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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Morning Five: 05.22.14 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 22nd, 2014

morning5

  1. As we head into Memorial Day weekend, the long summer of college basketball purgatory awaits – June, July and August are fun months for many other reasons, but getting your college hoops fix isn’t one of them. Message boards and social media will remain active, of course, and we’ll do our part here from time to time as well, but at the end of the day, we’re all daydreaming about how next season will play out. The Sporting News waited a little longer than most outlets to release its post-early entry Top 25 for the preseason, but the timing works because it gives us something to chatter about. Perhaps the most surprising selection here is that TSN went against the grain in choosing a team not named Kentucky as its overall #1 team, but there are a few other surprises scattered about the list (particularly at #5). If you need a comparison Top 25, here’s RTC’s version from about a month ago.
  2. One of the teams looking to reload after losing Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins to next month’s NBA Draft will be Kansas. With another elite recruiting class headed to Lawrence, however, headlined by star forwards Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre, the Jayhawks populate most pundits’ preseason top 10s. Bill Self’s squad might find itself rising in everyone’s mind by October, as Kansas on Wednesday added another impressive piece to the class in Ukrainian guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk – good luck pronouncing that one — a tall but talented shooting guard who has been favorably compared with former Michigan star Nik Stauskas. With a ton of frontcourt talent on board as well as Wayne Selden and now Mykhailiuk joining the program, Self only needs to figure out his point guard situation in order to roll out another big-time National Championship contender.
  3. Speaking of one-and-dones, seemingly everyone who has a stake in the game is sick of them. Whether you’re in favor of going back to the preps-to-pros of the multi-year NFL model, people seem to agree that something needs to change. For the good of the game and all that. The Pac-12 on Wednesday took its own shot across the bow of the NBA’s dominion by releasing a letter addressed to ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC schools suggesting as one of its key reforms the following admonition: “Address the “one and done” phenomenon in men’s basketball. If the National Basketball Association and its Players Association are unable to agree on raising the age limit for players, consider restoring the freshman ineligibility rule in men’s basketball.” Of course, the NBA, under the new leadership of Adam Silver, appears to have prioritized a two-and-through model for its next round of player negotiations, but there’s certainly no guarantee that such a change in rookie eligibility will occur. But freshman ineligibility as a measure of pushback? It would only serve to further marginalize college basketball as a major American sport. 
  4. Remember Julie Roe Lach, the NCAA’s former VP of Enforcement who was run out of the organization on a rail after the disastrous investigation of Miami (FL) athletics and the influence of Nevin Shapiro? After a 14-month hiatus doing consulting work, she’s back in college athletics, now as the new Deputy Commissioner of the Horizon League. Her new responsibilities will include oversight of the league’s 19 championships, student-athlete development, finances, corporate sponsorship and branding, all interesting and important aspects of an organization that has little to do with her previous role involving enforcement. Still, her breadth of experience and without question also her ties to the inner workings of the NCAA right down the street from HL offices are attractive qualities, and everyone deserves a second chance to prove their value and integrity. We wish her and the conference well on their new endeavor.
  5. Some transfer news from the midweek: Creighton picked up Cal transfer Ricky Kreklow; Michigan State’s Russell Byrd plans to play at NAIA school Master’s College; and the nation’s top returning scorer, Niagara’s Antoine Mason, is on the move for his final season of eligibility. All three will be eligible to play next season (Kreklow and Mason are set to use the graduate transfer exception next season, while there is no transfer penalty for Byrd to drop to the NAIA), but it is the free agency of Mason that might be the most interesting of this group. The 6’3″ guard and son of former New York Knick Anthony Mason will no doubt be a hot commodity in coming weeks for schools seeking to add some immediate scoring punch to their backcourts. The caveat with Mason, of course, is that he’s a high-volume, low-efficiency guy who took as many shots as he liked for a 7-26 MAAC team last season. If a high-major coach can get through to him to cut way back on his three-point attempts (28.6% on 168 attempts last season) and focus on driving the lane to draw fouls and get to the line (where he shoots a much nicer 72.8%), then Mason could become a key contributor on a contender next season.
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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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NIT and CBI Reaction: Pac-12 Teams

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) & Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on March 18th, 2014

Three Pac-12 teams that were not invited to the NCAA Tournament ended up receiving NIT or CBI bids. Let’s break them down in this instareaction format.

