California Week: Q&A With California Golden Blogs

Posted by Connor Pelton on June 24th, 2012

It’s been a fun week of California basketball coverage here on the Pac-12 Microsite, so we’ve decided to close it out with opinions from a couple of Golden Bear insiders. ”Kodiak” and “LeonPowe” from California Golden Blogs agreed to kindly join us for a Q&A on the state of the Cal program. If you’re reading this, you no doubt already know the great work and comedic relief that they do over there covering the Golden Bears, but consider this a friendly reminder.

RTC: With the departure of Jorge Gutierrez, is Allen Crabbe firmly locked into the “main leader” role this season?

Whether By Example or Vocally, Junior Guard Allen Crabbe Will Be In Some Sort of Leader Role Come October. (credit: AZ Central)

Kodiak: From a personality standpoint, Crabbe seems more of a lead by example type. However, when he was a high school player, he took control as an upperclassman and led that team to a state championship. It may be that he’s deferred because we’ve had such strong leaders in MSF (Markuri Sanders-Frison), Jorge Gutierrez, and Harper Kamp. He’s very respectful and may simply have been waiting his turn. The guy who is most likely to assert himself vocally would be point guard Justin Cobbs. He’ll have the ball in his hands a lot, so how he responds to Coach [Mike] 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.  He improved throughout last year and did very well for a young point guard in his first year as a starter.

LeonPowe: In terms of most talented player – absolutely, but I think in terms of actual team leader, I think he’ll have strong competition from junior point guard Justin Cobbs. Crabbe is our best player and his performance will go a long way in how well or poorly we play this year, but Crabbe has also had a tendency to, well, not seize the game by its throat and play up to the level which we know he is capable of. On the other hand, Cobbs is the point guard and is a lot more aggressive than Crabbe has tended to be in the past two years, so I think a lot of the on-court leadership will come from Cobbs.

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California Week: Evaluating The Recent Past

Posted by Connor Pelton on June 18th, 2012

California is coming off back-to-back seasons in which it hasn’t qualified for the Round of 64 in the NCAA Tournament. For a team that is usually always in contention to win the Pac-12, this comes as somewhat of a disappointment to fans in Berkeley. In 2011-12, the Golden Bears looked like they were not only going to make the field of 64, but possibly make it out of the first weekend. Unfortunately, things went drastically wrong for the Bears down the stretch. Sophomore forward Richard Solomon contributed heavily on the glass in the first half of the season, but was lost as an academic casualty midway through January. This didn’t affect Cal immediately, but the strain put on Harper Kamp in the stretch run of the season would cost the Bears, who faced depth issues everywhere. “Over the past few years we’ve lost a lot of depth to transfers (or as an early pro in the case of Max Zhang) – so the players who would’ve been the sixth, seventh, and eighth men (Amandi Omoyke, DJ Seeley, and Zhang) are now playing for Cal State Fullerton or in China,” said “LeonPowe” of California Golden Blogs when RTC talked to him. California would finish its final five games with a record of 1-4, including an embarrassing, not as close as the final score indicated, 65-54 loss against South Florida in the First Four.

Mike Montgomery’s Team Seemed Headed In The Right Direction Going Into The Stretch Run In 2011-12, But A Poor Finish Resulted In A Less Than Favorable Draw In The NCAA Tournament. (credit: Mark J. Terrill)

As people around the program will tell you, however, the floundering finish was a long time in the making. Coach Mike Montgomery seemed to lose trust early in a couple of his players, most notably Brandon Smith. Due to the combination of a poor start by Smith and a hot one by transfer Justin Cobbs, Smith found himself buried on the bench. Even when the team’s top three shooter’s – Allen Crabbe, Jorge Gutierrez, and Cobbs — lost their touch late in the year, Monty decided to ride the sinking ship with them instead of going back into his bench. Smith only saw a combined 13 minutes of action in the final two games of the year, both 11-point losses. He is only one example, though. The already short bench was even shorter by year’s end, as Montgomery settled into a six-man rotation. Against athletic and quick defensive teams like Colorado and USF, the Bears never really had a chance to compete with those teams.

