Andrew Murawa is an RTC correspondent and a Pac-12 microsite writer. He filed this report after attending the DirecTV Classic over the weekend in Anaheim.
The field at the DirecTV Classic in Anaheim this weekend was anything but classic. The play was ragged at times, there were more than a couple of teams working through the growing pains of major roster overhauls, and so coming up with a coherent all-tournament team was no easy task. But, in the end, we come away with what looked like the most likely outcome going into the holiday weekend – a California win. It wasn’t always easy for the Golden Bears and it certainly wasn’t always pretty, but they leave Anaheim with a 6-0 record on the year with three serious tests ahead of them in the coming weeks. Below, we’ll run down some brief takeaways from each team that participated here this weekend and, at the end, give you what I came up with for my DirecTV Classic all-tournament team.
- California – We knew about Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs coming into this tournament, and while each had their bumps and bruises along the way, their strong performances in Anaheim were no surprise. The bigger questions for this team involve their frontcourt play and their depth, and Mike Montgomery got some promising answers this weekend. Up front, the trio of David Kravish, Richard Solomon and Robert Thurman were largely solid all weekend. Solomon had 12 points and nine boards against the biggest and most athletic team the Bears played all weekend, Georgia Tech, and was very good in the other games. And, he can get better. Kravish and Thurman each had their moments as well, but it is Solomon who has the ability to transform the Cal front line from merely acceptable to an actual team strength. As for depth, Monty definitely has gone with a solid seven-man rotation now, with point guard Brandon Smith and versatile freshman wing Tyrone Wallace seemingly taking turns manning that third perimeter spot. Throw in Ricky Kreklow when he returns from his foot injury, and there’s plenty of talent here for the rigors of the Pac-12 schedule. Cobbs and Crabbe are the established stars here, but there is plenty of upside potential too in Solomon and Wallace.
- Pacific – The surprise team of the tournament, the Tigers, in the midst of head coach Bob Thomason’s retirement tour, sent Xavier to the consolation bracket on Thanksgiving, then handled Saint Mary’s before running into a Cal team that was too much for them. There are a lot of nice pieces here – the Tigers played 11 players in each game of this tournament – but more than one opposing coach this weekend attributed at least some of their early success to Thomason’s coaching, especially with the extra practices the team got this summer as a result of their international trip. As Randy Bennett put it, “they’ve just got more stuff put in than the rest of the teams here.” With no one standout talent on this squad, this team is going to be tough to game plan for on a nightly basis, but this is still probably a team that winds up in the middle of the Big West standings this season. Read the rest of this entry »