BERKELEY — DeVon Hardin's face said more than his words Thursday night after Cal's 70-49 loss to Washington State. The look was a mix of pain, disappointment and confusion.

A season he and his teammates expected would bring big things unraveled a bit further.

But today, as the 6-foot-11 senior center from Newark prepares to face Washington in his final regular-season home game, Hardin promises one thing: "Man, I can't cry."

Hardin and Eric Vierneisel will take what could be their final bows in front of the home fans today — unless the Golden Bears earn a home assignment in the NIT or the new College Basketball Invitational.

Of course, the Bears' goal all season has been the NCAA tournament, which seems increasingly out of reach. Cal (15-11, 6-9 in Pac-10) has dropped its past two games and four of five.

Asked this week if he's satisfied with things, Hardin said, "Satisfied, no. I'm not satisified 'til I have that perfect record. But I feel like we've worked hard. It's been good here."

Hardin toyed with the NBA draft after his junior season but returned and was a force under the glass early. He averaged 14 rebounds over Cal's first five games but hasn't approached maintaining that pace.

He's securing just 5.6 rebounds per game in Pac-10 play, and his 10-board effort Thursday was part of his first double-digit performance since the conference opener two months ago.

"I've had ups, and I've had downs," Hardin allowed. "I've had some games, where, 'Man I didn't know I could do that,' other games where I'm very disappointed."

Injured through last season's Pac-10 schedule, Hardin's rebounding numbers actually are lower in conference play than they were his sophomore campaign of 2005-06, when he averaged 6.7.

"There have been some times where he has lost that aggressiveness," Cal coach Ben Braun said. "He has got to get back to where he's being aggressive, and not worry about numbers or results."

Hardin's efforts to stay out of foul trouble, which plagued him in the past year, seem at the root of his reduced productivity. He has fouled out of just two games this season but has blocked only nine shots in Pac-10 play.

PLANS B & C: Cal landing an at-large NCAA tournament bid might require something just short of an act of Congress. The daunting recipe that might be required: A win today, a road sweep of USC and UCLA next week, plus a victory at the Pac-10 tournament the week after.

"We're not out of any picture," Braun said Thursday night. "We're 6-9, and we're close. We've got to step back up and play this next game."

If it doesn't happen, the options no longer are limited to the 32-team NIT. The new College Basketball Invitational, a 16-team event, brings the total number of postseason spots to 113.

Rick Giles, president of the Gazelle Group, which created the CBI, told the Tacoma News Tribune his event wants teams that have shown they can beat good opponents.

"We're not really worried about bad losses. We're not really worried about computer formulas," Giles said. "We're looking for if you have the ability to play at a high level, because we want to have an exciting tournament. So, that will probably be the most weighted criteria that we apply."

Cal's resume includes wins over Washington State, USC and Arizona State, all teams still in the hunt for the NCAAs.