California Post-MortemPosted by AMurawa on April 17th, 2013
Now that we are officially in the offseason, it’s time to take a look back and evaluate each team’s 2012-13 performance. Next on our list: California.
What Went Right
In 2011-12, the Golden Bears got 27.8 points per game out of Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs on a team that featured a pair of veterans who also chipped in with the scoring load. This season everyone knew that the veteran backcourt was going to have to take another step forward, and they did so, upping their combined average to 33.5 PPG despite increased attention from opposing defenses. All the extra attention may have hurt their efficiency somewhat, but credit Cobbs and Crabbe for filling the void.
What Went Wrong
Nobody else stepped up as a consistent third scoring threat to ease the pressure on the backcourt. Richard Solomon again exhibited flashes of brilliance, but never really put it together consistently; Missouri transfer Ricky Kreklow struggled with foot injuries all season long; and freshman Tyrone Wallace showed the athleticism and feel for the game necessary to become a very good player, but a jumper that needs a lot of work. And no matter how much head coach Mike Montgomery and his two veteran guards tried to get other players involved (regularly in the middle of the year, Cobbs and Crabbe would go through an entire first half with limited field goal attempts), the production just wasn’t coming.MVP
Let’s not get fancy or anything here: Allen Crabbe was the Pac-12 Player of the Year and he was the Bears’ MVP. He scored in double figures in 31 games, tallied better than 20 points on 15 occasions, and he went for more than 30 twice. When Cal went on a midseason tear to bounce back from a mediocre 5-5 conference start en route to a seven-game winning streak, it was Crabbe on whom the Bears rode.
Unfortunately for next year’s hopes, Crabbe’s Cal career ends with a year of eligibility unused, as the accomplished junior will head to the NBA. Montgomery will also lose a pair of role-playing veterans in Robert Thurman and Brandon Smith. Other than that, everybody who contributed last season returns, although freshman forward Kaileb Rodriguez will transfer out of the program without having played a single game.
Players Coming In
Montgomery scored big when he landed five-star McDonald’s All-American Jabari Bird in this year’s recruiting class. Rated 19th overall by ESPN, Bird is considered the second-best shooting guard in this year’s class and he should slide in nicely to the slot vacated by Crabbe’s departure. He may not be quite the shooter that Crabbe was (not many are), but he’s more athletic and may have a higher eventual ceiling than the departing Bear. Elsewhere in the class, Cal welcomes a couple other wings in Sam Singer and Jordan Mathews, along with seven-footer Kameron Rooks, who may step into time immediately despite a still-developing game.
Reason for Hope
Despite Crabbe’s undeniable talent, there were times when it appeared that he and Cobbs did not exactly see eye-to-eye on the court. And, of course, there was that highly publicized incident where it was apparent that his head coach was not all that pleased with him. It is hard to say that losing a guy like Crabbe is even remotely a positive, but perhaps team chemistry will improve in his absence. Aside from that, you have plenty of talent here. Maybe the light finally flips on full-time for Solomon in his senior season; maybe Cobbs takes his game to the next level; maybe Kreklow is healthy; and maybe Wallace stumbles across a jumper this summer. And, then of course, the hyper-talented Bird offers plenty of reasons for excitement. If things fall into place for the Bears, next year could be Montgomery’s best team in Berkeley.
Reason For Concern
Between Solomon’s upside, David Kravish’s dirty work, and the addition of the freshman Rooks, there are some pieces up front but they are largely unproven. And the same weaknesses that plagued the Bears at times this past season could continue to be a problem next year. Plus there is going to a lot of pressure on Bird to live up to the production that Crabbe was able to provide.
B. The Golden Bears were at times a tough team to watch at times this season, with bad body language and inconsistent effort. But Montgomery got things to coalesce in time to play its best basketball down the stretch of the season, giving Syracuse for example its toughest game on the Orange’s way to the Final Four. Despite three losses in the final four games of the year, Cal advanced as far in March as it has at any point in the last 15 seasons and probably overachieved, using great guard play to mask their weaknesses up front.