Thoughts on the Pac-12 Quarterfinals, Evening Session

Posted by AMurawa on March 15th, 2013

Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-12 Conference. He filed this report after the second session of the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas on Thursday evening.

The evening pair of quarterfinals began with the expectation that there was no way it could live up to the atmosphere and excitement of the afternoon session. And, while it took some time for all of the fans to filter in from happy hour, by the second half of the first game, we had a really good crowd. And what a game that first one was as Utah stormed back from an eight-point second-half deficit against California, survived a seven-minute scoreless streak and got a miraculous Jarred DuBois three over the outstretched arm of 6’10” David Kravish in the waning moments to force overtime, where they would eventually win the game. Lots of little things to mention from this contest:

  • First and foremost, gotta give props to Larry Krystkowiak. Aside from rebuilding his roster from scratch, he’s also done a great job getting incremental improvements out of this team over the course of the season. Remember when this team lost to Stanford by 31? Or lost at the Oregon schools by an average of 14.5 points per game? Now this team is riding a four-game winning streak, shows all the hallmarks of being a well-coached team and is a deserving semifinal entrant. Just wait until the talent level gets to where he wants it.

    Larry Krystkowiak, Utah

    Larry Krystkowiak Has Done A Great Job Getting A Rebuilding Program Into The Pac-12 Semis

  • Utah freshman Jordan Loveridge struggled early, missing seven of his first nine shots, but then hit back-to-back threes to give Utah its first second-half lead, then hit another big three at the start of overtime to extend the Utes’ momentum. He’s had some ups and downs in his first year for the Utes, but he’s a special talent who will eventually, maybe as soon as next year, be an all-conference guy.
  • Richard Solomon continues to be one of my favorite/most-frustrating players in the conference. Dude’s got all the talent in the world, but his motor is often lacking. Case in point tonight: He got 37 minutes of action, probably competed really hard for about 20 of those minutes, and wound up with eight points, 11 boards and three steals.
  • Cal’s Ricky Kreklow, who has missed 24 of his team’s 31 games this season due to a foot injury, played 18 minutes tonight, his most in a game since November, and knocked down two big threes in the first half that kept the Bears sticking around when little else was going right. A lanky wing with a nice shooting touch, it would be a nice addition if he’s good to go without concern for his foot.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Pac-12 Report Card: Volume IV

Posted by AMurawa on January 30th, 2013

Another week of classes, another week of grades from Professor Pac. As midterms approach, only Oregon is on pace for a A this semester.

Arizona State – A

Way back in June, Herb Sendek was talking about how his new Sun Devil team was going to get out and run and be as uptempo as anybody in the Pac-12. But, since getting run off the court by an athletic DePaul team back in early December, Arizona State had gone eight straight games without getting 70 possessions in a ball game. This past week when they hosted USC and UCLA and came away 2-0, they went over 70 possessions in both games and averaged 76 possessions – and 88 points – for the week. Sure, the USC game was aided by an extra five minutes of play, but the Sun Devils still played with more pace this past week than they have done in some time.

Focus on: Jonathan Gilling. We’ve talked a ton about Jahii Carson and Jordan Bachynski, we’ve touched on Carrick Felix and Evan Gordon on a regular basis, but Gilling is the fifth member of the starting unit, and criminally underrated. While his shooting percentages have dipped compared with his freshman campaign, Gilling is doing everything else better this season. He’s turned into an exceedingly effective rebounder and an underrated passer. He’s one of just two players in the conference to average seven rebounds and three assists per game (the other is Kyle Anderson) and as you could see by this week’s performance when he has 14 dimes, he finds exceedingly good looks for his teammates. Of those 14 assists, eight led to either layups or dunks, while four more ended in threes. And he’s an equal-opportunity distributor; Felix, Bachynski, and Gordon were each on the receiving end of four of Gilling’s assists.

While His More Heralded Teammates Get Most Of The Pub, Jonathan Gilling Has Been Great For ASU This Season (Jae C. Hong, AP Photo)

While His More Heralded Teammates Get Most Of The Pub, Jonathan Gilling Has Been Great For ASU This Season (Jae C. Hong, AP Photo)

Looking ahead: The Sun Devils are the toast of the conference this week, but with a road trip up north to the Washington schools ahead, things can go south in a hurry. The Cougars and Huskies may not be the most intimidating opponents, but they’re more than capable of knocking off the Sun Devils.

