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


  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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!

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