With four weeks left in the regular season, Cal finds itself in a precarious position. The Bears are tied for fifth place in the Pac-12 standings and sit at No. 51 in the official NCAA RPI computer rankings.
Neither is a comfortable place.
Will the sixth team in the Pac-12 qualify for the NCAA tournament? Maybe, but it’s by no means a sure thing.
How about No. 51 in the RPI? Bubble territory.
Cal hits the road this week to play a pair of second-division teams it’s already beaten: at Washington State on Wednesday night, at Washington on Saturday afternoon.
“I hope they understand it’s down to where it’s going to separate pretty soon,” Cal coach Mike Montgomery said of the tight pack of teams in the middle of the conference standings.
“We’ve got to be a part of the positive separation. There’s nine teams and any one of those nine could step up and be in a better position. We’re certainly not out of the woods. This week’s important to us, but a lot of people I’m sure are saying the same thing.”
Tied for seventh, eighth and ninth behind Cal and Stanford are Utah, Oregon State and Washington, all at 5-6. Oregon, 13-0 before Pac-12 play began, sits in 10th place at 3-8.
NCAA RPI RATINGS
2. Arizona: Cats wobbled a bit but won twice without Brandon Ashley
19. UCLA: The computer likes the Bruins more than Top-25 voters do
25. Colorado: Still hanging in there without star Spencer Dinwiddie
40. Arizona State: Sun Devils have Valentine’s Day date with Arizona
42. Oregon: Ducks have lost four Pac-12 games by 2 points each
44. Stanford: Win at Cal improved Cardinal to 5-2 on road; UW awaits
51. Cal: Bears are 1-4 in past five and that win was over Arizona
81. Oregon State: Only road win since Nov. 18 — at Washington State
83. Washington: A different team at home, where Huskies are 11-2
105. Utah: Utes are 16-1 at home, 0-6 on the road.
131. USC: 1-9 in the Pac-12 and that one win came over Cal
161. Washington St: High-scoring DaVonte Lacy didn’t face Bears first time
The Cal women’s basketball team, coming off its first trip to the Final Four last season, is rated No. 9 in the USA Today preseason coaches poll, matching the Bears’ highest preseason ranking.
Cal was 32-4 last season and shared its first Pac-12 championship with rival Stanford.
Cal is one of three Pac-12 teams with two players listed on CBS Sports’ rankings of the top-100 college basketball players in the nation.
Senior Justin Cobbs is No. 74 and freshman Jabari Bird sits at No, 93.
Arizona freshman Aaron Gordon is 10th and teammate Nick Johnson 59th. UCLA also has two players on the list — Kyle Anderson at No. 27, Jordan Adams at No. 37.
Other Pac-12 players on the list are No. 9 Jahii Carson of Arizona State, No. 21 Spencer Dinwiddie of Colorado, No. 67 Dwight Powell of Stanford, No. 78 Mike Moser of Oregon and No. 92 C.J. Wilcox of Washington.
Kentucky has seven players on the top-100 list, five of them among the top 36. Louisville and Michigan State each have four players on the list.
The rankings, compiled by Gary Parrish and not based on NBA potential, features 40 seniors, 23 juniors, 21 sophomores and 16 freshmen. But five of those freshmen are ranked in the top-12, led by No. 1 Andrew Wiggins of Kansas.
Need more evidence that Cal is about to embark on one of the nation’s most rigorous schedules?
The USA Today’s coaches poll was released Thursday, and Cal faces three teams ranked in the top four and seven in the top-25.
Previously, Phil Steele ranked Cal’s schedule the nation’s third-toughest and The Sporting News placed it as No. 4.
Here’s how the gauntlet unfolds:
– Aug. 31: vs. No. 22 Northwestern
– Sept. 14 vs. No. 2 Ohio State
– Sept. 28 at No. 3 Oregon
– Oct. 12 at No. 21 UCLA
– Oct. 19 vs. No. 25 Oregon State
– Nov. 9 vs. No. 24 USC
– Nov. 23 at No. 4 Stanford
Cal’s seven-game win streak has translated into a No. 42 spot in the latest computer rankings, according to RealTimeRPI.com.
The Bears were sitting at No. 46 headed into Saturday’s game against Colorado. Their 62-46 win dropped the Buffaloes six spots to No. 28.
Arizona remains the highest-rated Pac-12 team at No. 13, despite its loss Saturday at UCLA, which has moved up to No. 31.
Stanford, which plays Utah on Sunday, then visits Cal on Wednesday, is No. 71.
West Coast Conference runnerup Saint Mary’s is No. 38.
Click here for all the rankings.
Two weeks ago this morning, as the Bears prepared to play at Arizona, they were sitting at No. 75 in the RPI computer rankings.
This morning, having won five in a row since then, they are No. 40.
Cal has three regular-season games remaining, all at home:
— Thursday vs. RPI 177 Utah
— Saturday vs. RPI 29 Colorado
— Wednesday, March 6 vs. RPI 67 Stanford
Cal could lose any of these, but also could sweep. They probably need two to assure themselves of an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament.
They’d do themselves a big favor by making it the next two — Utah and Colorado.
Indiana is the preseason No. 1 in the AP Top-25 poll that has only two representatives from the Pac-12 Conference.
Arizona checks in at No. 12, with UCLA one spot behind. The Bruins’ prospect depend on the eligibility of two elite freshmen, Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson, neither of whom is yet cleared by the NCAA to play.
Cal plays two non-conference games against teams ranked in the preseason poll: Dec. 2 at No. 23 Wisconson, and Dec. 9 at home vs. No. 18 UNLV.
Here’s the poll.
What do you imagine Oregon feels like it has to do Saturday against Colorado to impress the BCS computer after the Ducks fell from No. 3 to 4 in this week’s ratings?
How about a 70-0 win?
Think that’s far-fetched? The system has basically encouraged them to do just that.
All Oregon did this past week was roll up a 43-7 lead over Arizona State barely 3 1/2 minutes into the second quarter. Yet, the Ducks fell behind Kansas State in the latest BCS rankings, after the Wildcats routed West Virginia.
It was really no problem for the Ducks when Alabama and Florida both debuted ahead of Oregon in the BCS rankings because one of the two SEC schools eventually has to lose. Now there’s another variable involved. Now Oregon’s path to the national championship game is more complicated.
Of course, all this could have been avoided except that K-State backed out of a once-scheduled game this season against Oregon.
Here’s Oregon’s remaining regular-season schedule: vs. Colorado, at USC, at Cal, vs. Stanford, at Oregon State.
Here’s K-State’s remaining regular-season schedule: vs. Texas Tech, vs. Oklahoma State, at TCU, at Baylor, vs. Texas.
The Cal women’s basketball team, with most of its roster intact from a 25-10 season a year ago, is ranked No. 14 in preseason polls released by Lindy’s and Athlon Sports.
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott defended USC coach Lane Kiffin’s decision to drop his vote in the USA Today Coaches Poll.
“I think it’s an unfair position to put the coaches in, to supposedly vote objectively when they’ve got a very natural conflict of interest, No. 1, and, No. 2, I think most coaches are focused on their own games — let alone breaking down tape afterwards and all that,” Scott said.
“So to expect that coaches could have a good, balanced, well-researched perspective on who the best teams are in any given week is a fallacy.”
Elsewhere . . .
– New UCLA coach Jim Mora Jr., unhappy with his team, kicked his players out of practice Wednesday.
– USC freshman defensive end DeVante Wilson has torn the ACL of his left knee, will undergo surgery and is out for the season.