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?”
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?
This is a Cal team that lost the reigning Pac-12 Player of the Year in Allen Crabbe. Cobbs, while a talented veteran, has been erratic at times at the head of the offense. It’s true that Wallace is athletic and skilled and has great upside, but last time we saw him he was shooting 22% from three and just 53% from the line. Those upperclassman big men? I like the duo, but within reason; they combined to average 16.8 points and 13.7 rebounds in 55.7 minutes of action last season, not exactly setting the world on fire. And those freshmen? Yeah, well, they’re freshmen. There’s a lot of potential on this roster for good things, but as of right now, it is hard to say this team projects as significantly better this season than the Cal team from last year that wasn’t even in the “others receiving votes” section of the final Top 25 poll, or the previous season when they clocked in at #24 in the final poll after getting bounced in a 54-point First Four game.
Still, maybe Gottlieb knows something. After all, his brother, Gregg Gottlieb, is a trusted assistant on Montgomery’s staff. I don’t want to throw my lot in with the message board posters who break out the “he only picked Cal that high because his brother is on the staff” comments, but maybe Doug has heard great things from the offseason workouts and practices. Maybe Bird is ready to step in and drop 20 a night. Maybe Rooks is going to be a force on both ends of the court from day one. Maybe Mathews is going to blow up. Maybe Wallace has found a jumper. Maybe Kreklow is going to be healthy. Maybe things are going to suddenly click to the tune of 16 points and 10 boards a night for Solomon. But for my money, that an awful lot of maybes for me to buy Cal as a top 10 team.