Colorado – A

Don’t look now, but after an extended hangover effect following the debacle in the desert, the Buffaloes have won three straight by an average of 13 points and are back to .500 in the conference. And while the offense has been steadily improving, they’ve been doing it with defense. They’ve held their three opponents in that win streak to a 40.5 eFG%.

Focus on: Xavier Johnson. Doomed to play roughly the same position as the nation’s leading rebounder, Andre Roberson, Johnson has been lurking in the shadows somewhat most of the year. But on Sunday, when Roberson was limited to just two first half minutes due to foul trouble, Johnson had his breakout game, notching his first double-double of his career and scoring 18 points on just ten field goal attempts. In fact, over the course of this Buff winning streak, Johnson has been a major contributor. He’s scored in double figures in every game and has been hyper-efficient; he’s averaging 14.3 points per game and shooting a 74 eFG%.

Looking ahead: The Buffs have a short week, with only a trip to Salt Lake City to face a Utah team coming off its worst performance of the season. If the Buffs don’t have a four-game win streak at this point next week, they may be the recipient of the year’s first F.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Pac-12 Team Previews: California Golden Bears

Posted by KDanna on October 23rd, 2012

Throughout the preseason, the Pac-12 microsite will be rolling out these featured breakdowns of each of the 12 league schools. Today’s release is the California Golden Bears.

Strengths: Despite losing two of the team’s top four scorers from last year, the Golden Bears have guys who can score at pretty much every position on the floor. It starts on the wing with the smooth Allen Crabbe, who was the last-ever Pac-10 Freshman of the Year in 2010-11. The sharpshooter hit just about 40 percent of his three-point attempts en route to a team-leading 15 points per game. He does well to create his shot and can knock down shots in traffic. He will be fed largely by the dual-threat Justin Cobbs, the Minnesota transfer who led the Golden Bears in assists and three-point field goal percentage (though his sample size wasn’t nearly as large as that of Crabbe’s). Head coach Mike Montgomery will welcome back forward Richard Solomon to the lineup after missing about 60 percent of last season due to academic problems. A good low-post defender, Solomon’s finishing touch and athleticism will go nicely with David Kravish, who provides the Golden Bears with an above-average Pac-12 offensive post threat.

Allen Crabbe, California

Allen Crabbe Is Ready to Take the Next Step (AP)

Weaknesses: Replacing the production of Jorge Gutierrez and Harper Kamp might not be a huge issue, but replacing their intensity and toughness could very well be a problem. The Golden Bears limped into and out of the Pac-12 Tournament and NCAA Tournament last year, and Kamp was quick to call his team out for being soft after a loss in the regular season finale to Stanford. When the going gets tough this year, who will the Golden Bears look to as their vocal leader? Gutierrez didn’t exactly finish his Cal career that well (he went a combined 3-15 with eight points in his last two regular season games before picking things up slightly in the postseason), but he was still the Pac-12 Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year. That last honor will be what Cal misses most — his defensive toughness and overall “pesty-ness” really gave opposing guards fits. Gutierrez was a wealthy man’s Venoy Overton on defense with a much larger skill set on offense.  For a team that had trouble stopping much of anyone as the season came to a close (the Golden Bears gave up at least 70 points in four of their final five games after they allowing an average of 61 on the season), perimeter defense could raise some eyebrows in Berkeley.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

California Week’s Burning Question: Which Player Are You Most Excited To See in 2012-13?

Posted by Connor Pelton on June 24th, 2012

The 2012-13 California team will feature a lot of untapped talent, both in newcomers and players who started to break the surface last season, but are primed to have a breakout season next year. While there should be some growing pains early, this team’s potential has Cal fans excited. Which player are you most excited to see (new or returning), and what story will they have written by next April?

