Tag:CAL Golden Bears
Posted on: December 30, 2008 12:06 pm
Edited on: December 30, 2008 12:12 pm

PAC-10: Contenders vs. Pretenders

As PAC-10 play has drawn closer, I've been taking a good look at the different teams and haven't been too startled by what I saw. The only exception to that has been the success of Stanford and their undefeated record after losing the Lopez Twins to the NBA. They are even receiving votes in the AP and the Coaches polls! So I started kicking around the teams trying to sift through the soft OOC schedules, and misleading stats trying to figure out who will challenge for the PAC-10 crown this year.

The obvious choice is going to be UCLA. Sure, they're down from the past two or three years, but they're still a potent team with stifling perimeter defense and the best backcourt in the conference. But I didn't want to just stick with "UCLA wins it... again," I wanted to really dig into the conference. So pretend that UCLA is out of the equation - they lose Collison to a knee injury or for whatever reason the team implodes costing them 5 or 6 games and effectively the conference title.


Now I'd love to pick my Arizona Wildcats, that would be a great farewell gift to Olson for putting this team together, and a nice reward for Pennell and Co. who stepped in to pick up the pieces in the wake of Olson's sudden retirement. However, they're a very inexperienced team that is relying on three main players and a supporting cast that is largely unknown and mostly unproven. So, to prevent the homer pick of Arizona, we'll pretend that Jordan Hill's strained calf muscle is a torn ligament and he can't play until next year.


Let's whittle down the options here by eliminating teams that even with just eight teams to choose from, still don't have a chance. First to go is clearly Oregon State. They are barely a .500 team against competition that is severely sub-par of PAC-10 caliber. With losses to Howard, Yale, Montana State to name a few, there is little hope of them picking up 2 wins this season.

Aron BaynesNext off the board has to be Washington State. I like their program and their deliberate style, but at some point when push comes to shove you need a guy that can get to the rim, and take over a big game. Their leading scorers (Aron Baynes 11.4 ppg, Klay Thompson 11.0 ppg, and Taylor Rochestie 10.2 ppg) are not players that can get terribly physical and have yet to show up against a quality team. All four of their losses have come against the only opponents on their schedule that could compete in the PAC-10. During these losses (Pitt, Baylor, Gonzaga, and LSU) their three leading scorers combined for an average of 26 points. If they want to compete, someone needs to step up.

Elimination next stops in Eugene, Oregon with the ducks. They lost a lot of talent gone to wasted efforts last year, and brought in a solid recruiting class. Their youth isn't coming along as quickly as Ernie Kent would probably like, and they've lost a couple ugly games because of it. If I were going strictly by record, they'd be off the board before WSU; However, they do have a good amount of talent and finally have a good inside presence with Michael Dunigan. Dunigan is a bad performance or two away from having been the Ducks' leading scorer to this point. The potential of this team far exceeds Washington State right now, and that's why Oregon gets a spot ahead of WSU.

Picking the middle of the remaining teams is almost like splitting hairs. Stanford is undefeated because of exceptional backcourt performances, and Washington has three losses, and no quality wins, but have a huge frontcourt advantage. So who's next? It has to be Stanford. I'm impressed with their 9-0 record after losing the Lopez Twins and all frontcourt presence. That is, I'm impressed until I look at who they've played. They’re only reasonably good win is Santa Clara, and only by 8 points. Guard play is extremely important, especially in the PAC-10. But with opposing guards like Harden, DeRozan, Rochestie,  Randle and Christopher to face off against, it's going to be difficult to outmatch any team in the backcourt. Stanford needs more inside presence if they want to win the conference this year.

Like I said, this is like splitting hairs. Stanford needs inside presence, but Washington needs another scorer. The frontcourt of Jon Brockman and Matthew Bryan-Amaning is the most formidable in the conference and the size advantage alone is what sets them ahead of Stanford. But the Huskies are still waiting for Quincy Pondexter to step up consistently and become the wingman he has the potential to be. Pondexter has only had three of those games this year with 21 points, 16 points, and 14 points, but not one of them against a good defensive team. If Washington wants the title they need a guard taller than 6' to step up.

