Washington Week: Running Down The Returnees

Posted by Connor Pelton on July 11th, 2012

The Huskies return four contributors from last season’s team, along with guard Scott Suggs, who comes back after losing last year to a foot injury. The returnees range from sharpshooters to prolific passers to big men down low. Below, we’ll take a look at each of these returnees in order of their scoring averages in the last season played.

  • C.J. Wilcox, Junior, Shooting Guard (14.2 PPG, 1.1 APG, 3.4 RPG, 0.9 SPG) – If there was ever a player to average a quiet 14.2 PPG, Wilcox was that player last season. The sharpshooter was the one player coach Lorenzo Romar could always count on to make a clutch shot, yet he still was an afterthought to most casual fans because he played behind a pair of NBA first round draft picks in Tony Wroten, Jr., and Terrence Ross. He averaged a solid 28.5 MPG, but was basically fourth in the depth chart behind Wroten, Ross, and Abdul Gaddy. The best night of his season came on a Friday in Reno, where Wilcox played 38 minutes in Washington’s 76-73 overtime loss against Nevada. In that game he matched his average of 14 points and three rebounds, but he also recorded two steals on the defensive end. An interesting trend in Wilcox’s game revealed itself after coming back from a three-game layoff due to a stress-related hip injury. Romar was reluctant to play Wilcox for any substantial amount of time in the first five games of his return, in part because Wilcox was struggling to find his shot. The sophomore guard was only averaging about half his normal production through his first four games back, but then, while still playing fewer minutes than usual, he turned his game up a notch for the final stretch of the season. He poured in 22 points at UCLA, 20 against Northwestern, and 17 each at Oregon State and home against Oregon in an NIT quarterfinal game. By early March, Wilcox had completely gained back the minutes he had lost due to his hip injury. His totals near the end of the season should have Husky fans excited, as his quick-scoring ability should be able to soften the blow left behind by the losses of Ross and Wroten.

    After Losing Their Top Two Guards To The NBA Draft, Wilcox’s Ability To Knock Down The Three When Needed Will Be Huge For The Huskies In 2012-13 (credit: AP)

  • Abdul Gaddy, Senior, Point Guard (8.1 PPG, 2.5 RPG) – Along with Suggs, it will be Gaddy’s responsibility to provide some senior leadership at the guard position. The guy is a terrific passer, and can also kill you with a jumper if you give him enough room.
  • Aziz N’Diaye, Senior, Center (8.0 PPG, 0.3 APG, 7.6 RPG) – N’Diaye is a monster on the glass, pulling down over seven boards a game in 2011-12. But with the departure of Darnell Gant, he will have to increase his production even more. The monster out of Senegal is no slouch either on the offensive end, as he is more than capable of putting in a double-digit scoring night. Twice in 2011-12 he had a stretch of three games with double-digit scoring figures, and he scored a season high 14 points against Seattle U. and California. Without question, N’Diaye will be counted on to shoulder the load in the post and balance out an offense that was mainly guard-oriented last year. Read the rest of this entry »
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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.

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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.

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