Connor Pelton: Sophomore-to-be forward David Kravish showed incredible strides last season as a true freshman, so I’m excited to see whether he is ready or not to be one of the top forwards in the conference in 2012-13. The coaching staff did a tremendous job in just the three short weeks they had to get Kravish ready for his freshman season, and he responded immediately by putting up good numbers on the glass. By December, the wiry freshman was also enough of a scoring threat that opposing defenses had to stop focusing on Richard Solomon and Harper Kamp and devote a lot of time in the game-plan to him. Now, Kamp is gone, and the next step in Kravish’s growth as a player will be to increase his buckets on a more consistent basis. That will be tough, as he will no longer be the off-the-radar freshman. But if he can improve his face-up game and bulk up over the summer, there is no doubt that he will be the man in the middle for the Golden Bears when they need a late basket.

Justin Cobbs Gets Ready To Put Home A Layup, And David Kravish Is Prepared To Get The Rebound If It Doesn’t Fall. (credit: AP)

Andrew Murawa:  For the past two seasons, Jorge Gutierrez was a focal point of the Golden Bear backcourt, playing something of a combo guard for Mike Montgomery’s team and acting as a cult of personality on which fans up and down the Pac-12 conference all had an opinion on. With Gutierrez’s graduation, however, the Cal backcourt is firmly in the hands of a couple of juniors: Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs. While Crabbe is the one with the brightest future (6’6” shooting guards who can stroke the three at 40% tend to draw the interest of NBA general managers), Cobbs most piques my interest, and he may be the guy who has the biggest impact on the 2012-13 Golden Bears. While it took Cobbs some time to get comfortable in his new Berkeley digs after transferring from Minnesota,  by mid-season he was often the best player on the team, carrying the team to a blowout win over UC Santa Barbara in the absence of Gutierrez (25 points on 10-12 shooting), and twice notching double-digit assist games in conference play while consistently playing nearly 40 minutes a night. In his sophomore year he showed a great rapport with Crabbe in the backcourt, able to find his teammate for clean looks, while still maintaining his own dangerous offensive game. While Cobbs may not quite rise to the level of a first team Pac-12 performer next season (at least in any reasonable five-man first team, i.e. not the 28-man first team that the conference regularly puts out), by next April he’ll have the reputation of a guy who is as important to his program as any player in the conference, a guy just as comfortable playing the role of distributing point guard as he is knocking down threes at a high rate, getting to the line on a regular basis and being one of the most efficient guards in the conference.

Share this story

California Week: Will Improvement on the Offensive Glass Be Key to a Good Season in 2012-13?

Posted by Connor Pelton on June 22nd, 2012

For a team that made the NCAA Tournament in 2011-12, California’s extra scoring opportunities per game rate was quite low. The Golden Bears only averaged 1.9 ESOPG last season, which came in at 91st in the nation and sixth in the Pac-12. That’s not terrible, but it only converts to nearly four points per game, five if you throw a three in there. Take a team like VCU for example. The Rams averaged 7.7 ESOPG last season, meaning that they gained nearly 16 extra points a game if they had converted all of those (and that’s assuming all of the extra buckets came in the form of two-pointers). VCU finished the season with a record of 29-7, and 20 of those 29 wins were decided by 14 points or less. But the Rams earned all of those extra points, mainly because of the great work that coach Shaka Smart and company do stressing the importance of offensive rebounding.

Season

Team

Extra Scoring Chances

National Ranking

2011-12

California

1.9

91

2010-11

California

-1.3

236

2009-10

California

0.6

142

2008-09

California

-0.1

170

2007-08

Golden State

N/A

N/A

2006-07

Golden State

N/A

N/A

2005-06

Golden State

N/A

N/A

2004-05

Golden State

N/A

N/A

2003-04

Stanford

1.5

95

2002-03

Stanford

0.8

117

h/t to TeamRankings for statistics

Allen Crabbe and Richard Solomon will be the key to those extra opportunities in 2012-13. Sophomore forward David Kravish was by far the leader among 2012-13 returnees in offensive rebounding, so he will serve as a catalyst for the other guys. Kravish averaged two ORPG last season, which is a good number, especially for a young and wiry freshman. But after him, things dropped considerably for the Golden Bears. If they can bring their extra scoring opportunities per game up to four, and convert three of those possessions a game for a total of say, seven points, it could be a very good year for Cal. The Bears lost five games by seven points or less in 2011-12, and if they could have won three of those their final regular season record would have been 27-6. Then, all of a sudden your Pac-12 champions are in the mix for top three NCAA seed, not playing in Dayton on the Wednesday before the Tournament even starts. While that may seem like a stretch, it can all be solved with just a few more offensive rebounds each game.

