Basketball: Comparing Cal, WSU

ESPN.com’s Joe Lunardi, whom I have known for years and respect for the accuracy of his NCAA tournament projections, published his latest “bracketology” rundown today. And, as of now, he has four Pac-10 teams in the field.

Arizona is a No. 5 seed, Washington a No. 7, UCLA a No. 9 and Washington State shares a No. 12 slot with Missouri State. The Cougars are listed among “the last four in.”

Which makes me wonder: Can Cal be anywhere close to that, depending on what it does this week in Washington?

Obviously, Thursday night’s game at Washington is more than a minor obstacle. The Huskies, despite losing three in a row (all on the road), are ridiculously difficult at home — 11-0.

For our purposes here, we’re going to fast-forward beyond Seattle to Pullman on Saturday and the Bears’ game against Washington State (which you won’t see because it’s not being televised).

How do the Bears and Cougs compare?

   — Cal and WSU have met once — the Bears won 88-81 in overtime at Berkeley.

   — The two are tied for fourth in the Pac-10 standings at 6-5.

   — Cal’s ranking in RealTimeRPI.com is No. 66.WSU is No. 69.

   — The Bears’ RPI strength of schedule is rated No. 12. WSU’s is No. 104.

   — The Cougars are 16-7 overall, the Bears 13-10.

   — Outside the Pac-10, the Cougs beat Baylor and Gonzaga and lost by five points to Kansas State.

   — Outside the Pac-10, the Bears beat New Mexico, Temple and Iowa State, but lost decisively to Notre Dame Boston College, San Diego State and Kansas. 

   — WSU beat Washington by seven points at home. Cal lost to the Huskies by 21 at home.

   — Both teams lost to Pac-10 leader Arizona by two points — Cal twice, including in triple-overtime.

Seems to me the difference between the resumes of the two comes down to this: Cal played a tough non-conference schedule, but the Cougars performed better against theirs. (Plus they beat UW). As a result of that pre-conference showing, the Bears simply don’t have enough victories to warrant consideration.

That equation could change a bit if Cal can complete the season sweep (for a third straight year) of the Cougars.

Here’s the problem: Unless Cal somehow also wins at UW — the Bears need a “grabber” and they need numbers — a victory at WSU is more likely to bump the Cougars off the bubble than boost the Bears into the conversation.

Jeff Faraudo

  • discdude

    Wow, thanks Jeff. FINALLY someone is talking about this. I’ve been saying for awhile (after Cal beat WSU) that WSU is either being over-rated by Lunardi, or Cal is being lowered for lack of wins. But wins do count and not getting that Arizona win hurts. Cal needs a signature Pac-10 win and that has to come against UW on the road. Then, they need to back it up with a win at WSU. Do that, and Lunardi has to take notice (I think he’s very good at what he does). But, if they lose to UW again, I think it’s all moot and it would be nigh impossible to get an NCAA bid barring a miracle in the Pac-10 tourney.

  • joey

    I don’t see Cal winning more than 3-4 games at most the rest of the conference season. I do see Cal as the most capable team to win the Pac 10 tournament with a nothing-to-lose attitude who no one will want to play. The only issue will be their depth for 3 games in a row. We do have a break playing only Stanfurd the last week before the Pac 10 tournament which will be worth something.

  • nickle

    great stuff Jeff

  • Luke

    By RPI and SOS Cal should certainly be in the discussion. On the flip side, it’s laughable that a 13-10 team is considering the NCAA tournament outside of either (1) running the table in the Pac-10; or (2) winning the Pac-10 tournament.

    A win @ WSU won’t do it for Cal. If they are looking at-large, they need to win out and get to 20-10.

  • bearly there

    Washington is going to be jacked up after losing 3 in a row, they’re going to take it out on the poor Bears. Come on Bears, at least make the score closer this time.

  • Uh Huh!

    As I have state before I’d be very satisfied with a plus .500 record and a trip to the NIT. We are on our way!