After getting our fingers, arms, legs and everything else burned with our predictions for the football season, we decided to submit our basketball season preview (men’s) at the turning point of the first half of the Pac-1x season.
And thank goodness we did.
The team is turning out to be a lot better than expected. We saw this in person in Maui where a Cal team without Solomon nearly pushed now #2 Syracuse to the brink. As would be expected with a team with a lot of young players playing a lot of minutes, they’ve had their ups and downs. But for some reason with a tough opening 4 games to the Pac-1x season, the team has figured out how to win games against traditionally tough opponents on the road, including Stanford and Oregon State.
And they’ve done it in all sorts of imaginative ways. Offense – scoring over 90 points. Defense – holding teams to 25% shooting. Free throws – shooting over 90%. And so on. Monty told the team that there would be a different hero every game. And, to a large extent, he’s been correct with Powers and Mathews having big games. And very quietly an interesting stat has emerged: Cal has 5 players averaging double figures for what has to be the most balanced scoring in the Pac-1x. Add Solomon leading the Pac-1x in rebounding and Cobbs just a shade off the lead in assists, and this is quite a team.
Now with Bird returning to the lineup, Cal faces another tough stretch of 4 games with the LA schools on the road and the AZ schools at home. Cal’s ascension has also followed on the heels of UCLA, Oregon and Colorado plummeting out of the Top 25 leaving just UofA and SDSU as the only West Coast representatives in the Top 10. Cal is now #29 in the AP poll and #27 in the Coaches poll, ahead of UCLA, Oregon and Colorado.
So it’s put up or shut up time for Cal. Let’s pull up a chair and enjoy!