Of course, none of this is as easy as I’m making it sound. This will take an entire team effort, not just by the bigs and coaching staff. An important part of offensive rebounding is having your guards shoot the ball when your forwards and centers are in a position to get that rebound, not sitting on the wing or on top of the free throw line. While Crabbe and Justin Cobbs are great shooters, if they can make sure that their shots come in the rhythm of the offense, the Bears will see their offensive efficiency skyrocket.

Share this story

California Week: Running Down the Returnees

Posted by Connor Pelton on June 20th, 2012

Five different players who earned significant playing time in 2011-12 return for California. Despite losing the Pac-12 Defensive and Player of the Year and their top scorer in the post, the Golden Bears return a solid foundation that should lead them to a second straight NCAA Tournament and fifth consecutive postseason berth. Below we’ll take a look at those five players, in order of last season’s scoring average.

  • Allen Crabbe, Junior, Wing (15.3 PPG, 5.7 RPG) – Out of California’s 34 games in 2011-12, Crabbe played 30+ minutes in 28 of them. The sophomore wing was a workhorse, consistently scoring in double digits (28 times in 34 games) and pulling down five or more rebounds a night (24 times). If you look at his stat sheet throughout the season, you will only find a few games in which Crabbe didn’t have a “good” night, according to his averages. And even in those three games, Cal won all three times by a combined 41 points, so he obviously knew when to take his off nights. Another sign of his consistency is in his numbers from his freshman to sophomore years – they barely change. Crabbe played a third of a minute more in 2011-12, scored 1.8 more points, pulled down 0.4 more rebounds, and 0.1 more assists and blocks. The only statistic that decreased was in the steals category – by 0.4. It’s kind of eerie in a way, but it is also a testament to how consistent Crabbe is. Mike Montgomery and staff have to like the fact that night in and night out, they know they are going to get a solid performance from him.

Crabbe’s Smooth Jumper Led The Golden Bears To The NCAA Tournament In 2011-12 (credit: Andy Wooldridge)

  • Justin Cobbs, Junior, Point Guard (12.9 PPG, 5.0 APG, 41.3 3FG%) – Cobbs got off to just about as good a start as any transfer player can have. The sophomore point guard averaged 11 points in his first seven games, good enough to take Brandon Smith’s starting spot right out from underneath him. Cobb’s best game came right in the middle of a six-game winning streak for the Golden Bears, when he exploded for 28 points, eight assists, and four steals in a crucial 86-83 victory over Oregon. From a scoring and sharing the ball standpoint, Cobbs did an outstanding job in his sophomore year. As we progress through the summer and into the fall, the next step is for Cobbs to become a more vocal leader on the court. “He’ll have the ball in his hands a lot, so how he responds to Coach Montgomery will have a huge impact on team chemistry. He has a lot of potential, but it’s things like leadership, decision-making, body language, and consistency that are on the wish list,” says “Kodiak” of California Golden Blogs.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Pac-12 Morning Five: 03.26.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 26th, 2012

