California: 2011-12 Post-Mortem

Posted by Connor Pelton on May 1st, 2012

Over the course of the next two weeks, the Pac-12 Microsite will break down each team’s season: what went well, what didn’t, and a look ahead at the future. Today’s subject: California.

What Went Wrong

Sophomore forward Richard Solomon was a key contributor when he was playing, but due to being suspended, injured, and then academically ineligible, Solomon only appeared in 13 games. His main contributions were on the glass, where he averaged 5.9 RPG, but he also added a not-too-shabby 5.6 PPG. The Golden Bears only lost two games with Solomon in uniform, and while that could very well be a useless stat, it should also be noted that the Bears dropped a game in each of Solomon’s brief absences early in the year. But besides the losses, his absence put more pressure on Harper Kamp on both sides of the ball, something Kamp did not handle well when facing bigger, talented teams like San Diego State, Arizona, and UNLV. Another big problem was the disappearance of junior guard Brandon Smith. A starter coming into the season, Smith was outperformed by Justin Cobbs in big games, which led to dwindling playing time and dwindling confidence. Smith only had six points and zero assists against Missouri early in the year, and after turning in a zero-point, two-assist performance against San Diego State, he completely fell off the map. Smith was needed the most late in the season as Cal’s shooting woes began, but by then he was buried deep on the bench and only played a combined 13 minutes in each of Cal’s final games, both 11-point losses.

Even Mike Montgomery had a tough time watching California's NCAA Tournament loss to South Florida. (credit: Doug Benc)

What Went Right

All three starters at guard could score consistently, with Cobbs, Jorge Gutierrez, and Allen Crabbe all averaging in double figures. The biggest (good) surprise of the season was the play of freshman forward David Kravish. Kravish immediately made a splash in the low post for the Golden Bears and would finish the season averaging 7.0 PPG and 5.7 RPG. He finished the season with nine games in which he scored in double-figures, but by playing in an already potent offense, his most important contributions would come on the glass. Kravish pulled down a monstrous 18 rebounds in Cal’s 75-49 win against USC to go with two other double-figure rebounding nights. Having your most consistent rebounder being just a freshman has the future looking bright for coach Mike Montgomery’s squad, especially at a position that the Bears haven’t always been very deep at the past few years.

MVP

Tough not to give this one to the Pac-12 Player and Defensive Player of the Year, Jorge Gutierrez. Gutierrez always found a way to impact the game, even if his shots weren’t falling, something only a few select players around the nation can say. His ability to rebound, pass, and play incredible defense made up for the times he turned cold from the field, and save for Oregon State guard Jared Cunningham, no one else in the conference had those four tools.

Players Leaving

Sophomore guard Emerson Murray will transfer to Seattle University, where he should be able to get more playing time than sitting behind Cobbs, Crabbe, Ricky Kreklow, Smith, and incoming point guard Tyrone Wallace. Another sophomore guard, Alex Rossi, will transfer due to wanting to be closer to his family back in Illinois. The two seniors, Kamp and Gutierrez, will of course be departing as well.

Players Coming In

Sophomore guard Ricky Kreklow had to sit out this season after transferring from Missouri. Cal also has two signees and has a verbal commitment for this year’s class. The signees consist of the aforementioned point guard, Tyrone Wallace, and power forward Kaileb Rodriguez. They are also going after power forward Khalil Johnson from Los Angeles, California. Johnson has verbally committed to the Bears, but is also considering Arizona State.

Four-star point guard Tyrone Wallace could be the player that puts California on top of the Pac-12 in 2012-13. (credit: Sam Morris)

Reason For Hope

The Bears return their leading scorer in junior Allen Crabbe, and if Cobbs and Kravish keep developing, the Bear offense could be even more potent next season. With the scorers in place, the addition of Wallace will only help distribution and spacing in the Cal offense, something they lacked at times in 2011-12.

Reason For Concern

No matter how you sugarcoat it, losing Gutierrez and Kamp is going to hurt; especially early in the year when Wallace is still being initiated in that cannot-be-defined role that Gutierrez provided. In the post, it’s tough to see Kravish or anyone else filling in Kamp’s shoes. Harper’s ability to get the Golden Bears second and third chances with offensive rebounds will be nearly impossible to replace.

Overall Grade

A-. The Bears played great basketball all year, but you can’t lose four of your last five and still earn a perfect grade.

Connor Pelton (296 Posts)

I'm from Portland. College basketball and football is life.


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