Bracketology 2014: Cal basketball 52nd in RPI, in the first four out

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

We're out of March Madness right now. Here's the road to getting back in.

Nothing much changed after the results of Cal's win over Colorado.

Here are the teams on the bubble at the moment depending on which bracketologist you’re looking at:

Arkansas, Tennessee, Dayton, Xavier, St. Joseph’s, Pitt, Stanfurd, Nebraska, BYU are among the last eight in for the tourney.

Teams that are out? Minnesota, St. John’s, Providence, Southern Miss, Georgetown, Florida State, and Missouri.

So what do the Bears have to do to get themselves back in the tournament?

First of all, Cal has to beat Colorado, if it is the Buffs they end up facing. It gets dicier if USC upsets Colorado. If Cal ends up facing USC, they probably have to beat them and the winner of the Arizona/Utah-Washington game too. (Another upset win over Arizona would lock them in, but considering how we played them the last time we matched up, it’s not something to bet on, so you're probably rooting for a Utah/Washington upset if it comes to that.)

If any of those scenarios occur, then a few things need to happen.

Atlantic Ten Tournament: Dayton (RPI T-40) and St. Joseph’s (RPI 48) are currently slated for a Friday matchup in the tourney if Dayton beats the George Mason-Fordham winner. Dayton has not played well against St. Joseph’s, but St. Joseph’s has the weaker resume (Dayton beat Gonzaga, St. Louis, GWU, UMass and us, while St. Joseph’s swept Dayton, beat VCU and UMass) and has lost some bad games going into the tournament.

SEC Tournament: Just like in the Atlantic Ten, Arkansas (RPI 53) and Tennessee (RPI 46) look like they’re headed for a Friday confrontation. Arkansas must battle the Auburn-South Carolina winner on Thursday before facing Tennessee.

The big thing Arkansas has working in their favor is their season sweep of mercurial Kentucky and nice OOC wins against SMU and Minnesota (we did beat Arkansas in Maui). Tennessee is such a strange strange team (top 15 team in Pomeroy, but their best conference win was against Arkansas, they were swept by Texas A&M, and have only two marquee OOC victories against Virginia and Xavier).

Missouri (RPI 56) also has a shot. They have a big win against UCLA but just struggled a lot in SEC play.

Big East Tournament: Xavier (RPI 47) has some great marquee wins over Tennessee and Cincinnati, and a big upset of Creighton late in the year coupled with a season sweep of St. John’s might be just enough to push them over the top. But they’ve lost two in a row going into the tournament, were swept by lowly Seton Hall, and ALSO lost to USC in an East Coast tournament (eh?). Xavier battles Marquette Thursday night and probably will feel more comfortable about where they stand with a win.

Two other Big East teams chasing bids are St. John’s (RPI 57) and Providence (RPI 54), but they play each other in a practical elimination game before they have to face Villanova the next day. Uphill road for those two considering their nearly identical resumes (both beat Creighton once, with no other marquee wins). Georgetown (RPI 55) has some huge wins against Creighton, Michigan State and VCU, but sit at 8-10 in the Big East and will need a big tourney run against DePaul and Creighton to get back in it.

ACC Tournament: Pitt (RPI 40) is suffering from that Cal 2009-10 issue: Beat everyone they should have, lost to everyone they should have. That Syracuse loss at the buzzer was a true heartbreaker. Right now their biggest notches are a season sweep of Maryland and an OOC win against Stanfurd, but they’ve kept a clean sheet and avoided bad losses so they should feel relatively comfortable as long as they beat Wake Forest-Notre Dame.

A team in a not so clean place is Florida State (RPI 58). They did beat Pitt and have two convincing wins against UMass and VCU, but lost some heartbreakers to every big team they faced (plus sprinkle in a few bad losses against Miami and N.C. State). The Seminoles are a good team but right now appear to be off the bubble. They will need a tourney run, starting with beating Maryland and then upsetting Virginia. We are basically rooting against the Seminoles here.

Big Ten Tournament: Minnesota (RPI 49) was 11-2 going into the Big Ten before stumbling and bumbling its way out of the Dance with inexplicable guffaws. (Triple overtime loss to Purdue? Losing at home to Northwestern???). They have big wins against Iowa, Wisconsin and Ohio State, but sit in seventh place in the Big Ten thanks to these strange trip-ups. They will almost certainly have to beat Penn State and pull off a shocker against Wisconsin.

Contrast that with Nebraska (RPI 35), who are entering this tournament hot. After falling to 8-8, they have won 11 of 14, upset Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin and have only two bad losses to UAB and Purdue. One win at the Big 10 Tournament against the Ohio State-Purdue winner should lock them in, since no one is going to fault them for losing to Michigan. That being said, a one-and-done appearance could revive some questions as to whether the Huskers have used up that mojo.

Conference USA Tournament: 26-5 Southern Miss (RPI 34) has definitely done its part by winning, but that will probably not be enough on its own in the lowly Conference USA, where the tournament champion figures to be the only bid from the conference. Even if they were to make a run and knock off Louisiana Tech, it’s doubtful that C-USA will send two teams so they won’t impact anyone’s bubble status.

Pac-12 Tournament: Washington State beating Furd (RPI 43) would be sweet for many reasons. First of all, the Cardinal would have dropped four of five games, and losing to a Pac-12 bottom-dweller while on the bubble would be particularly more embarrassing. When comparing Cal and Furd’s resumes, Cal has the better win (Arizona compared to Furd’s win over UCLA), they split their season series, and both beat Oregon. Furd is probably in with a win though.

So there you have it. Lots of things have to break our way, and if they do, Cal still has a shot at this. Just like every March with Monty, it will come right down to the wire.

But ultimately, the Bears control their own fate. Win one and they should feel like they have a shot; win two, and they will dance.

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