  1. The Pac-12 in the NCAA Tournament may be a distant memory, but conference teams continue to play on in lesser postseason tournaments. Washington State kicks off a three-game series for the championship of the CBI tournament tonight against Pittsburgh, but will likely have to do so without its most valuable player, Brock Motum. Motum sprained an ankle early in the Cougars’ semifinal game against Oregon State last week, but his teammates were able to step up and cover for him. While he is questionable for tonight’s game, head coach Ken Bone claims that there is a stronger chance that he’ll be able to return for Wednesday night’s game in Pittsburgh.
  2. Meanwhile, Washington heads back to Madison Square Garden for the third time this season as the Huskies face Minnesota in the NIT semifinals on Tuesday night. The first time UW played at MSG this season, freshman guard Tony Wroten put on a show for a national audience, scoring 24 points, including 14 in the final 10 minutes as he tried to will his team back into the game. Now, after a disappointing end to the Huskies’ NCAA Tournament chances when Wroten missed multiple free throws down the stretch of a Pac-12 tournament game, he is back to reprise his starring role in one of the nation’s best basketball arenas. And it is possible, given Wroten’s chances of becoming a high draft pick in June’s NBA Draft, that his time in the spotlight as a collegiate player will be book-ended by appearances in the World’s Most Famous Arena.
  3. Stanford is the other Pac-12 team still alive, also in the NIT semifinals, facing Massachusetts on Tuesday night. This will also be the Cardinal’s third appearance this season at Madison Square Garden too, after they beat Oklahoma State and dropped a tight game to Syracuse at the Garden in the Preseason NIT during Thanksgiving weekend. But Stanford is also in the news lately because head coach Johnny Dawkins is reportedly a possible candidate for the head coaching job at Illinois. Dawkins denies the reports, but with Shaka Smart and Brad Stevens having already turned down the Illini, Dawkins is supposed to be considered along with Leonard Hamilton, Jeff Capel and Anthony Grant for the position.
  4. Elsewhere around the Cardinal program, with associate head coach Dick Davey retiring at the end of the season, should Dawkins return (which, really, is to be expected, not only because Illinois can probably find someone better than him for their position, but also because he would probably rather be at Stanford that in Champaign), he’ll need to fill a spot on his staff. And, among the candidates for that seat is former Cardinal star Mark Madsen. Madsen has limited coaching experience, and Dawkins can certainly find somebody with a more solid resume, but the case can be made that snapping up Madsen now would be good for the Cardinal program in the future.
  5. Lastly, we missed this back at the start of March, but California will be among the eight teams playing in the 2013 Maui Invitational. The Golden Bears will join Syracuse, Baylor, Gonzaga, Arkansas, Dayton, Minnesota and, host Chaminade in Maui in November 2013. It’s too early to prognosticate the strength of any of those teams, but Syracuse, Baylor and Gonzaga have been consistently solid in recent years, while the Bears could feature Allen Crabbe, Justin Cobbs and Richard Solomon as seniors, with David Kravish as a junior.
Share this story

Checking In On… the Pac-12 Conference

Posted by AMurawa on February 23rd, 2012

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West and Pac-12 conferences.

Reader’s Take

 

Top Storylines

Last week at this time, we had five teams who were still serious contenders for the Pac-12 regular season title, all of them within a game of the conference lead. This week, the picture has cleared up considerably, but there is still plenty of intrigue out there. California and Washington both scored big wins over two of the other five contenders (Oregon and Arizona, respectively), in turn not only more or less knocking those teams out of the race for the title, but also cementing their status at the top of the heap. Colorado remains in the mix as well, a game and a half back of the co-leaders. The other component of the race at the top of the conference is the jostling for the #4 spot, which will earn the last first-round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament. Oregon and Arizona are currently tied for the fourth spot, but the Ducks own the tiebreaker there on the basis of their earlier win at the McKale Center.

Washington

Washington's Win Over Arizona On Saturday Gave The Huskies Reason For Celebration (Elaine Thompson/AP)

What to Watch For

There is really only one big remaining matchup between teams at the top of the conference over the final two weeks of the season: California’s trip to Colorado on Sunday. Other than that, the Bears go on the road to Utah on Thursday before wrapping up their season with a trip to Stanford on the final day of the regular season.

Likewise, Washington will also be spending its last three games on the road, this week against Washington State and next week against USC and UCLA. Depsite the fact that all of those games are on the road, all of those are eminently winnable games for the co-leaders, with the Colorado/Cal game being the sole time when either Cal or Washington will likely not be favored. For the Buffaloes, however, it is going to be an uphill climb. Along with California, they also face Stanford, Oregon and Oregon State, with the latter two on the road – no pushovers anywhere among that group.

As it is, if the Pac-12 Tournament began with the current standings, this is what we’d be looking at. Certainly some pretty interesting semifinals, but my goodness is that Wednesday slate of games awful bad. The best game of the day is at noon and the Staples Center is virtually guaranteed to be whatever the opposite of “rocking” is that day.

Player of the Year Watch

There are a couple of questions here: 1) who is going to win the POTY award, and 2) who deserves to win the POTY award?