The remaining three teams are clearly head and shoulders above the five I've already covered. And picking the gem amongst them is extremely difficult. I know that no matter what order I put them in, there is going to be debate and argument over it. Each team has a solid case for the best of the group, but ultimately I feel it comes down to who has the most rounded unit combined with coaching ability. Since coaching adjustments, team management, and when push comes to shove the coach is blamed if they fail, and only given a quiet congratulations if they succeed, the head coach has to be the distinguishing factor amongst these three teams.

For that reason, USC has to come off the board. Tim Floyd has done a good job with these kids. They play a very physical and aggressive style of basketball. Combined with four legitimate scorers and you've got a recipe for success. But my problem with this team comes back to Tim Floyd. It isn't their style or abilities that has me concerned. It's the fact that Floyd has permitted this program to become merely a stepping stone for players like Mayo and DeRozan to take until they are allowed to move on to the NBA. That type of individual play leads to turnovers (conference high 16.8 per game), and will ultimately cost them games against teams with better chemistry. It's Floyd's job to counter that, and I don't believe he's capable of it - after all, it was his recruiting that built that scenario.

So now we're down to Arizona State and CAL. An easy pick if you listen to the media, right? Wrong. Take a look at both teams stats. Statistically they are almost identical with the majority of their scoring coming from four players, and fewer than 5 point per game from the rest. The largest separation between the two teams, statistically, is opponents points per game. CAL is giving up 64.3 while ASU is only 58. So who do you take? I go with CAL.

First while Arizona State has gotten additional help from Rihards Kuksiks who has doubled his ppg production from a year ago up to 10.8 points per game, they still don't get consistent production from anyone except James Harden, and that's a problem. Arizona State is only as good as Harden performs within his team. Want proof? Look no further than the IUPUI and BYU games. Against IUPUI he didn't show up and was too busy talking with Amare Stoudemire behind the ASU bench to care. He tallied 9 points and ASU got lucky. The other problem is if he becomes selfish against a good team. Harden dropped 30 on a good BYU team, but ASU struggled to a controversial win. Harden can carry the Sun Devils far, but if they want to be best out of this group it's going to take a team effort.

Once again, it comes down to team chemistry and how well they play as a collective unit and how much faith I have in the coach. This CAL team has had the most talent in the conference, outside of UCLA, for the past couple of years, but hasn't been able to capitalize on it under Ben Braun. With the hiring of Mike Montgomery this team almost instantly became better. Montgomery has these kids playing hard, shooting well, and playing as a team. That's why I have CAL ahead of USC, ahead of ASU, and ahead of the other teams in this scenario. CAL is getting great production from all over the court. They have the size to compete with Brockman & Washington, and the guards to compete with anybody in the conference.

Posted on: December 28, 2008 10:39 pm

PAC-10 Power Rankings (Pre-Conference)

There are still a few non-conference games remaining for the PAC-10 before the conference action begins this weekend. But most of the games are quite insignificant, and likely won't have much bearing on my rankings anyhow. Without furture ado, here are my PAC-10 Power Rankings heading into conference play.

  1. UCLA: Despite early struggles, they are a solid team with Collison at the helm. That three-guard lineup of Collison, Shipp, and Holiday is the best in the conference and enough to give any team fits.
  2. Arizona : They have a few ugly losses, but they have the best win in the conference (over Gonzaga). The Big Three are carrying a lot of the load and they have been getting help from unexpected talent. The youth is a concern.
  3. CAL: I said before the season, they are a surprise team to watch out for. Montgomery almost has you forgetting that they lost Ryan Anderson to the NBA. They're a great shooting team with a lot of long-range weapons.
  4. ASU: They've only got one loss, but that's not indicative of their struggles against a soft schedule. Harden is a beast that will carry this team far, but he's going to need a lot more help against the PAC-10.
  5. USC: Their record is padded because of their OOC schedule. DeRozan has performed well, but he's not even scratching Mayo numbers yet. They've got a few scorers and an average defense.Look for a loss or two in the second week of conference play.
  6. Stanford: They played a light OOC schedule, only eight games, but they won them all. With one of the wins coming over Santa Clara, they have done enough to deserve this spot for now. Their lacking frontcourt will cost them this spot... soon.
  7. Washington: Brockman is finally getting some offensive help, and a bit more muscle down low as well. They'll be moderately successful in PAC-10 play because of their interior size alone. They still need Pondexter to step it up another notch.
  8. Washington State: They got blasted by a couple of top-tier programs in non-conference play. I understand that the deliberate offense reduces points, but to only have three guys in double-digits (and just barely) isn't good. They need someone to step up and be a scoring threat in the worst kind of way.
  9. Oregon: They are a young team without a signature win, and some ugly losses. Ernie Kent will be on the hot seat if he can't get his freshmen to perform and fast. Don't sleep on Oregon though, they have the talent, just lack experience - and that's a great recipe for a second-half surge.
  10. Oregon State: Any surprise that they are here? With losses to Howard, Nevada, Yale, Montana State, and Iowa State it's not looking good that they'll pick up a win any time soon. The new coach has a huge task in front of him, maybe his brother-in-law can use some of that Senate Seat Money to buy off a couple refs for him. Just kidding, but seriously - it looks like they may go two straight seasons without a conference win. That's BAD!
Posted on: October 17, 2008 7:51 pm