California – NIT, #2 seed in SMU Quadrant, vs. Utah Valley, 3/19, 7:30 PM PT - The Golden Bears had something of an argument for the NCAA field of 68, but nobody winds up all that shocked that they’re on the outside looking in. So, now, rather than playing for a national championship (at least in theory), Mike Montgomery and company have to shift gears and find something else to play for over their remaining games. For seniors like Justin Cobbs and Richard Solomon, such a shift will be difficult, as the NIT is clearly not where those guys hoped to be ending their careers. But, for youngsters like Jordan Mathews, Jabari Bird, and Sam Singer, and even junior Ricky Kreklow, whose career has been limited some by injury problems, maybe they can use the NIT as a springboard towards the inevitably larger roles that they’ll have to take on next season. As for match-ups, they will get a Utah Valley team in the opener that they should be able to outclass on talent alone, but beyond that, they will need to begin bringing their A-games, as either Arkansas or Indiana State could give them a serious push in the second-round game.

California Highlights The Pac-12's Representation In The NIT

California Highlights The Pac-12′s Representation In The NIT

Utah – NIT, #5 seed in Minnesota’s Quadrant, at Saint Mary’s, 3/18, 8:00 PM PT, ESPN2 – The Utes got jobbed. Plain and simple. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. Going by the eye test, this team should have been one of the first four or five left out of the NCAA Tournament. Instead, the NIT selection committee relied far too much on strength of schedule and relegated Utah to a first round road game. Saint Mary’s, who most projected to barely sneak into the NIT, receives a better seed and will host the Utes. The Gaels finished fourth in the WCC and fell to Gonzaga in the semifinals of their conference tournament. They opened the year at 9-0, then went to Honolulu, got distracted by the beach, and fell hard from the ranks of the unbeaten. First came a loss against South Carolina. Then Hawaii nipped them, and then George Mason did the same on Christmas morning. And after sneaking past Pacific a few days later, they went up to Spokane and got hammered for a 22-point loss against the Zags. Things have been up and down since, with a little more good than bad, and the Gaels enter the NIT at a 22-11 clip.

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Evaluating the Pac’s Postseason Prospects: Mid-January Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on January 15th, 2014

Periodically throughout the next two months, the Pac-12 microsite will be taking a look at the league’s postseason outlook. We start today.

NCAA Tournament

  • Arizona (#1 Seed): Arizona has been atop the national rankings for five consecutive weeks now, and while some dispute whether it should be the top overall seed, no one has the Wildcats below the one seed line right now. They currently boast quality wins against San Diego State, Duke, Michigan, Washington and UCLA, with four of those coming away from home. The Cats remain one of three unbeatens across the land and have another chance at a good win on Thursday against Arizona State.
  • Colorado (#4-#6 Seed): The Buffaloes have a pair of top 10 victories going for themselves, but that’s about the only positive they have to look at right now. Head coach Tad Boyle lost his leading scorer for the remainder of the season and another member of his typical nine-deep rotation until mid-March all in 40 minutes at Washington on Sunday, so while the Buffs’ résumé currently looks in the #4-#6 seed range, anything better than a #7 come Selection Sunday would make Colorado fans very happy. Staying on that line instead of the #8 or #9 would be crucial if it hopes to advance through the opening weekend, as that’s the difference between say, Virginia and North Carolina in the opening round as well as avoiding a #1 seed in the second game.
  • Oregon (#5-#7 Seed): Sure, Oregon is sliding hard and fast right now, but the Ducks will be fine so long as this three-game losing streak doesn’t go beyond that. The Ducks need to keep these losses in a vacuum, and while it will definitely be a black mark the rest of the way, wins at Washington and against UCLA back in Eugene could make this skid a distant memory by the first of February. They will need to shore up their defense some in order to remain in the upper half of the NCAA field. Oregon ranks 306th in the nation in points allowed per game, and finding a way to keep their opponents below 80 will be key.
(AP Photo)