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Pac-12 Weekly Honors: Week 14

Posted by AMurawa on February 13th, 2012

Team of the Week

California – Want an easy recipe for taking down our weekly Team of the Week award? Go on the road and come back with two wins, regardless of your opponents. That’s what the Golden Bears did this weekend, and while sweeping the Los Angeles schools isn’t going to necessarily turn anyone into a believer overnight, getting road conference wins over anybody is an accomplishment worth celebrating. Throw in the fact that the road sweep this weekend makes for a season sweep of both USC and UCLA for the first time in Berkeley since 1958-59 and Mike Montgomery’s team certainly has something to take pride in. Justin Cobbs and Harper Kamp both averaged 14 points per game this week with Cobbs adding five assists per game while David Kravish broke out in a big way in Thursday night grabbing 18 rebounds against the depleted Trojans. But the real key to the weekend was suffocating defense, limiting their opponents to just 0.84 points per possession. That kind of defense combined with efficient offense makes Cal a tough team to beat.

E.J. Singler, Oregon

E.J. Singler Was A Huge Factor In The Ducks' Sweep Of The Washington Schools (Rick Bowmer/AP)

Player of the Week

E.J. Singler, Junior, Oregon – The Ducks also swept their opponents this weekend, taking care of the Washington schools in Eugene in impressive fashion. While head coach Dana Altman got production out of all ten players who played this weekend, Singler deserves the most praise. He averaged 18 points and seven rebounds and hit five of his eight three-point attempts, but deserves the most credit for his defensive work. Against Washington State on Sunday, he was given the most responsibility for slowing red-hot Brock Motum, who had been averaging 27.3 points and nine rebounds in his previous four games. While Motum still put up 17 points, five boards, and five assists, Singler held him to just one point over the last 15 minutes of the game and effectively made other Cougars do the damage instead of Motum.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

California Basketball: Built on Toughness and Smarts

Posted by AMurawa on February 13th, 2012

The big news out of California’s trip to Los Angeles this weekend was the Bears’ first season sweep of both UCLA and USC since the 1958-59 season, an accomplishment that left head coach Mike Montgomery mostly wondering “what’s been going on since 1958?” But the details behind that accomplishment are the important part. And paying attention to details is exactly how Cal pulled off the sweep this weekend. Against UCLA, for example, when big man Joshua Smith entered the game for the Bruins a couple minutes in, he went to work immediately, drawing three early fouls on Golden Bear bigs who were late and a bit tentative when bringing the monster double team. However, after Smith scored five points on the first three possessions where he touched the ball, Cal tightened up that double team with their forwards and got help from their guards trying to cut off the angle to feed the post. “In their offense, they really try to create angles for Smith, just because of how big his body is, and once he gets the ball in there, he can move pretty much anyone in the country around,” said forward Robert Thurman. “So, we just tried to cut off that initial angle and then the monster double was able to come and help out when he did get the ball.” As such, for the final 35 minutes or so of the game, Smith was never again a major positive force for UCLA, just one example of how the Golden Bear defense is able to X-and-O to minimize their opponent’s strengths.

Harper Kamp, Cal

Harper Kamp Headlines A Tough Cal Frontcourt (Sean Goebel/The Daily Californian)

That Cal frontcourt was tested significantly on Saturday, and responded with aplomb. After David Kravish and Harper Kamp both picked up two first half fouls (Kravish picked up his second at the 17:30 mark, Kamp at 8:11), Thurman and Bak Bak were called on to help out along the front line and between the two of them the provided 33 total minutes, nine points, five boards and plenty of tough defense against Smith and the Wear twins (who combined to shoot just 5-of-19 in the game). While the lack of depth along the front line is something of a concern heading into March, on Saturday it was no problem. The frontcourt as a whole may not get the accolades that the flashier backcourt gets, but they’re a big component to Cal’s success. “They’re always in the right spot, they do a great job rebounding the ball, and on defense they’re doing a great job of defending and helping on screens,” said guard Justin Cobbs. When you think of the Golden Bears, it is likely their backcourt that comes to mind first, but the front line is always producing.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Pac-12 Morning Five: 02.13.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 13th, 2012

