The Ralphie Report sat down with the great Cal blog on SBNation, California Golden Blogs, to discuss this week's game in Berkeley. Thanks to NorCalNick for the answers.
Our answers to their questions will be up tomorrow morning.
Give us the recap of the Cal season so far. Are fans happy with the performance to date?
For the most part, yes. The main expectations Cal fans had this year was a conference title run, and we haven't really seen anything to indicate that the Bears aren't one of the top contenders. It was a little disappointing to start the season in the Top 25 and then fall out of the rankings, and the 39 point loss to Missouri was a major downer. But it's not like Cal fans harbored serious hopes and dreams of a Final Four run. This is still a fanbase that has experienced one conference title in the last 50 years. All in all we're a happy bunch right now.
The biggest newcomer is sophomore Justin Cobbs, a combo-guard transfer from Minnesota. His addition has taken some of the scoring and ball-handling burden from Jorge Gutierrez, and adds another threat from the perimeter. He's a solid passer as well, and functionally having two point guards on the floor is part of what makes Cal's offense successful.
The other player to watch is Richard Solomon. The 6'10'' sophomore is coming off of a stress fracture, but he looked like himself against Oregon. He's vital to Cal's success because he's the best rebounder on the team and his length and athleticism makes a big difference on defense.
California is second in the conference in field goal percentage, Colorado is first in FG% defense. Cal is 1st in 3-point FG%, Colorado is second in 3-point FG% defense. How will the Bears attack this Buffalo defense that has played so well over the last few games?
I wouldn't expect Cal to do anything different than usual, which is a perimeter offense focused on the creative abilities of Jorge Gutierrez and creating shots for Allen Crabbe. It's Jorge who really makes the offense go. His ability to create his own shot is easily the best on the team, and since he's a good passer his drives inevitiably lead to better looks for teammates. If Colorado can stop him from penetrating that's a big step in slowing down Cal.
Crabbe will try to get open off of screens and curls, and he'll occasionally poach 3 point shots if his defender ever makes the mistake of helping out away from him. Great defenders can take him out of his game by denying him uncontested jumpers, so if the Buffs have a guy who can fight through screens and isn't afraid to get in his face he can be contained. For what it's worth, Cal fans have been hoping Allen would start taking over games by demanding the ball and creating his own shot, and he finally did that against Oregon in the 2nd half. We'll see if that's the start of a trend or just a one-time event.
Since the Bears haven't lost at home this season, tell us about Haas Pavilion. Is it a tough place to play? Does the student section get loud and into the games?
Weeeeeeeeell . . . it's been an issue. The long malaise of the Ben Braun era really sapped interest in the basketball program. Back in the 90s during and after the Jason Kidd era, Cal had a deserved reputation as one of the better basketball crowds on the west coast, but that reputation has gradually died. Student leaders are doing their best to fix things, but it's been a constant source of frustration that such a good team has had such mediocre attendance.
Part of the problem is that the Pac-10/12 has been so bad over the last few years, meaning there are fewer games each year to draw in ticket-buyers. But Cal's success at home is more a matter of the quality of the coaching and the talent, rather than the fans.
Why does the Pac-12 seem to be so down this year, and when do you see the conference turning it around and becoming a player on the national scene again? Can we expect a big improvement next year?
Problem #1 is the bizarrely large amount of transfers and/or academic casualties that have hurt the conference. Admittedly, I don't know if the about of transfers is more than your typical major conference, but there have been some key losses. ASU desperately needed Carson to play point. Brown was supposed to bring back the Ducks. Nelson was potentially a Pac-12 POY candidate. Freshmen aren't supposed to leave major conference teams after 10 games!
Problem #2 was that pretty much every single player that could declare for the draft did. Now, Derrick Williams was an easy choice, and Thompson, Burks and Vucevic were all lottery picks . . . but the rest of them all could have easily come back and been major contributors. While most other conferences had major, lottery-pick quality players stay, the Pac-12 lost pretty much everybody.
Will it get better soon? I hope so. It feels like Arizona, UCLA, Oregon, Washington and Colorado are all on the right track on the recruiting front, but there are some serious questions about the quality of coaching at Oregon St., Washington St., Arizona St. & USC. And Utah . . . that's a level of rebuild that might take a while.
The conference should be better next year, since most of the best players in the conference are sophomores and there shouldn't be many NBA defections. But I thought the same thing at this point last year, and look where that got me!
Predict the outcome.
Richard Solomon and Andre Roberson engage in an epic rebounding battle that's worth the price of admission alone. Jorge Gutierrez holds Carlon Brown below his season average, but Spencer Dinwiddie picks up some of the slack. Cal holds a slim lead most of the way until Allen Crabbe hits a couple of threes to give Cal a double digit lead midway through the 2nd half. Cal 70, Colorado 59.