Pac-12 Post-Mortems: California

Posted by Andrew Murawa on June 12th, 2014

Finishing off the group, we’re going through each Pac-12 team one by one to recount the season and begin to turn the page to what we might see next season. Today, Cal.

What Went Right

Seniors Justin Cobbs and Richard Solomon turned in their best seasons in their careers in Berkeley; there was some promising production out of the freshman class; and the Golden Bears got off to a promising 5-0 start in conference play, with three of those wins coming on the road. Heading into the tail end of January, it looked for all the world that it would be Cal – rather than some of the other league teams like Oregon, UCLA and Colorado, each of which had flashed a little leg earlier in the season – that would have the best chance to challenge Arizona’s presumed dominance in the conference.

In Mike Montgomery's Final Year On The Sidelines, The Golden Bears Underachieved (credit: Doug Benc)

In Mike Montgomery’s Final Year On The Sidelines, The Golden Bears Underachieved (credit: Doug Benc)

What Went Wrong

But, on the heels of that optimism, the Golden Bears went to USC and lost in a terrible effort, allowing a bad Trojans team to cut through their defense without much effort. Mike Montgomery’s squad was never the same after that point. They took advantage of a rowdy Saturday night home crowd and an injury to Brandon Ashley to knock off Arizona a couple weeks later, but won only four more games the rest of the way (they lost nine of their last 14 games) prior to an NIT invitation. The root causes of this failure are many, but relying on freshmen like Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews for offensive firepower did not help things. Tyrone Wallace, despite showing tremendous improvement in his sophomore campaign, was still inconsistent. And the frontcourt of Solomon and junior David Kravish never really scared anyone.

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Get to Know Cuonzo Martin: Cal’s New Head Coach

Posted by Andrew Murawa on April 16th, 2014

With the sudden announcement on Tuesday that California had hired Cuonzo Martin – last seen taking Tennessee to the Sweet Sixteen – as their new head coach, the Pac-12 coaching carousel appears to be done for the year, barring a major surprise. After names like Chris Mooney, Chris Mack, Russell Turner, Eric Musselman and, last season’s associate head coach under Mike Montgomery, Travis DeCuire, were brought up and discarded, landing a talented young coach like Martin is a strong hire for Cal and its athletic director, Sandy Barbour. And Martin isn’t headed to Berkeley alone, as before he was even officially announced as the new guy, 7’1” recruit Kingsley Okoroh released the news that he would be changing his commitment from Tennessee to California. There’s a lot to get to, so let’s jump right in.

Cuonzo Martin's Name Came Out Of Nowhere As California's Choice For Head Coach (msn.foxsports.com).

Cuonzo Martin’s Name Came Out Of Nowhere As California’s Choice For Head Coach (msn.foxsports.com).

First, Martin hadn’t really even been on the radar for the Cal job until Tuesday morning, as the hot name had been primarily Mooney. But he was anxious to get away from Tennessee, where he was never embraced despite good success there: In three seasons, he logged three postseason appearances including one NCAA Tournament appearance (in which his team advanced to the Sweet Sixteen), and one year where the Volunteers were the first team left out of the Big Dance, all while taking over a program that Bruce Pearl had left in something of a mess. Still, Volunteers fans started an online petition (with 36,000+ signees) before the season was over to fire him and bring back Pearl, so his ducking out the door despite recently pledging his commitment to the program is no big surprise. In fact, the players who battled for Martin this season came out to publicly support his decision to move on. For Martin, really, this is a no-brainer. With the Vols losing seniors Jordan McRae, Jeronne Maymon and Antonio Barton, and with Jarnell Stokes heading to the NBA a year early, Martin gets out of town, signs a new, secure contract and gets a minimum of three or four years to prove that he is worthy of an extension at Cal.

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Why is Doug Gottlieb Picking Cal as a Top Ten Team?

Posted by Andrew Murawa on October 23rd, 2013

It’s the time of year where everybody and their brother are locking in their picks for the upcoming college basketball season. You’ve got All-America teams and conference projections and Top 25s. And it is all good fun. And I get it, you don’t want to have roughly the same picks as everybody else; at some point you want to go out on a limb and say, “Hey, this may be completely wrong, but I’ve got a hunch about Player A or Team B.” And that’s cool. And that’s fun. But. Doug Gottlieb, who is more often right than he is wrong and has probably forgotten more about the sport than I’ll ever know, picked California 10th – in the nation, mind you, not the conference. And now I’m completely befuddled and I’m looking at the Golden Bears and I’m thinking to myself: “What the hell is he seeing that I am missing?”

California? Tenth In The Nation? Am I Missing Something? (credit: Mark J. Terrill)

California? 10th In The Nation? Am I Missing Something? (Mark J. Terrill)

Now, don’t get me wrong, there is clearly plenty of talent on that roster. Point guard Justin Cobbs returns for his senior year. Freshman Jabari Bird is one of the most highly regarded rookie wings in the nation. There’s a pair of returning upperclassman starters up front in Richard Solomon and David Kravish. And there are plenty of other interesting pieces, like versatile sophomore wing Tyrone Wallace, and talented, if oft-injured shooter Ricky Kreklow. And Bird’s not the only freshman expected to make an impact, with Jordan Mathews likely to step right into a big role and seven-footer Kameron Rooks coming along far more quickly than had been previously expected. And, perhaps most importantly, head coach Mike Montgomery is a wizard who routinely gets the most out of his teams. But 10th? In the nation? Huh?

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California Post-Mortem

Posted 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.

Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs Were The Sole Consistent Performers For The Golden Bears

Justin Cobbs and Allen Crabbe Were The Sole Consistent Performers For The Golden Bears

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. Read the rest of this entry »

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