in Oklahoma City: Kansas and Kansas State. The in-state rivals aren't actually in the same room, but they're right next to each other inside the Ford Center. Has there been any animosity? Not yet. For all the heat of this rivalry, the players like each other. "I don't know if I'm pulling for them, but they're good guys," said Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor, who played at Safety Harbor Middle School and for a Pinellas County AAU team. "We have good competition and I love playing with them. I'm rooting for my Big 12 teams, so I guess I can say I hope they do well."
LOUISIANA APPETITE: There are several reasons why Baylor coach Scott Drew was pleased to open the NCAA Tournament in New Orleans — and not all of them have to do with basketball. His father, Homer Drew, was an assistant to longtime LSU coach Dale Brown in the 1970s. The younger Drew said he ate his first solid food in Louisiana, "so that's why I love Cajun food, I guess. … We come down here just to eat."
KENTUCKY: Coach John Calipari likened the NCAA Tournament to a pilot bringing his aircraft safely to the ground. "The message I've given the team (is) land the plane,' he said. ". . . There's a storm. There's lightning. People drinking their 'Hater-Ade' and coming at you. There are going to be things written and said. It's all coming at you. Land the plane. Survive and advance." When a reporter suggested Kentucky faced a Final Four-or-bust situation, Calipari scoffed. "You've never coached before, I take it," he told the reporter. "When you're in the tournament, anything can happen."
georgia tech: As they did before the ACC tournament, players plan to give up their cell phones to mute distractions and spend more time talking to each other instead of texting family and friends.