California Week: What To Expect In 2012-13Posted by Connor Pelton on June 22nd, 2012
After a week’s worth of breaking down the Golden Bears, it is time to give a way-too-early preview as to their chances in 2012-13. With five newcomers, three of whom are expected to play very big roles, and five returnees who will carry an even bigger load than they did last season, there are plenty of questions whose answers will remain unknown until we get a chance to see this team in action. But, that doesn’t mean we can’t make predictions. Simulating basketball in our minds is the closest we’re going to get to the real thing until late October, so here we go.
Cal’s Leading Scorer – Allen Crabbe. The one-two punch of Crabbe and Justin Cobbs will have opposing defenses scrambling all night long. Cobbs can definitely score the ball, but the Bears are better with him distributing. With Cobbs dropping dimes to Crabbe, sharpshooting transfer Ricky Kreklow, and incoming freshman Tyrone Wallace, defenses will eventually be so preoccupied with the trio of shooting guards that they forget about the point guard. That’s when he can make his move. Similar to last season, this will be a team with balanced scoring. Crabbe, Cobbs, Kreklow, Kravish, and Solomon could all be averaging 8+ PPG by season’s end.
Cal’s MVP – Justin Cobbs. Just as Cobbs could very well win the scoring title, Crabbe could very well be the team MVP. But we already named Crabbe as the leading scorer, and taking two titles is just plain selfish. If Cobbs can find that balance we were talking about above of taking only good shots and always looking to pass first, he will be by far the most important part of coach Mike Montgomery’ s offense. And as we all know, defense may win championships, but good offense wins MVP awards.
Cal’s Most Improved Returnee – Brandon Smith. It’s time for Smith to step up and prove that he can not only earn a spot in the Golden Bar rotation, but be a key player who Montgomery can turn to in late-game situations. Smith was quickly outplayed by Cobbs to start the 2011-12 season, and therefore he lost his starting spot. He’ll be first in line this year to backup Cobbs, but he can’t assume that the role is his and fail to prove himself on the court when it matters. If he does that, he will slide down the bench just like last season.
Cal’s Conference Record/Finish – 12-6; 4th Place. Quite honestly, the Bears are a mystery team. But since it’s June and hope springs (or is it summers?) eternal, we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and say they finish in the top third of the conference. I actually think a big key is what kind of non-conference schedule the Bears play. With a lot of newcomers and young returnees who will be a vital part of the rotation, a touch non-conference schedule will get the Bears read for the rigors of Pac-12 competition (yes, it should be tougher this season). Last year, the Bears faced teams like Georgia, Missouri, San Diego State, Weber State, and UNLV in OOC play, and they began the conference season by winning six out of their first seven games, including wins over Pac-12 Tournament champion Colorado and regular season champion Washington.
For 2012-13, the Bears already appear to have a pretty solid schedule in place. First, they have a chance at playing teams like Drexel, Georgia Tech, Saint Mary’s, and Xavier in the Anaheim Classic in late November. Two quality opponents are Wisconsin and UNLV, each making the trip to Haas on December 2 and December 9, respectively. With home games against Colorado and UCLA, that makes quite the season ticket for Bear fans. There are a few swing games on that Pac-12 slate that might make the difference between Cal going to the NCAA Tournament or the NIT. Those three will be the two Stanford games and the lone game against Washington. If Cal gets through that stretch with a 2-1 record or better, they should have a great chance of making it back to the NCAAs for the second straight season. But if they drop two or three of those games, things could get interesting on Selection Sunday.