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Bracket watch: Cal remains in projected tournament field

Bears still have work to do, though

Ivan Rabb has his sights set on the Big Dance
Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Despite a narrow 62-57 loss at #9 Arizona on Saturday, the 18-7 California Golden Bears are currently expected to reach the NCAA Tournament. Nevertheless, stumbling against weaker opponents could alter the picture. There is certainly importance attached to Friday’s encounter at 12-13 Stanford.

Bracket Matrix places the Bears alongside 10 seeds Wichita State, Michigan State, and Miami. Cal’s RPI of 33 is a good sign, putting Cuonzo Martin’s squad just ahead of projected 7 seed Northwestern and directly behind USC.

The penultimate game of the regular season at Utah on March 2 feels especially significant after Cal needed double overtime to defeat the Utes at Haas Pavilion. Obviously, a home win against Oregon on February 22 would go a long way toward impressing the selection committee, but it’s probably not necessary if Cal takes care of business elsewhere. The Bears will host Oregon State on February 24 and finish the regular slate at Colorado on March 4.

In an intriguing twist, Joe Lunardi of ESPN has Cal facing the Gaels of Saint Mary’s in a Bay Area first round showdown. The Bears are classified among the “last four byes,” which is an upgrade from “last four in.” Cal is also a 10 seed in that scenario. In my case, family bragging rights would be on the line.