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Never say never: Cal looks to pull off miracle at Pac-12 championship

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MARCH 07, 2023

Cal has won a grand total of three games this season, all coming in a four-game stretch at the turn of the year, resulting in a 3-28 record.

The only reason the Pac-12 has let the second-worst team in the entire country have a shot at winning the conference and punching a ticket to the Big Dance is that every Pac-12 team gets to play in the tournament; even then, perhaps the Pac-12 should consider this a special case worthy of a rule adjustment.

Nonetheless, Cal is in the tournament with a shot at winning, and even if it seems like it’ll need divine intervention or Jaylen Brown in disguise to help win this game, never say never. The Bears will head to Las Vegas as the 12th seed and try to shock the world by upsetting fifth-seed Washington State.

Cal’s 3-28 record is the worst in program history. Injuries have decimated the squad, the entire team suffers from a severe lack of offense and the coaching has been flat-out terrible at adjusting. There likely hasn’t ever been a team less favored to win an in-conference game than Cal is against WSU this Wednesday, but the Bears are still going to have to go out to the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas and try their best.

All things considered, the Washington State matchup isn’t the worst. The last time the Bears played the Cougars, the blue and gold only lost by six points, actually shooting better than Washington State and posting a season-low six turnovers.

Cal will be looking to Joel Brown to produce once again. On Senior Day two weeks ago, Brown had one of his best games of the season, scoring 13 points to go with seven rebounds and tying a career-high of nine assists. In the final game of the season against Oregon State, he poured in a career-high 22 points. The Bears will need every bit of these performances and more to compete with a red-hot Washington State.

Washington State rolls into the Pac-12 tournament on a six-game winning streak, having stolen the fifth seed from Arizona State’s grasp. Led by sophomore big man Mohamed Gueye, who averaged 15 points and 9 rebounds on the season, and junior guard TJ Bamba, averaging 16 points a game this year, the Cougars are a force to be reckoned with.

That dynamic duo combined for 39 to knock off the Bears two weeks ago, and at least one of them will have to be stopped if the Bears hope to stand a chance in Vegas. Head coach Mark Fox has also hopefully drawn up some more zone-breaking plays to help the Bears beat Washington State’s 3-2 zone that it played for much of the game.

In the event that the Bears somehow defeat Washington State, they’ll be matched up with fourth-seed Oregon, who absolutely mauled them by 33 points a week ago. The outlook for that improbable game is extremely bleak already, but if Cal somehow manages to get the best of the Ducks, it will likely be pit against top-seed UCLA — one of the favorites to win not just the Pac-12 championship, but March Madness as a whole.

An impossible win, in that case, would move the Bears to the championship game; if the seeding is correct, they’ll face second-seed Arizona, another team primed to make a deep run in March Madness.

Ultimately, the Bears will have to string together four straight wins, in four straight days, against four teams that are lightyears ahead of them, to win the Conference of Champions and book their spot in the NCAA tournament. If we’re being real, it won’t happen. But never say never.

Contact Kyle Ngo at 


MARCH 07, 2023