For 12 seasons now, the California Golden Bears men's basketball team has averaged 20 wins per year, and this campaign has been no exception. The Bears have a chance to earn their 20th win on Wednesday in the Pac-12 Tournament, being played in Las Vegas. Cal will be favored to win its opening-round game against the worst team in the conference, and then the Bears will have a chance at advancing even further on Thursday when they could face the Utah Utes. This is a big week for the Golden Bears to prove themselves once again.
Regular season stats: 68.0 points per game scoring (293rd of 351 NCAA Division I schools), 62.4 points per game allowed (14th of 351)
Conference record: 10-8 (T5th place)
Overall record: 19-11, .633 winning percentage (86th of 351)
Home record: 15-3
Road record: 3-6
Best win: Cal's only win this year over a ranked team came on January 8 in Los Angeles against Southern California. The Bears' stifling defense registered seven steals and six blocks while forcing 12 turnovers. The Trojans contributed to their own demise by missing 11 free-throw attempts in this game, and the final score (74-73) reflected the pressure USC felt in this home game from Cal's ferocity.
Worst loss: The Bears already would have 20 wins if they hadn't lost to rival Stanford, 73-68 on February 17. The Cardinal finished ninth in the conference this season, but Stanford dealt Cal a painful loss at Maples Pavilion. The Bears had a miserable night shooting, making just 30 percent of their free throws. The officials played a big role in this game, though, sending the Cardinal to the FT line 30 more times than the Bears. That is something that rarely happens, and while Cal still shot poorly, the Bears might have pulled the game out in the end if not for the officiating anomalies.
Best Player: Only one of Cal's top four scorers has played in all 30 games this year, so it's clear the Bears have struggled with lineup consistency. However, sophomore forward Ivan Rabb has been a monster for the team all season. Over 28 games, he's made over 50 percent of his shots from the floor while averaging 14.3 points and 10.6 rebounds per game. Toss in Rabb's 1.1 blocks per contest, and Cal has a player on both ends of the court to build around offensively and defensively.
Pac-12 Tournament outlook: The Bears drew the best opponent for Wednesday's opening-round games in the Oregon State Beavers, a team that won just once in conference play this year. On February 24, Cal beat OSU by 30 points in Berkeley, and the Beavers haven't won away from Corvallis all season. The Bears definitely will get their 20th win on Wednesday, and then Cal will face Utah on Thursday. The Utes beat the Bears by 30 points in Salt Lake City on March 2, in the game immediately after the Cal blowout of Oregon State. Go figure. The Bears did beat the Utes in Berkeley, though, so Thursday's game could be a tossup between two well-matched rosters.
Tickets to Session 1, featuring the Arizona State-Stanford and California-Oregon State games on Wednesday afternoon, can be purchased here.