Cal MBB ends regular season with defeat to Oregon

The Ducks ride a 2nd half scoring surge to a routine win in Berkeley

For the briefest of moments, it felt like Cal had a chance to put a dent in Oregon’s NCAA tournament hopes.

The Ducks started the game on an 8-2 run and spent the majority of the first half with a decent lead. Cal entered halftime trailing 34-27. But Cal scored six quick points to get within a point, capped by Andre Kelly turning a turnover into a crazy coast-to-coast bucket. To that point, Cal had played reasonably solid defense

The game stayed tight for a few minutes, and then Oregon put the hammer down. Chris Duarte ignited their run with a couple of 3s, and just a few minutes later the Bears were trailing by 18. Game over. A 12-4 Cal run in garbage time made the final score (74-63) look closer than it really was.

In that stretch, Oregon scored 23 points in the span of just 11 possessions. If you’re curious, Oregon did have one empty offensive possession in that stretch, and yes, averaging more than 2 points per trip down the floor is pretty darn good.

Cal has a dual problem here. One problem that their defense just isn’t good enough to stop their opponents from occasionally going on runs like this. The other problem is that when it happens their offense isn’t an offense capable of responding in kind. So, when Oregon went on their run it undid 23 minutes of decent work to stay close with a better team and meant that any chances to climb back into the game were slim.

There were a few individual bright spots, as there usually are. Andre Kelly again had an efficient offensive game despite going up against more athletic defenders inside. Joel Brown had a nice distribution game with a couple of slick assists. As a team, Cal’s offense had an OK day and actually took decent care of the ball relative to how many turnovers you would expect a defense like Oregon to force against an offense like Cal’s. But those isolated bright spots weren’t nearly enough to stay close to a good team like Oregon.

If you’re reading this, I doubt you’re here to get specific information about this individual game. You’re interested in the end-of-season reckoning, and the future of the program.

Today’s loss confirmed sole possession of last place, Cal’s third last-place finish in four seasons. Something that hadn’t happened since 1979-80 is now commonplace.

Technically, the season is not yet over. While everybody else in the conference spends next week playing make-up games, Cal will wait to find out if they have to play Stanford or Oregon State in the 6-11 game at the Pac-12 tournament on Wednesday, March 10. The season will almost certainly end in Las Vegas, and the fans still paying attention have long since turned their thoughts to the next season and beyond.

I’ll save the bulk of my thoughts for a longer, more detailed article once the season is 100% complete. There are a bunch of questions that I’ll be pondering between now and then. Among them:

  1. Why did Cal not improve this year (and in fact probably got worse), when the Bears added two veteran grad transfers to an established core of returning players?

  2. What chain of events led to these last four years of pain after a decade of success?

  3. Considering those events, are there any prospects for improvement in the near future?

  4. What does athletic department leadership want out of the MBB program?

I’m not relishing thinking about or attempting to answer these questions. But there’s not much fun to be had after another last-place finish.