Joseph Young Leads Oregon’s High-Flying Offense With 18.8 PPG, But The Ducks Need To Shore Up Their Defense In Order To Remain On The Eight Line Or Higher (AP)

  • UCLA (#8-#10 Seed): The jury is largely still out on the Bruins, who have won 13 games but only one of which can be classified as a “quality victory.” With four of their final five games this month either against teams that are locked into the NCAAs or on the bubble, that can change in a hurry but they’ll need to be ready to take advantage of those opportunities every night out.
  • California (Bubble IN): Going into conference play, California was typically a middle-of-the-road NIT team according to bracketologists around the country, and that was with some slack being cut since it had lost Ricky Kreklow and Jabari Bird for an extended period of time. Boy, what a difference two weeks can make. The Golden Bears have worked their way into the NCAA field, possibly as high as a #10 seed, thanks to three road wins to start Pac-12 play. With the three-game road trip now out of the way, and the fact they don’t leave the state of California again until February 12, things are definitely looking up for the Bears.
  • Arizona State (Bubble OUT): The Sun Devils, like UCLA, have been tough to figure out so far. They only have one quality win, and while there is only one bad loss to their name, performances like the ones they put up against Creighton and Washington won’t be convincing anyone that they’re ready for the field of 68.  Read the rest of this entry »
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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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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.

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Pac-12 Burning Questions: So… About Those Preseason Predictions?

Posted by AMurawa on December 31st, 2012

With non-conference play all but wrapped up, we start to turn our attention to conference play this week. But, before we do we want to take a look back and see what we talked about prior to the season.

“We made a lot of predictions and bold statements prior to the season. Which prognostication did you nail and which did you completely whiff on?”

Adam Butler: I wish I’d had the stones to say things like “Jordan Adams will be UCLA’s best player” or “Josh Smith will leave the Bruins” or “USC will utterly flop.” No, on each of those insights I was sightless. I was the cool kid picking USC to overachieve and who was gobbling up Shabazz hyperbole like flavored vodka at a sorority house. I went out on the limb to say Arizona and Colorado would be good. I have said Spencer Dinwiddie would be All-Conference and, to date, he’s held up his side of that bargain, and I still love his game when he shows up (although, zero points vs. Fresno?). The one thing I’ve nailed but I don’t think it’s been terribly bold has been that Mark Lyons, no matter what he did numbers-wise, was going to have an overwhelming effect on this Wildcats team. I think it’s safe to say that he’s been a lightning rod of attention and criticism and handled it all in stride, strides that have taken him straight to winning buckets against Florida and SDSU. Lyons brings a dynamic to Tucson that was sorely needed and he has not let them down. As for whiffs? I figured Washington would be better and that Oregon would be worse. I thought Jio Fontan would hover around conference POY talk and that Dewayne Dedmon would be a big surprise: fails. There’s still time to play out but it’s hard to say that any of those thoughts will right themselves in my predictive favor. And in that remaining time, I’m excited to see just what UCLA will do and how Arizona’s freshmen bigs will develop within the routine of Pac-12 play. Moving forward, a few additional thoughts: Can Herb’s team keep up their pace? No. Is Solomon Hill going to win the conference POY award? No (but he may be the MVP). Can Colorado be the second best team in the Pac? Yes. Will Stanford be better then their 8-4 record? Yes. Alas, predictions are meaningless but oh-so-fun.