California Golden Bears '08-'09 Preview

California Golden Bears

Head Coach: Mike Montgomery
Last Season’s Results: Conf 7-13 (9th), Overall 17-16. Post Season: None.


Backcourt: Unless Montgomery wants to shake things up, Jerome Randle, Patrick Christopher, Marquise Kately will start this year. Randle, Christopher, and Kately averaged over 10 ppg each while providing 52% of the Bears scoring last season.

Similar to last season, Christopher, Kately, and Randle will likely have relatively similar scoring numbers. Though, it looks as if Patrick Christopher will be t the go-to guy and leading scorer for the team.

Kately will be the lone senior starting for the Gold Bears who feature two seniors, and nine juniors. Their experience should not be underestimated even if they have underperformed in past years.

Frontcourt: Jamal Boykin, Jordan Wilkes  provide the one-two punch for Cal‘s frontcourt. While Boykin is serviceable, he is not a force underneath. Wilkes only received scrub minutes last year, but with  the lack of big men, his role could increase dramatically. The Boykin-Wilkes one-two combo is about as effective as a 5-year-old throwing punches at his dad.

If Wilkes is incapable of performing, or is out performed in the practice, Harper Kamp will take the starting spot.

Bench: D.J. Seeley, Theo Kately, Harper Kamp, Nikola Knezevic

Key Departures: Ryan Anderson  turned pro, while DeVon Hardin and Eric Verneisel graduated. The three players are a huge loss for the Golden Bears as the accounted for 46% of the Bears scoring and 52% of the rebounding. That’s a lot of production to make up for.

Key Recruits:
SG-D.J. Seeley - Seeley has good range and ankle-breaking moves, but he will likely be the sixth man until he can improve his decision making skills. Don’t be surprised if he has a few games where he goes off, and if he can learn to make the smart play he might wind up in the starting lineup by season’s end.

SG-Jorge Gutierrez - He is athletic and quick, but lacks talent and speed on the defensive end. Gutierrez isn’t talented enough to be a star at the D-1 level, but his hustle and energy help him contribute in unmeasured areas.

*Click recruit names with a link for their highlight video.

Strengths: The Bears compile one of the deepest backcourts in the PAC-10 this year. They have a lot of players who have underperformed under the old coach. With Montgomery at the helm, expect a lot of growth. Look for this team to push the tempo and apply a lot of pressure on the perimeter.

Weaknesses: CAL’s losses of Hardin and Verneisel will have a huge impact considering they weren’t able to recruit another big man as a replacement. Jamal Boykin is serviceable at best, but beyond that CAL is in trouble. Montgomery may be forced to experiment with a four-guard lineup due to the lack of post players. Look for teams to exploit CAL’s front court.

Key Dates:
Nov 28 @ UNLV
Jan 17 @ Stanford
Jan 24 vs. Oregon

Outlook: The Golden Bears will be hard pressed with the loss of Ryan Anderson, but should still be more competitive thanks to having Montgomery on the sidelines. CAL will need to force the tempo this year to be competitive. Their depth at guard will allow them to force the tempo and be competitive in a lot of games, but will ultimately be undone by their lack of frontcourt players.  Since this can be considered a transition year for the Golden Bears, as long as they make strides as a team and improve upon their placement in the conference standings it will be considered a successful season.

Projected Finish: Seventh in the PAC-10. No post-season appearance.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com