Justin Cobbs, E.J. Singler

NCAA tournament berth, Pac-12 regular season crown well within California’s reach (VIDEO)

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Just over a month ago California dropped a 69-59 decision at rival Stanford, falling to 2-3 in Pac-12 play and not looking anything like an NCAA tournament team.

Mike Montgomery’s Golden Bears have gone 7-2 since that loss, which includes their current streak of six wins in their last seven games, and at this rate Cal has to be considered a serious challenger for the Pac-12 title with just over two weeks remaining in the regular season.

Justin Cobbs was the hero on Thursday, as his contested jumper with seven tenths of a second remaining gave Cal a 48-46 win at Oregon and moved the Golden Bears to within a game of the Ducks and Arizona in the conference standings.

In Cobbs and Allen Crabbe the Golden Bears have one of the better perimeter scoring tandems that you’ll find in college basketball, but just as important to California’s improved play of late has been their work on the defensive end.

Oregon shot just 27.6% from the field against the Golden Bears, and the absence of freshman point guard Dominic Artis isn’t the only reason why the Ducks ran into trouble offensively. Oregon entered Thursday’s game second in the conference in field goal percentage (league games only), and Cal was able to hold them nearly 17 percentage points below their mark for the year (44.3%).

Also of note is the improved play of junior forward Richard Solomon, who accounted for eight points and 11 rebounds in Eugene. In the last seven games Solomon is averaging 9.1 points and 6.8 rebounds per contest, and even though those numbers are slightly above his season averages (8.6 and 6.5) Solomon has been more consistent during this current stretch.

Since their loss in Palo Alto California has swept Oregon and also has a win over Arizona, which gives them the tiebreaker over both teams should they wind up tied atop the Pac-12 standings.

With three of their final four games in Berkeley the Golden Bears are in good position to earn a ticket to the NCAA tournament, but why not be “greedy?” The Pac-12 title is there for the taking, and in recent weeks Cal has shown themselves capable of winning it.

Video credit: ESPN

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament chances take a major blow in loss to No. 16 SMU

SMU guard Nic Moore (11) shoots over Gonzaga forward Kyle Wiltjer (33) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
(AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
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Nic Moore scored 18 of his 25 points in the second half and added 11 assists as No. 16 SMU knocked off Gonzaga in Moody Coliseum on Saturday night, 69-60.

The Zags got 20 points and 16 boards from Domantas Sabonis, but Kyle Wiltjer scored just four points and shot 2-for-17 from the floor.

It wasn’t pretty.

And it may have been the end of Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament hopes.

Entering Saturday, the Zags had an RPI in the mid-60s, enough to keep them in the bubble conversation but not enough to make them anything more than a team that will be projected to end up on the cut-line.

The issue is a complete lack of quality wins on their résumé. Gonzaga beat UConn in the Bahamas. That’s a borderline top 50 win. They beat Washington, another borderline top 50 win. Beyond that? They swept Pepperdine, beat Tennessee and own a win over Montana. None of those are top 100 wins, and that’s why the SMU game was such a big deal. The Mustangs are a top 25 team. This was a road game. This win was the kind of thing that the Zags could pin at the top of their profile.

But Wiltjer didn’t show up, the Zags had no answer for Moore and they’ll head back to Spokane needing, in all likelihood, to win the WCC’s automatic bid if they want to dance.

POSTERIZED: Cal’s Jaylen Brown has his dunk contest entry

California's Jaylen Brown lays up a shot against Oregon State in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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Cal picked up a big win over Oregon State in Haas Pavilion on Saturday night, and the exclamation point was this emphatic dunk from Jaylen Brown: