Busting Brackets

2014-15 Pac-12 Conference Preview: #6 Cal Golden Bears


California Golden Bears 2014-15 Season Preview

2013 Season Results: 21-14, 10-8 conference record. T-3rd place in the Pac-12, 59-56 loss to Colorado in First Round of Pac-12 Tournament, 67-65 loss to SMU in NIT Quarterfinals

Key Losses: Justin Cobbs, Richard Solomon (graduated), Ricky Kreklow (transferred to Creighton)

Key Returners: Jabari Bird, David Kravish, Tyrone Wallace, Jordan Mathews

2014 Recruiting Class: Kingsley Okoroh (2 Stars, #54 center according to ESPN), Brandon Chauca (unrated PG), Stephen Domingo (transferred from Georgetown), Dwight Tarwater (transferred from Cornell)

Cuonzo Martin surprised a lot of the college basketball world when he chose to leave Tennessee after seemingly saving his job with a shock Sweet 16 run to take over for Mike Montgomery at Cal.

For his next trick, he’ll attempt to take a top-heavy team coming off a slightly disappointing season that ended in the NIT.

Martin will inherit some solid talent from the underrated Mike Montgomery. David Kravish, Tyrone Wallace, and Jabari Bird are all potential All-Pac 12 performers this season.

David Kravish is the leading returning scorer. The old-school power forward (he only attempted seven threes last season) averaged 11.4 points and 7.7 rebounds last season, and shot 54% from the field.

With leading scorer and Arizona killer Justin Cobbs gone, Kravish will be asked to shoulder a bigger scoring load. His ability to do that, while managing defensive responsibilities as Cal’s only established big man, will be a key for Cal this season.

Junior guard Tyrone Wallace will be asked to pick up a lot of Cobbs’ slack as well. The 6-5 guard from Bakersfield provides elite athleticism and versatility, averaging 11.4 points, 4.1 boards, and 2.8 assists.

Wallace is going to be asked to handle the ball and create for others a bit more this season, and it remains to be seen if he can channel his physical gifts into efficient guard play.

Wallace shot 43% from the field last season, and 32% from beyond the arc (he also had the most 3-point attempts on the team with 134). He will have to either find his stroke or improve his shot selection for Cal to compete for a Tournament bid.

Though he is listed third, Jabari Bird may end up being this team’s best player. The former McDonald’s American from nearby Salesian High School had a frustrating freshman season, in large part due to injuries.

But he is the most talented player on the roster, and showed flashes of his immense potential during his abbreviated freshman campaign. If Bird’s body is 100%, he could break out as a serious force by the time the Bears reach conference play.

Also returning is occasional 13-14 starter Jordan Mathews. Mathews can really shoot it from deep, and may start along with Wallace and Bird. Mathews is also just a sophomore, so he has a chance to improve significantly on his 8.3 PPG from last season.

With those four pieces, Cal looks like a serious Pac-12 contender. However, those are the only four players on the roster who we are sure can play to the level of the Pac-12’s best.

As mentioned earlier, they are especially thin in the frontcourt. Only Kravish is a known quantity, and 7-footer Kameron Rooks will likely miss the season with a Torn ACL.

Cornell transfer Dwight Tarwater will be asked to help, but he is just 6-6 and rebounded only reasonably well at the Ivy League level (5.5 RPG).

Seven-foot freshman Kingsley Okoroh will also get an opportunity to help. The huge center is raw on offense, but should be able to help protect the rim from Day One.

Point Guard is also a major concern. Though the Bears have three solid guards with starting experience, they are all primarily experienced at the two.

Tyrone Wallace figures to get the first crack at the point, as he was considered a combo guard coming out of high school.

The same goes for sophomore Sam Singer, known primarily for his three-point shooting ability as a recruit. Singer played occasionally as a freshman, but didn’t not enough for us to make much of a read on his ability to run the point for Cal.

Also coming off the bench will be Stephen Domingo and Christian Behrens. Domingo was a highly regarded recruit out of San Francisco, but didn’t earn much playing time in two years at Georgetown.

Behrens may be able to help in the front court as well, but is coming off a major knee injury.

Cuonzo Martin will likely have a starting five at his disposal capable of competing with anyone in the conference, but the Golden Bears badly need more depth.

This has been a common theme for the Bears, and their fans will be expecting to be burned again at some point this season.

If the Bears stay healthy and out of foul trouble, though, their talent level will be enough to carry them to a lot of victories. Add in the potential for a Jabari Bird breakout year, and this team is a big-time threat in the conference and has legitimate NCAA Tournament hopes.

Prediction: 6th Place