The Pac-12 outdid itself Thursday night.
Nearing the end of a regular season in which it has consistently appeared hellbent on becoming the first power conference since the expansion of the NCAA tournament to send just one team to the Big Dance, the league produced arguably the most head-scratching result of the 2018-19 season.
Washington entered Thursday night’s contest at Cal with a sparkling 22-5 record and the No. 25 ranking in the current AP top 25 poll. The Huskies had already locked up a share of the Pac-12 regular season title, and needed just a win over the lowly Bears to secure the outright title with 10 days of action still to go.
Cal, meanwhile, entered the evening with a 5-22 overall record, a woeful 0-15 mark in a woeful conference, and had lost its last three games by a combined 58 points. The Bears’ inability to be competitive against any team with a pulse had recently led *some* to wonder outloud whether they might be the worst power conference team in the history of college basketball.
Final score: Cal 76, Washington 73.
This is pure madness. pic.twitter.com/oKsiro37pd— Mike Rutherford (@CardChronicle) March 1, 2019
Maybe this result doesn’t occupy the top spot on the “Batshit Stupid Pac-12 Basketball Things From 2018-19” totem pole, but it has to be close. It’s pretty clearly above Steve Alford getting fired on New Year’s Eve, and also ahead of the league having a 6-6 record against the WCC and a 6-23 mark against other power conference teams. If the league fulfills its destiny and only has one team hear its name called on Selection Sunday, then there will be an unquestioned head honcho of shared embarrassment.
Even if you believe that Washington is something of a fraud, it’s nearly impossible to accurately convey how ridiculous it is that Cal just defeated a team that anyone could deem worthy of top 25 consideration ... in a regulation game of basketball.
But only true losers refuse to try, so here we go.
—For starters, Cal entered Thursday night as the No. 279 team in Ken Pomeroy’s ranking of all 353 Division-I teams. That put them nine spots behind a 7-23 Western Carolina squad, and five behind 9-21 UNC Wilmington.
—There was a difference of 243 spots between Cal’s ranking and Washington’s (36).
—This was Cal’s first win of any sort since Dec. 21, 2018. On that night, the Bears trailed San Jose State by two at halftime before gutting out an 88-80 home win over the Spartans. That San Jose State team is 3-23 against D-I opponents this season.
—Over that same time span (from Dec. 21 until Thursday night), Washington was 15-1.
—Eight of Cal’s 15 Pac-12 losses this season have come by 13 points or more, and only one — an 84-81 home loss to Stanford — came by fewer than eight points.
—A nationally-ranked team got worked to the tune of 18 points and seven rebounds by this dude:
—Cal entered Thursday night ranked 353rd out of 353 teams in effective field goal percentage defense. They held Washington to just 29 second half points.
—The Bears have non-conference losses this season to:
Yale (by 17)
Saint Mary’s (by 13)
San Francisco (by 19)
Fresno State (by 22)
Seattle (by 9)
Their five wins before Thursday night had come against against 13-15 Hampton, 15-13 Santa Clara, 18-10 San Diego State, 6-30 Cal Poly (by 1), and 3-23 San Jose State.
MOOD. @CalMBBall | #Pac12Hoops pic.twitter.com/EGiXklGtlx— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) March 1, 2019
March was just a little over an hour old on the East Coast when this game went final, and it’s not a certainty that the month is going to give us anything stranger over the 31 days to come.
If you’re gonna be a one-bid league, then f—k it, be the most hilarious one-bid league you can be.
Cal Bears: 2019 Pac-12 tournament champions. Speak it into existence.