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Cal Basketball Back On The Bubble: Arizona Upset, UCLA & USC Ahead

Cal now has two top-25 upsets in the conference against Arizona and Oregon. Will it be enough to get them into the tournament?

Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

What are the things that really impressed you the most from the Arizona road trip? What things are still disappointing you?

LEastCoastBears: The Bears were able to execute under pressure. Okay, Crabbe was hesitant and botched a couple of plays at the end of the ASU game, but he more than made that up in the Arizona game. Tyrone Wallace and Justin Cobbs both were able to convert some key baskets last week. Even though I mostly believe that "clutchness" (particularly for baseball) is just an artifact of stats. It's nice to know that the team was able to execute under pressure in a hostile environment, at least for the Arizona game (I would also agree that this can be said for the USC road win earlier this year).

Of course, I would be greatly disappointed but not all that shocked, if we return to our inconsistent and frustrating ways of not being able to grab the loose ball or make a bucket at close blank range in our next games. The zone worked great this past week, we probably would have to use it again against the athletic UCLA squad even though they are less athletic than by their usual standard. I am not sold that zone is the difference maker but am glad that we at least can switch between zone and man-to-man to give the opponents a different look mid-game.

norcalnick: guess it would be a cop-out to just say 'Allen Crabbe,' huh?

I was really impressed with the last 48 minutes of basketball Justin Cobbs played last weekend, starting with his one man comeback attempt against Arizona State. And although Crabbe rightly gets the plaudits for what he did at McKale, Cobbs was nearly as efficient. And it's Cobbs who is the key player in Cal's offense, in part because at this point we know what we're going to get from Crabbe.

Also, big ups to Bak Bak. Every senior, whether a superstar or a walk-on, deserves good moments. He only played six minutes at Arizona, but he made them count by hitting all 4 shots he attempted from the field and from the line, and Cal probably doesn't win without them.

We're approaching that time of year. What will it take to make the tournament?

LEastCoastBears: With the Arizona win, the Bears are now back in the bubble in that first or second 4 out range. To make the tournament, wins over UCLA and Furd at home are a must. With 5 of the last 7 games at home, we really have no excuses to lose too many more games (maybe @Oregon). So 6-1 plus another win in the Pac-12 tournament would give us 21 wins. We probably have to do that to really crash the party.

norcalnick: 20 wins was the old standard benchmark prior to the Pac-10/12's recent downturn. But with the conference's fortunes on the upswing, getting to 20 wins at least allows us to start imaging the possibility. So at their current record of 14-9, obviously enough, Cal would need to win 6 games out of their last 7 conference games and the Pac-12 tournament.

That's a tall order, but Cal's schedule is relatively friendly. Only two road games, and one of those road games is against a bad Oregon State team. On the other hand, UCLA, USC, Colorado and Stanford are all solid teams. One could argue that, taken as individual games in isolation, Cal might be the favorite in each game at Haas. But Cal certainly isn't a favorite to win all of them, especially since teams like Stanford and Colorado are in a similar position as Cal in terms of tournament hopes.

So hopefully the Bears go 5-2 down the stretch of the Pac-12 schedule and finish with a record of 20-11 (11-7). They earn the 5th seed in the Pac-12 tournament, win their first round game against the 12 seed, then face a team like Arizona in the 2nd round of the tournament. Would they need to beat a team like Arizona again to boost their at-large profile? That's really hard to project based on what we currently know, but it wouldn't surprise me.

Look ahead to UCLA/USC. How do you see us beating each of them?

LEastCoastBears: UCLA is still rather schizophrenic so maybe we can catch them on a bad day. If they are on, then we would need another Herculean effort from Crabbe with plenty of help from Cobbs and Wallace to beat them. As for USC, they are certainly capable of playing well, but I am hoping that our home court advantage is enough to make that a relatively easy one. Even though the games are in Berkeley, I expect our LA trio of Crabbe, Cobbs, and Solomon to be fired up to play the SoCal teams.

norcalnick: A sweep would be massive for many reasons, the least of which is because it's tough. It's probably the most challenging home weekend in Pac-12 play, especially considering USC's improved play of late. Would you believe that, outside of a blowout loss to Arizona, Cal's early 8 point win over USC is the Trojan's biggest loss in conference play?

What do we need to see from Cal? The same thing we've been looking for all season: Consistent execution on both ends of the floor. Wins over Oregon and Arizona confirmed what we suspected all year long: The Bears are a talented team fully capable of competiting with almost anybody. But sandwiched in between those huge wins was another head-scratching loss to Arizona State that saw the Bears come out flat.

If they play flat basketball for meaningful stretches against either USC or UCLA, they'll lose. Hopefully a confident team will show up, with a strong home crowd behind them.