Bubble burst: Cal offense disappears again in regular-season finale at Colorado 54-46

March 5, 2017

Cal Bears, NCAA

Colorado guard George King, center, is trapped with the ball by California guard Jabari Bird, left, and forward Ivan Rabb in the second half of an NCAA basketball game Saturday, March 4, 2017, in Boulder, Colo. Colorado won 54-46. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

By Morris Phillips

If the NCAA tournament committee were so inclined, they could have tuned in to the Pac-12 Network Saturday afternoon to see if the Cal Bears could pass the “eye test” for inclusion to the upcoming tournament.

If so, the committee would have been saddled with eye soreness watching a struggling team whose offense has mysteriously disappeared.

Cal’s offense was missing in action as the Bears fell short in the regular season finale at Colorado, 54-46.  Three days after the Bears shot 27 percent from the field, and lost by 30 at Utah, they were similarly saddled by anemic 27 percent shooting at Colorado.

“You just can’t keep getting stops and stops without scoring,” said Jabari Bird, who led Cal with just 11 points.

The recent spate of losing (five losses in six games) has taken the Bears from likely inclusion in March Madness to barely under consideration. Had the committee tuned in Saturday, they would have bypassed opportunities to watch bubble occupants Vanderbilt and Xavier in the same broadcast window as the Commodores upset Florida, and the once Top Ten-ranked Musketeers ended a six-game losing streak at DePaul.

While Xavier and Vanderbilt on first glance seem to be similarly challenged teams like Cal, the key differences are significant.  Cal has been anemic against top competition, going 1-7 against the nation’s Top 50, beating only USC in January.  Bubble teams–all from major conferences and many with more overall losses than Cal–have each pulled at least two Top 50 upsets, and none are the anemic offensively as Cal.

Consequently, the Bears (19-11, 10-8) are listed among the next four out in ESPN’s up-to-the-minute bracketology, at the bottom of a list of eight schools that are closest to NCAA inclusion, but are currently believed to be out.  With the regular season concluded, Cal’s only path is to win three consecutive days next week in Las Vegas, likely needing to beat Washington, UCLA and Oregon to reinvent their tournament resume.


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