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Big West Tournament Preview & Season Wrap-Up

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 8th, 2012

David Gao is the RTC correspondent for the Big West Conference. You can also find his musings online at Zotcubed, a UC Irvine blog, or on Twitter @dvdgao.

 

League Wrap-Up

By and large, the Big West wound up largely like the preseason prognosticators predicted. Long Beach State dominated with their senior-laden team, winning 15 straight in conference play before Cal State Fullerton tripped them up. CSF was probably the biggest surprise and also most improved over the season, as coach Bob Burton pulled together his team of transfers and formed an offensive powerhouse. UCSB once again had a slightly disappointing conference season, while UC Irvine did better than predicted, tying for sixth when they were picked last overall. UC Riverside peaked early, upsetting a few teams early in the season, threatening to break into the top half of the conference. However, they faded down the stretch, and finished tied for sixth, about where they were picked. UC Davis, picked to finish seventh, had an abysmal season that was only slightly salvaged by a late season surge where they managed to upset both Pacific and CSF.

Ultimately, the top four and bottom five divide was very evident for the 2011-12 season. It will be one of the top four: Long Beach State, Cal State Fullerton, UCSB or Cal Poly, who will have a realistic chance at going dancing.

League Accolades

Co-Players Of The Year – Larry Anderson & Casper Ware: So technically there’s only supposed to be one POY, but this one was too hard to choose. Ware is still the go-to player on the best team in the conference, a guy that seemingly steps up in crunch time game after game. At the same time, his 16.9 PPG and 3.2 APG are both slight dips from last year’s numbers, when he also won POY. Picking up the slack was fellow 49er senior Anderson, who won defensive player of the year for good reason. When he was injured against Cal State Fullerton in the season finale, Titans guard DJ Seeley went off, carrying CSF to victory. Without either Anderson or Ware, I don’t think the 49ers go 15-1. Really, the same case could be made for TJ Robinson. It’s been a three-headed beast all year.

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RTC Conference Primers: #19 – Big West Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 17th, 2011

David Gao of Zotcubed, a UC Irvine blog, is the RTC correspondent for the Big West Conference. You can find him on Twitter at @dvdgao.

Reader’s Take I


Top Storylines

  • LBSU 49ers Poised to Finally Strike Gold: After winning the Big West by four games last year, Long Beach State had to settle for the NIT after UC Santa Barbara upset them in the Big West Tournament finals. This year, four of last year’s top five scorers return for LBSU, and all as fourth-year seniors. But even if a Big West Tournament win isn’t in the cards, Coach Dan Monson will garner national attention and even a possible at-large bid with an incredibly tough non-conference slate featuring the likes of Pittsburgh, San Diego State, Louisville, Kansas, North Carolina and Xavier.

Long Beach State Star Guard Casper Ware (#22) Plays Much Bigger Than His 5'10" Frame Might Suggest. (credit: S. Dachman)

  • Three Straight for the Gauchos?: USA World University Games team member Orlando Johnson will look to take an up-and-down UC Santa Barbara team back to the NCAA Tournament for the third straight year. Some may see last year’s bid as a bit of a fluke, as the Gauchos were only a five-seed in the conference tournament, but scored a Big Dance berth anyway when they won the final against regular season champion Long Beach State. Seniors James Nunnally and Jaime Serna return as well, while D-I transfers Nate Garth and Keegan Hornbuckle become eligible for the first time this year, making this Gauchos team, on paper, even stronger.
  • Will Les Be More?: At UC Davis, gone is former coach Gary Stewart after eight seasons (and his not-so-illustrious 88-148 record), replaced by former Bradley coach Jim Les, who joins his son Tyler, a sophomore on the team. The elder Les spent nine years at Bradley, where he famously took the Braves to the Sweet Sixteen in 2005-06, knocking off a highly-seeded Kansas team in the process. However, his last two teams fizzled, just as Stewart’s Aggies did the last two years despite having highly touted players Mark Payne and Joe Harden on the roster. Harden and Payne are both gone now, but Big West Co-Freshman of the year Josh Ritchart returns with former Cal guard Eddie Miller.
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