Busting Brackets

California Golden Bears: High Expectations for the California Golden Bears in Berkeley


Last season, the California Golden Bears Men’s Basketball program went 18-15, finishing in the bottom half of the Pac-12 Standings.

The Golden Bears went 7-11 in their conference schedule while suffering blowout losses to Arizona, Arizona State, and UCLA. California even managed to lose to in-state CSU Bakersfield last season by a score of 55-52.

More from Cal Golden Bears

Last year California finished 200th in the nation in Points per Game, 183rd in Assists per Game, and 143rd in Field Goal Percentage. To put things in layman’s terms, not much went well for Cuonzo Martin and the Golden Bears.

So, after the mediocre display that was the 2014-2015 season, why are expectations so high in Berkeley?  Most of this hype is thanks to two guys who haven’t even played a single game of basketball at the college level.

Ivan Rabb and Jaylen Brown are arguably Cal’s best players after less than a couple of months of being part of the program. Both were rated five-stars and targeted by several of the country’s top tier programs.

Many might ask, “Why go to Cal if you could go to a contender like Duke or Kentucky?” In fact, I still find myself asking the same question, especially in Jaylen Brown’s case. California is a great school academically.

Combine that with the great weather and the California lifestyle, Cuonzo Martin really does have an attractive recruiting pitch.

Somehow Cuonzo Martin convinced both Brown and Rabb to join forces at Cal to make an elite wing combo. The 2015 recruiting haul was extremely unexpected, but it has now placed the Golden Bears as one of the favorites to win the Pac-12 title.

This is obviously a blessing for the basketball program, but does it make for an interesting situation?

As noted by ESPN’s Jeff Goodman, Coach Martin faces a problem in what to do with his rotation.

The Golden Bears have a surplus of talented wing players, such as Jaylen Brown, Jordan Matthews, and Tyrone Wallace, but lack a proven play-maker among their bigs.

Ivan Rabb is 6-11 but has always been more of a 4 than a 5. This puts Coach Martin in a dilemma on whether to go small or play a traditional center.

Live Feed

3 Takeaways from Auburn's narrow road win at Cal
3 Takeaways from Auburn's narrow road win at Cal /

Saturday Blitz

  • Auburn football narrowly escapes with road win at CalSaturday Blitz
  • What ACC expansion means for remaining Pac-12 schools without a homeFanSided
  • College football realignment: Insider denies Big 12 interest in remaining Pac-4FanSided
  • ACC firing up expansion talks once again with 3 familiar targets in mindFanSided
  • The latest ACC expansion plan makes no senseSaturday Blitz
  • If Martin were to go small, the likely lineup would include Brown as the starting power forward and Rabb as the starting center with Wallace, Matthews, and Jabari Bird as the guards.

    I see no prominent issues with Rabb playing center as his defensive presence and athleticism make him a tough match-up for any starting big.

    Brown however, will need to learn to be able to defend the bigger power forwards or he may struggle mightily on the defensive end.

    The other equally enticing option at Coach Martin’s disposal is to use a traditional rotation where either Kameron Rooks or Kingsley Okoroh playing center. This allows Cal’s two young stars to play the positions at which they have excelled.

    Neither Rooks or Okoroh have shown much against stiff competition, but both have the potential to be defensive anchors in the Golden Bear rotation.

    California recently started a tour of Australia, where the team will take part in multiple exhibition games. The Golden Bears won their first contest against Victoria Select by a score of 100-63. Cal looked very impressive throughout their 37-point victory, but some flaws were also noted.

    The Golden Bears struggled with free throw shooting, as team going 15-30 at the charity stripe. Three-point shooting was another are where Cal obviously struggled. Not many shots from beyond the arc were attempted, but the Golden Bears were only successful on three of their twelve attempts from deep.

    On the upside, Kameron Rooks had a fantastic game, scoring 14 points and nabbing six rebounds in a somewhat surprising performance. Jordan Matthews and Jabari Bird also had similarly strong performances as they combined for 28 points on their 12 made shots from the field. Tyrone Wallace also added 10 points and six assists, while connecting on three of his nine shots from the field.

    Cal’s two young studs, Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb, looked impressive as they combined for 28 points and 16 rebounds. Brown also recorded two steals during the contest.

    So far the Golden Bears look like they may be able to live up to the hype. If they continue this type of offensive production the entire system, while brushing up on three point shooting, then Cal will definitely a team to keep a close eye on this season. Cal has the looks of a team that will compete for a conference title and make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. Things are looking up in Berkeley.

    Next: You Didn't Know James Harden Would Be This Good

    More from Busting Brackets