First of all, I’d like to congratulate the men’s basketball team for sweeping the Oregon schools this week. It wasn’t easy, and the Bears seemed to have to defeat OSU twice (read the recap if you didn’t catch the game), but they got it done, and can celebrate their first undefeated week since beating Stanford in their only game of the week on January 3.
With only two weeks left in the regular season, I think it’s safe to say that the NCAA tournament is out of the (realistic) picture. The NIT, however, is very much in play. A sure thing? I wouldn’t say that. Let’s take a look at the Bears’ résumé, as an NIT selection committee member might see it:
- Good Wins : Santa Clara, Kansas State, @ Stanford, Washington, Oregon
Nothing stellar here, but 5 good wins against teams that merit at least NCAA consideration. The Oregon win is probably the biggest one they can hang their hat on at this point.
- Bad Losses : San Diego
Not a terrible loss (certainly not as bad as Eastern Michigan last year), but it did come at home. The good news is that all of Cal’s other losses have come against teams in the running for at least some sort of postseason berth, so nothing too embarrassing here. Which leads me to my next point…
- Top 10 Schedule Strength
As of now, Cal has played the 10th toughest schedule in the nation, so having a winning record (as mediocre as that record might be) does deserve some applause. However…
- Cal may not finish the season with a winning record
If things play out as expected, Cal would finish right at .500. It’s hard to say that a 16-16 team really deserves a spot in the post-season.
- Pac-10 Is The Toughest Conference
In terms of RPI, the Pac-10 is loaded. 8th place in this conference is nothing to be ashamed of, and the committee will take that into consideration. However…
- Losing Conference Record
A losing conference record, no matter how tough the schedule, is hardly something that merits an NIT bid. Plenty of high major teams out there with .500 or better conference records will warrant post-season consideration.
- The RPI is Cal’s Best Friend
As it stands now, based on the latest bracket projected by ESPN, Cal would have the 15th highest RPI of any team not invited. Given that the NIT takes the next best 32 teams, the Bears should feel like they’re safely within that ‘best of the rest’ group.
All things considered, I think the Bears should get an NIT bid as long as they win the games they’re supposed to win. But in college basketball, few things are given. Beating ASU was supposed to be a given this year, but just ask USC how easy that was, as they got blitzed in the second half in Tempe on Sunday, letting ASU avoid a winless Pac-10 campaign.
On one hand, getting a postseason bid of any kind would be an accomplishment for this team, especially after all the injuries. Still, one has to wonder at the direction of this program if I’m actively rooting for an NIT bid. Shouldn’t we expect better?