* 8 p.m. Wednesday at Haas Pavilion (ESPNU)
The race has tightened.
Oregon’s 85-78 win over Arizona State on Wednesday night — the Ducks’ sixth straight victory — leaves seven teams within a game-and-a-half of each other in the middle of the Pac-12 standings.
Here’s the current logjam from third through ninth place: Arizona State 10-7, Colorado 9-7, Stanford 9-7, Cal 9-7, Oregon 9-8, Utah 8-8, Washington 8-8.
There is a lot at stake this week, including NCAA tournament prospects. But the more immediate issue is the seven-way battle for the final two top-four finishes in the conference standings, the reward for which is a first-round bye in the Pac-12 tournament.
Arizona has clinched the title at 14-2 and UCLA is second at 11-5.
After that, mayhem.
There are too many mathematical possibilities to cover them all, but here’s what the Bears’ game Wednesday night against Utah means to the Bears:
– A win and Cal sits in a tie for third place at 10-7 with ASU and the winner of Wednesday night’s game between Colorado and Stanford.
– A loss and the Bears slide into a four-way tie for fifth place with Utah, Oregon and the loser of the Colorado-Stanford game.
Cal enters the final weekend of the regular season reeling after a pair of decisive road losses to Arizona and Arizona State. The Bears have lost three of their past four games, and none of them were close.
Asked to assess his team’s confidence level, coach Mike Montgomery conceded, “Probably not great, probably struggling a little bit. It’s hard to lose.
“Try as they might, they need some feel good. They need to have some success. Need to have a shot go down, need to have a play go their way.
“We knew going into this stretch of games, you’re going to have a hard time winning at Arizona, Arizona State. It’s been a stretch of games that a lot of people in our position are not going to win. And we didn’t. So it’s not anything that’s different from anybody else.
“We can still finish third. It’s up to us to see if we can make it happen.”
The Bears haven’t faced Utah since last year’s Pac-12 tournament quarterfinal, when they lost 79-69 in overtime. By all indications, the Utes (19-9) are better this season.
Back is forward Jordan Loveridge, who had 20 points in that meeting last March as a freshman. But the difference-maker for Utah is junior wing Delon Wright, a native of Los Angeles and transfer from City College of San Francisco.
At 6-foot-5, the younger brother of Dorell Wright of the Portland Trail Blazers averages 16.4 points, 6.8 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 2.6 steals and 1.4 blocks.
“He’s a stat stuffer — does everything,” said Cal senior point guard Justin Cobbs, who grew up playing in the same AAU system as Wright. “He’s doing great things for that team.”
Montgomery, in fact, called Wright one of “the top three kids in the conference in terms of his impact on games. He’s a very, very good player.
“If you want to knit-pick, he’s probably not a pure perimeter shooter, but he’s big, he defends, he’s smart, he really understands the game and he’s a good passer. He’s a potential triple-double guy at any time.”
The Utes’ biggest shortcoming? They are 1-7 on the road this season, with an 18-point win at USC but single-digit losses at Arizona, ASU, Colorado, Washington and Washington State.