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Bracketology watch: Cal avoiding a play-in game, but right on the bubble edge

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Bears head to the Mountain states to close out the regular season

NCAA Basketball: Utah at California
The Bears hope to celebrate well into March.
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The 19-9 California Golden Bears are 10-6 in conference and remain in the projected NCAA Tournament field. The last week included a strong effort against #6 Oregon that resulted in a 68-65 defeat and a 76-46 drubbing of Oregon State. However, according to Bracket Matrix they have slipped to an 11 seed (compared to a 10 seed two weeks ago).

The Bears aren’t really being punished for losing to the Ducks, but having to face a team as weak as the Beavers caused their RPI to fall to 51. Cal still appears to control its own destiny. Cuonzo Martin’s squad will travel to Utah for a game on Thursday and finish the regular season at Colorado on Saturday ahead of the conference tournament in Las Vegas.

Cal can clinch fourth place in the Pac-12 with a win over the Utes. That would help the Bears distinguish themselves from a team like USC which has a better RPI of 36 but stands just 8-8 in conference play. The Bears also triumphed over the Trojans 74-73 on January 8.

ESPN’s Joe Lunardi includes five Pac-12 teams in his Bracketology feature. The last two tournament byes are occupied by USC and Cal, respectively. In that scenario, Cal is also an 11 seed and would face Wisconsin in the first round.