Jio Fontan In The Player Of The Year Race? Not So Much. (AP Photo)

Jio Fontan In The Player Of The Year Race? Not So Much. (AP Photo)

Connor Pelton: Looking back on it, I made some interesting (to say the least) picks back in October. But I did nail a few of those, starting with the pick of Arsalan Kazemi as an All-Pac-12 performer. I was the only one to include the Rice transfer on my 15-player ballot, and he has answered by averaging 9.2 PPG, 10.4 RPG, and 3.1 SPG so far. In fact, if he had not had been so tentative shooting the ball at the beginning of the season, it is not a stretch to say he would not only be leading the team in rebounds but points as well. Another pick I am liking was that of Jonathan Gilling as an all-conference three-point shooter. Kevin and I were the only ones to include the sophomore on our lists, and he has proved us right by knocking down 30 triples, second highest in the conference. But the pick I am most proud of is selecting USC at 10th in the conference, while everyone else here had the Trojans sixth or seventh. The thing that made me so skeptical about USC at the beginning of the season was the question, “Where do the points come from behind Jio Fontan?” Some said senior forward Aaron Fuller, who’s averaging a stellar 2.9 PPG. Case closed.

Now, onto the whiffs. While Chasson Randle hasn’t had a great season, there is no question he should be second team All-Pac-12 right now. I did not even include him on my list of 15, opting instead for guys like Ricky Kreklow and Kaleb Tarczewski. Whoops. It is easy to look bad when projecting an all-newcomer team, and boy have I done that. I did not include Mark Lyons on my team, or Jahii Carson, or Josh Scott. Those guys are averaging 13.4, 17.9, and 12.5 PPG, respectively. As we move into conference play, the picks that are on the fence of good and bad will begin to clear up. Are the Buffaloes an NCAA Tournament team? I said yes in October, and I still think they are now. Can Washington rebound from an awful start and make the NIT? No. Can California win a big game? It has to happen eventually, right?

Time will answer everything, and before we know it, we will be filling out brackets and talking about surprises and snubs on Selection Sunday.

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Pac-12 M5: 11.05.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on November 5th, 2012

  1. Perhaps the most tantalizing events of the preseason practice schedules are the “secret scrimmages” that take place between teams, apparently under the cover of darkness. Fans and media aren’t allowed to attend, but sometimes you get some great matchups between significant teams with the caveat that no one is supposed to talk about these games. Jeff Goodman at CBS posted a list of some of the secret scrimmages that different teams have played, but perhaps the biggest bout came yesterday. Just prior to the time that UCLA was blowing the doors off of Arizona at the Rose Bowl in front of a near-capacity crowd, the Bruin basketball team was across town hosting UNLV in front of, well, really just the players, coaches and training staff. You’ll never see a box score for this game, but the story is that the Bruins pulled away from the Rebels in the second half of that scrimmage for an 18-point win. My prayer to the basketball gods at this point is for these teams to meet up for a rematch, right around the Sweet Sixteen somewhere. And, hey, it might be interesting if super-recruit Shabazz Muhammad is allowed to play in that one.
  2. Kyle Anderson was able to play in that exhibition game and he’s now ready to go for the rest of the year, where he is expected to team with Larry Drew II to man the point guard spot for UCLA. While Drew is the more traditional point, Anderson is very much the playmaker with all the offensive skills that any coach is looking for in a point. Still, at 6’9” and with some defensive limitations, Anderson will likely spend much of his time this season guarding either the opposing small forward, or whichever opposing wing is the least fleet of foot. Expect Anderson and Drew to spend a lot of time on the floor together, but when Drew goes to the pine, the Bruins could be just fine playing two other wings alongside Anderson – either Muhammad, Norman Powell, Jordan Adams or the presently injured Tyler Lamb.
  3. The exhibition game is basically a secret scrimmage than ain’t so secret and also ain’t so appealing, normally coming against teams from lower divisons. Utah knocked out its exhibition game on Friday night with a rout of Simon Fraser. Sure, the competition wasn’t much, but considering that the Utes lost to Adams State last year in an exhibition, this is definitely progress. Sophomore center Dallin Bachynski, who in the wake of the career-ending injury to David Foster will be counted on in a big way this season, led all scoring for UU, dropping in 16 and grabbing six boards on the way to a 71-36 final. Utah’s season opener is Friday night, and, frankly, the competition isn’t all that much greater then when they host Willamette University. The difference then will be that a win on Friday night will actually count on the record.
  4. There has been plenty said about Arizona’s gifted incoming freshmen, but what makes the Wildcats the preseason favorite in the conference is their combination of young talent and veteran leadership. The most obvious leader for Sean Miller’s club is senior forward Solomon Hill, who has been warning the youngsters against getting too caught up in the numerous social opportunities available to them in their new environment. Last year, highly touted point guard Josiah Turner saw his career in Tucson wash out in a haze of misaligned priorities and Hill wants to make sure his new group of teammates doesn’t run into a similar situation. The vet’s presence on the team should ease Miller’s mind, knowing that not only does he have a coach on the floor in Hill, but he’s also got a coach off the floor to help keep his players out of trouble.
  5. With expected starter Ricky Kreklow out for the start of the season with a foot injury, it looks like California coach Mike Montgomery will look to freshman guard Tyrone Wallace to play a big role early. While Wallace won’t step into Kreklow’s starting spot, he will be the first guard off the bench and the head man has plenty of confidence in him, saying that so far Wallace has been as good as advertised. While his best chance at a bright future may come manning the point, right now Wallace is earning time at all three perimeter positions and should be a fixture in Haas Pavilion for years to come.
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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.