  1. This weekend, for once in the Pac-12, all of the upper echelon teams still competing for a conference title took care of the lower-tier teams. The only losses among the top five teams in the conference came against other top five teams – Colorado’s loss to Arizona and Washington’s loss at Oregon, both on Thursday night. But now, with five games left on everyone’s conference schedule, we’ve got five teams all within a game of first place. California earned its spot at the top of the standings by building up a 17-point second half lead against UCLA and then withstanding a late charge, earning its 20th win of the year. With the win, head coach Mike Montgomery became the first Cal coach to win 20 or more games in three of his first four years at the school, while the Golden Bears also completed a regular season sweep of the Los Angeles schools for the first time since 1959. UCLA sophomore center Joshua Smith got off to a strong start in that loss against Cal, scoring five points on his first three possessions and racking up two fouls on Cal freshman forward David Kravish and another on senior Harper Kamp. But, over the next 35 minutes he managed just five more points and was frustrated by Golden Bear double teams and his own conditioning issues. While it isn’t exactly breaking news that Smith is overweight and in poor physical condition, leave it to Bill Plaschke to get Smith on record as saying he “didn’t do anything” to prepare for this year over the offseason. Smith claims that he’ll be putting in the work this offseason in preparation for his junior year, but we’ll have to wait and see just how well that goes.
  2. Washington got back on track and maintained its own hold on a piece of first place with a 75-72 win at Oregon State last night. The game was sloppy on both ends, but was intensely competed and the Huskies had to hit 10 of 15 free throws down the stretch to hold on to the lead. Terrence Ross, C.J. Wilcox and Tony Wroten led the scoring for the Huskies with 50 points between them, but they all struggled from the field, hitting just 15 of their 44 field goal attempts (37.5% eFG) on the night. Jared Cunningham led all scorers with 23 points, be he too was inefficient, needing 20 shots to get his points. While the Huskies are technically tied with Cal for first place, the Golden Bears beat U-Dub earlier in the year, and that game will not be returned due to the unbalanced schedule in the Pac-12, meaning Cal holds the tiebreaker.
  3. Arizona pulled out a win on Saturday over Utah, but it was in no way a win that left Sean Miller feeling pleased with his team. The Wildcats trailed the 5-20 Utes for the first 27 minutes of the game, and didn’t claim the lead for good until a Nick Johnson three with 1:24 remaining put Zona up 64-61. Six free throws down the stretch provided a final margin of nine points, but UA was definitely fortunate to come away with the win. The Wildcats’ problems began well before tipoff, as senior guard Kyle Fogg was late for a pregame walk-through and was removed from the starting lineup as a result. As for the game itself, Miller described his team’s play as “alarming,” “disappointing,” and “pathetic” and mentioned that at least half of his seven-man rotation was not playing with maximum possible energy. The Wildcats travel to the Washington schools next week, so they’ll need to put out a much better effort to extend their four-game winning streak.
  4. The other two teams sitting a game back of the leaders also took care of business on Saturday, as Colorado earned its second road win of the conference season by taking care of Arizona State, and Oregon completed a sweep of the Washington schools by outlasting Washington State. E.J. Singler led the way for the Ducks with 23 points and four threes and also had a major hand in limiting the Cougs’ leading scorer, Brock Motum, to just 15 points, and just one point in the final 15 minutes. In Tempe, it was freshman guard Spencer Dinwiddie leading the way for the Buffaloes with 15 points, five rebounds and three threes. The Buffs will pick back up next week on the road again, with a trip to Salt Lake City to face Utah scheduled for Saturday. After that, however, the final four games of the season will go a long way towards determining CU’s fate: they host Cal and Stanford before traveling to the Oregon schools the last week of the regular season.
  5. Lastly, Stanford won for just the second time in seven games on Sunday when they took apart a struggling USC team, 59-47. The Cardinal dominated on the glass, grabbing 97% of their defensive rebound opportunities and 41.3% of the rebounds on the offensive end, and they held the Trojans to just 35.4% eFG. But, with Stanford now out of the race for the conference title, the highlight of the game had to be junior forward Andy Brownhe of the three knee surgeries – scoring the first field goal of his Stanford career. Brown played eight minutes on Sunday, and has now played 21 minutes on the season, but his battle back despite injuries could be something to build on for the Cardinal going forward. Quickly, on the USC front, after a solid 8-for-13 performance Thursday night, sophomore guard Maurice Jones returned to form, hoisting 14 shots and hitting only two against the Cardinal. He’s now shooting just a 41.3% eFG on the season.
Share this story