To preview tomorrow's Old Spice Classic third place game against Cal, we exchanged Q&A with the excellent Golden Bears blog California Golden Blogs. Kodiak, a contributor over at CGB, was kind enough to answer some questions on Cal and familiarize us with the Golden Bears.
BC Interruption: I wasn't able to watch Cal's semifinal against Notre Dame and only checked the box score but wait, what?! 5 points in the first half? Please explain?
California Golden Blogs: Well, we graduated 95+% of our scoring and it showed. We lack consistent point guard play and haven't established a "go-to" guy who can get us points when we need it. Our veterans struggled early and started pressing. We don't really have anyone at this point who can carry the team offensively. We're going to need to rely on team ball instead of guys trying to do it on their own. Unfortunately, everyone took turns trying to step up and it led to a lot of turnovers and bad shots.
BCI: What are the strengths of this Cal team on offense? Defense? Whose name will we hear called often tomorrow?
CGB: Well, besides the first half yesterday, we have two bigs who share the ball pretty well and have better than average passing skills. Lots of high-low post action. The lack of a go-to guy means that the points can come from anyone. Our coach has a number of creative offensive sets with plenty of cutters and screens. It's hard for the D to focus on shutting down just one guy. Because of defensive board work is pretty sound, we've been able to push it in transition and force teams to get back.
On defense, we don't have a lot of shot-blocking, although the young guys Crabbe and Solomon have the length/athleticism to do it. Mostly, we play hard-nosed on the ball, position-based defense. During the first few games, we had trouble fighting through screens, stopping dribble penetration and gave up a lot of open 3's. The effort has really picked up the last couple of games and has been a pleasant surprise. We've thrown a little 2-3 zone as a changeup the last two games, too.
Kamp is our best post defender - he really has great feet and establishes good position. Jorge is a pest on defense and is good for 1-2 steals a game in the passing lanes. I expect a bounce-back game on offense from Markhuri Sanders-Frison, Harper Kamp, and Jorge Guterriez. Besides those 3 names, you'll hear Franklin called a lot...because he likes to shoot. From anywhere. At anytime. Heck, he might pull up when he doesn't have the ball. Crabbe is arguably our most talented player, but doesn't look for his shot enough. Any points from Solomon/Smith are bonuses. Besides that...no one else really is a scoring threat from the bench.
BCI: Cal won a wide-open Pac 10 last season before bowing out to eventual National Champion Duke in the NCAAs. Are fans expecting a repeat performance this season (a Pac 10 title and an NCAA tournament appearance?). Or have expectations been lowered this season?
CGB: We're starting our defensive specialist at point, a defensive specialist power forward who was out the past two years with injury, a center who couldn't keep on the court more than five minutes at a time last year due to injury and foul trouble...and two frosh. Our first two guys off the bench are an athletic frosh with a raw offensive game, and an undersized backup point who has trouble consistently initiating the offense and also has a limited offensive game. Um. Yeah. If we finish in the middle of the league and get into some type of post-season tournament like the NIT, it would be a success. So, we have reasonable expectations...somewhat raised considering our stronger than expected showing against New Mexico and Temple...then tempered because of the face plant against Notre Dame. Honestly, we don't know what we've got yet - it's just fun seeing an elite-level coach work with young talent.
BCI: BC is in a unique position athletically with ice hockey being one of the big 3 sports on campus. I think Cal is in a similar position with high-profile non-revenue sports like baseball and rugby. I'm wondering where Cal men's hoops ranks in the pecking order of sports programs in the eyes of the student body and fans?
CGB: Probably #2 after football. There are decent followings for women's hoops, women's volleyball, baseball and rugby. I don't think that any of them are in the same league as football or men's basketball, however.
BCI: I tend to look at BC and Cal as similarly institutions, at least academically and athletically. Would you agree? Despite the school's similarities, our football teams and basketball teams have only played each other once in school history. We should do this again sometime? How about a football home-and-home? Your thoughts?
CGB: Sure. I wouldn't be opposed. I know a lot of Cal fans would enjoy visiting Boston. I'd sure as heck rather play BC than Fresno State or some scrub.
BCI: Last one. Prediction time. Who ya got? What's the final score?
CGB: Hard to say. We've got a young team. Yours is learning a new system. Normally, I'd be really worried about your offensive that favors 3's...because we've been pretty woeful early in the year about stopping those. However, if nothing else, the defensive efforts have been much improved the last 3 games. I'd call it an even game...except our coach is pretty darn good. I doubt we have back to back clunkers, so maybe we pull out a close one, 57-53 Cal.
BCI: Thanks for joining us.