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Pac-12 M5: 10.15.12 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on October 15th, 2012

  1. With the departure of Tony Wroten, Jr., Washington is currently without a defined leader on the team. When asked who might be the face of the team after the second day of practice, senior guard Abdul Gaddy replied “The team is the face of the team.” That’s a stark change from last season, when Wroten was the go-to guy whenever the Dawgs needed a late bucket or to break out of a dry spell on offense. There’s certainly no problem with having no set leader going into the season; after all, it’s one of the bigger clichés in college sports that every team needs one of them. As long as someone, whether C.J. Wilcox, Scott Suggs or whoever, is willing to have the ball in their hands in the waning minutes and has the ability to make a play, there’s no problem. However, there is such a thing as being too unselfish, and close wins will soon become losses if that happens in Seattle this winter. The Huskies will play their one and only exhibition game on October 24 against Western Washington.
  2. Oregon State finished the month of March last season with a record of 6-2, an eight-game stretch in which leading scorer Jared Cunningham didn’t play very well. With Cunningham now playing for the Dallas Mavericks, that stretch gives Beaver fans the hope that players like Ahmad Starks, Devon Collier, and Angus Brandt can keep up the same offensive output without their star guard. Even more important than the trio above, however, will be the play of junior shooting guard Roberto Nelson. Nelson will be the Beavers’ only non-starter-turned-starter from a year ago, but he did play in all 36 games. According to head coach Craig Robinson, Nelson has matured and built on the experience gained from playing in each and every contest as a sophomore, and is ready to take the next step needed in 2012-13.
  3. Just one year removed from a cancer scare before the start of practice, California head coach Mike Montgomery is healthy and ready for the 2012-13 season to tip off. The tone was much different last year at this time, as Montgomery underwent surgery October 19 for bladder cancer, and subsequently he was declared cancer free and able to work the entirety of his 31st season as a head coach. The Golden Bears were the only Pac-12 team to gain an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament last season, and if they are to return it will be behind the play of sophomore guard Ricky Kreklow and junior guard Allen Crabbe. Both are strong shooters but need to show the ability to get to the free throw line more if the Bears are to compete for a Pac-12 championship.
  4. The air is crisp, the leaves are turning, and practices across the nation are beginning. That means it’s time for some preseason predictions. Bruce Pascoe of the Arizona Daily Star, like everyone else around the country, said that he’s been wrestling on whether to put Arizona or UCLA at the top of the Pac this year. He eventually went with Ben Howland’s Bruins, with Arizona and the two Bay Area schools rounding out the upper third of the league race.
  5. We close with some recruiting news, and some big news at that. Class of 2013 small forward Jabari Parker, largely considered to be the top recruit in the nation, named Stanford as one of his final five schools on Friday. Parker’s ability to score from anywhere on the offensive end of the floor makes him this year’s can’t-miss prospect. The Simeon Career Academy (IL) product is also considering BYU, Duke, Florida, and Michigan State. Noticeably missing is Kentucky, who just got verbals from the second and fourth best players in the country on October 4 in the Harrison twins.
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