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Those are less common than in the past, and California has followed a season arc similar to Maryland’s. Expected to finish in the bottom half of a power conference with an undersized roster, the Golden Bears have exploited their potent perimeter play to secure an NCAA berth the program probably savors more than any appearance in the past.

“We have gotten the most out of these guys,” John said. “We definitely have deficiencies, but we’ve been able to minimize our deficiencies and maximize strengths enough that we’re here.”

Central to it all was Montgomery, who pieced together his 11th straight 20-win season as a college coach - and has a chance to collect his 11th consecutive victory in a first-round game Thursday.

It’s an effective return to school - and one Montgomery is comfortable with after his NBA sojourn.

“You’re dealing with kids and daily moods,” Montgomery said. “Kids have class and issues and things they have to do. By and large, it’s been good. They’ve been responsive and done what we think it takes.”