Cal stands at 18-8 with four games left to play. You’d guess if they win out, they’re safely in. If they win three of four, they’re probably safely in.
But 2-2? That’s where things get dicey. With Cal hosting Oregon this week and visiting the Mountain schools next week, 2-2 is at the moment the likeliest projection. Pomeroy has Cal at best just under a coin flip to beat Oregon, Utah, and Colorado. The Bears need to take two of three to place themselves at 21-9 and safely into the NCAA tournament.
At the moment, Cal stands as around a 10 or 11 seed according to the Bracket Matrix, with the Bears ticking back toward the 11 seed after their loss to Stanford. We decided to do a Q&A with Chris Dobbertean, our SB Nation expert bracketologist over at Blogging the Bracket to take a look at the health of the bubble.
Reef: Is this the weakest bubble you've ever seen? What bubbles in the last 10 years have you seen that are comparable in terms of team resumes of Last 4 In, First 4 out.
Chris: It's funny because a few weeks ago I was looking at Timehop and came across a Facebook post from three years ago discussing how much I hated that season's bubble. But in reality, 2017's is really, truly the worst for a couple of reasons. First, we don't have many legitimate mid-major at-large threats. It's possible that we'll only have three or four at-large bids from outside of the Power Six: Cincy/SMU from the AAC, Dayton/VCU from the A 10, and Gonzaga/Saint Mary's out of the WCC. (I doubt the MVC gets both Wichita State and Illinois State.) Last season's Monmouth team would have been a lock if transported to 2017. Secondly, there are a whole lot of mediocre power conference teams out there, not just in the Pac-12, but in the SEC (not a surprise), Big Ten (a bit of a shock), ACC (quantity does not equal quality), and Big East.
Nick Kranz: Cal's resume (currently) is lacking in both high value wins (1-6 vs. the RPI top 50) and bad losses (17-1 vs. RPI 51+). Have you seen a pattern in how the selection committee treats teams with that kind of split in the past?
Chris: The lack of quality wins could be a bit of an issue this year. Not so much because of the Committee's behavior in the past but because of the roadmap Mark Hollis and his group of 10 has given us, thanks to last Saturday's sneak peak at the bracket's Top 16. If the Selection Committee is going to be consistent in selection and seeding, quality wins are going to be a major factor. And Cal's current 1-6 record is a major red flag on that front. Beating Oregon on Wednesday has to be priority No. 1 for the Golden Bears. And the unbalanced schedule doesn't help, since it only offered Cal one shot at the LA schools.
TheDozen: Does Cal's strong defense give the Bears a shot at a higher seed than their overall record and strength of schedule would by themselves?
Chris: I wouldn't think so. Not this season anyway. Maybe next year if the Selection Committee expands or improves its metrics, but I don't think the Bears' defense will give them much of a boost in 2017.
Nick: Cal had major injury issues early in the season to three major rotation members (Rabb, Bird, Rooks), and those players were either out or limited in losses to SDSU and Seton Hall - do you anticipate the selection committee taking that into account?
Chris: On the other hand, Cal should get a boost here. The Selection Committee has been pretty consistent about taking absences into account. However, I think they'll probably be more forgiving of losing to Seton Hall by three without Rooks than the 12-point defeat to SDSU without Bird (since Rabb and Rooks both featured prominently).
Avinash: What other tournament-caliber teams should Cal be watching who have the ability to displace them from the bubble?
Chris: The list is so long this year, and it's changing more than you'd expect with less than three weeks to go. I'll break it down by conference...
ACC: Clemson, Georgia Tech, Pitt, Syracuse, Wake Forest (The Demon Deacons are closest to Cal in terms of profile: great computer numbers, similar record against quality foes.)
Big 12: Kansas State, TCU, Texas Tech
Big East: Marquette, Seton Hall
SEC: Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee
During Championship Week, you can add any potential bid thieves in the Atlantic 10, WCC, American (especially with UConn hosting the tournament in Hartford), C-USA (Middle Tennessee could get a First Four spot if they don't win the auto bid), and MVC (Illinois State/Wichita State).