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.

PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: A Big 12 and a Big Ten showdown

Denzel Valentine
(AP Photo/Al Goldis)
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GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 10 West Virginia at No. 6 Kansas, 7:00 p.m.

The last time these two teams got together, West Virginia actually knocked off Kansas in Morgantown. It was the third time in the last three seasons that WVU has beaten KU at home. So there’s some revenge at stake here. But there’s also the whole Big 12 title race, which West Virginia currently leads. If the Mountaineers win tonight, they’ll be up by two games on Kansas with the tie breaker and just seven games left to play. The Jayhawks regular season title streak could be over if that happens.

THIS ONE’S GOOD, TOO: No. 8 Michigan State at No. 18 Purdue, 7:00 p.m.

We think the Spartans are back to their early season form after wins over Maryland (at home), Northwestern, Rutgers and Michigan. If Michigan State really wants to prove something to the college basketball world, they will go into West Lafayette tonight and get a win. Denzel Valentine vs. Raphael Davis will be fun.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR

  1. Pitt will pay a visit to No. 12 Miami in a game the Panthers could really use a win in. Pitt hasn’t been the most consistent team in the country and without adding a few quality wins they could be looking at the bubble.
  2. Duquesne will be paying a visit to No. 19 Dayton, who moved into a tie for first place in the Atlantic 10 thanks to VCU’s loss on Saturday.
  3. Georgia is right there on the bubble, and they will have a chance to try and push themselves into a better spot when they play at No. 22 Kentucky tonight.
  4. Creighton probably has to win out to have a shot of making the NCAA tournament, and that includes tonight, when they host No. 5 Xavier.
  5. No. 7 Virginia will be hosting Virginia Tech, who picked off the Wahoos in Blacksburg earlier this year.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25

  • No. 1 Villanova at DePaul, 8:30 p.m.
  • No. 25 Wichita State at Drake, 8:00 p.m.

 

PLAYER OF THE YEAR POWER RANKINGS: Buddy Hield isn’t going anywhere

Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) drives to the basket as LSU guard Antonio Blakeney (2) defends in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016. (AP Photo/Bill Feig)
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It’s Tuesday, which means that it is once again time for the NBC Sports Player of the Year Power Rankings.

And you’ll be shocked to find out that Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield is still No. 1 in those rankings. By a pretty wide margin.

The rest of the top 10?

They can be found here, at the CBT FaceBook page. Follow that page for the countdown: