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Basketball: Martin to get first look at Bears in exhibition

The Cuonzo Martin era begins Friday night with an exhibition game against Cal State East Bay. Tipoff at Haas Pavilion is 7 p.m. and admission is free.

“We’re excited about it, excited to play,” said Martin, hired away from Tennessee to replace Mike Montgomery, who retired after six seasons as coach at Cal. “Our guys have done a great job of working hard.”

The Bears return three starters from a 21-win team, led by senior forward David Kravish, who averaged 11.4 points and 7.7 rebounds a year ago. Also back are junior guard Tyrone Wallace (11.4 ppg), and sophomore guards Jabari Bird (8.3 ppg) and Jordan Mathews (8.4 ppg).

Cal State East Bay is a Division II team that posted a 7-21 record last season.

Martin has not announced a starting lineup or settled firmly on a rotation, but said, ‘Hopefully these two (exhibition) games will help us” settle those questions.

“I think we have a strong seven. There’s an eighth guy right there who has really improved,” Martin said. “With that being said, if guys continue to improve through the course of a season, I’m not a guy who says, `Here’s eight guys. The other guys are not playing all season.’ ”

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Football: Cal defense hopes to find relief at OSU

Can the Pac-12′s worst offense be a band-aid for the league’s worst defense? Or will it be the other way around when the Bears visit Oregon State on Saturday night?

Cal, allowing 41.5 points per game, knows that Oregon State’s offensive woes may not continue indefinitely.

OSU quarterback Sean Mannion, who threw 37 touchdowns a year ago, has just seven this fall. The Pleasanton native set a single-season conference passing yardage record last season, but is coming off a 122-yard performance in a 38-14 loss at Stanford.

“It’s bad timing for him in his senior year,” OSU coach Mike Riley said after the Stanford game, “but he will bounce back big-time.”

First-year Cal defensive coordinator Art Kaufman — whose unit ranks last nationally against the pass — has seen enough tape of Mannion to be concerned.

“When he’s on, he can really do it,” Kaufman said of Mannion, who topped 400 yards in a game five times last season. “The thing we’ve got to do is respect the ability of what he can do.”

Of equal concern to Kaufman is what his defense can — and cannot — do.

The Bears are giving up 383.5 passing yards per game and already have surrendered 31 touchdowns through the air — one more than Stanford, Oregon State, Arizona State and USC combined have allowed.

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Cal defensive comparison: 2014 vs. 2013

Category 2014 2013
Points/game 41.0 45.9
Yards/game 533.1 529.6
Yards/play 6.2 7.1
Passing yards/game 383.5 341.0
Pass efficiency rating 151.05 165.44
Rushing yards/game 149.6 188.6
Rushing yards/play 4.1 4.9
Red zone defense .805 .865
Sacks/game 1.38 1.50
Turnovers gained/game 1.50 1.08
First downs/game 28.4 24.8
Third-down conversions .400 .414
Fourth-down conversions .700 .667
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Women’s basketball: Media pick Bears to win Pac-12

A panel of 17 media members has picked the Cal women’s basketball team to win the Pac-12 Conference title, ending a streak of 15 straight years that distinction went to Stanford.

The Bears picked up nine first-place votes and scored 194 points, compared to seven first-place ballots and 190 points for Stanford. Oregon State secured the remaining first-place vote and finished third in the poll.

The Pac-12 coaches gave Stanford a slight edge over Stanford for the league title.

Cal guard Brittany Boyd and forward Reshanda Gray were chosen to the five-player preseason all-conference team.

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Football: Bears land elite defensive end from Atlanta

Cal got a significant recruiting commitment Wednesday when Russell Ude, a top defensive end from The Westminster Schools in Atlanta, Ga., picked the Bears over a glut of top schools.

Ude, rated as a four-star prospect by Rivals.com, announced his decision on Twitter:

“They Told Me I Couldn’t Do It. Proud To Announce I Am Committed to The University of California #GodIsGood #CalGang15

Scout.com rates Ude as a three-star prospect, but either way he helps address an area of need for the Bears.

Yeah, defense.

Ryan Gorcey of Scout.com reports that Ude actually gave Cal a “secret” commitment two months ago, but decided the time was right to make it public. Oral commitments, of course, are not binding until signing day, and Ude told Scout he still intends to take other visits.

Ude is 6-foot-3 and somewhere between 245 and 260-ish pounds, depending on which website you believe.

Others liked him, too: Oregon, Washington, UCLA and USC showed interest among Pac-12 schools. Wisconsin, West Virginia, Vanderbilt, Tennessee and Michigan State also made offers.

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Academics: Cal tightens admissions standards — 80 percent of freshmen must have 3.0 GPAs by 2017-18

By the 2017-18 school year, Cal football’s incoming freshman class will include no more than five players who achieved lower than a 3.0 grade-point average in high school, according to a new student-athlete admissions policy.

The policy, approved Oct. 17 by the UC Berkeley Academic Senate, will go into effect for the 2015-16 school year and will gradually bring athlete admissions into closer alignment with those of the general student body.

For 2017-18, at least 80 percent of all incoming athletes at Cal will have the minimum 3.0 GPA in high school that is required of all other students applying to the university. No more than 20 percent will be admitted through a separate process involving scrutiny by the UC Director of Admissions and the Student-Athlete Admissions Committee (SAAC).

Panos Papadopoulos, chair of the Academic Senate, confirmed that a typical freshman football recruiting class of 25 in 2017-18 would have no more than five members who arrived with below a 3.0 GPA.

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Basketball: Ryan Anderson scores 22 in Pelicans’ opener

Former Cal star Ryan Anderson, who didn’t play after Jan. 3 last season because of a neck injury, scored 22 points in the New Orleans Pelicans’ 101-84 season-opening win over the Orlando Magic.

Anderson, 26, also grabbed nine rebounds in his 22-minute stint off the bench.

Now beginning his sixth NBA season,  Anderson played 22 games last season before the injury that led to surgery for a herniated cervical disk. He averaged 19.8 points a year ago.

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Basketball: Lineup taking shape as exhibition nears

I watched about 90 minutes of Cal basketball practice this afternoon and it seems coach Cuonzo Martin has at least tentatively decided to go with a three-guard, two-post lineup.

Based on several sessions of scrimmaging, here’s what the Bears starting five looks like entering Friday’s exhibition opener against Cal State East Bay:

– PG Tyrone Wallace

– SG Jabari Bird

– SG Jordan Mathews

– PF/C David Kravish

– PF Christian Behrens

The alternative is to start four guards, with Sam Singer moving in at point guard and the 6-foot-6 Wallace sliding to forward.

To be sure, Martin will use that smaller lineup at times. It will require the likes of Wallace and Bird to contribute significantly on the boards. But the drawback to the four-guard alignment is that it gives Martin fewer backcourt options coming off the bench.

Figure senior transfer Dwight Tarwater to be the first frontcourt player off the bench. At 6-6, 230, Tarwater appears to be an aggressive offensive rebounder, a player who will provide hustle to mix things up.

Freshman Kingsley Okoroh, a 7-1 center from England, will also get the chance to show what he can do. And sophomore wing Roger Moute a Bidias, who shows promise in practice, may also get some playing time.

Eventually, Martin likely will settle on about an eight-man rotation.

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Football notebook: Levi’s Stadium experience considered a success but may not be repeated anytime soon

Cal coach Sonny Dykes said his players all enjoyed the experience of playing in the 49ers’ spiffy, new Levi’s Stadium.

“I’d prefer to have a home game,” he countered.

“We’ve got a beautiful stadium. I don’t like giving away home field advantage. You’re playing, for all intents and purposes, a road game. It’s just different. It’s different for your fans, and there’s some negatives from that standpoint.”

Dykes understands the weeknight game was moved partly for logistical reasons because of parking difficulties on campus, and said he anticipates there would be discussion before a future game is played there.

“It’s really not my area,” he said. “Any coach would prefer to play their home games in their home stadium.”

Interim athletic director Michael Williams understands that position, and agrees keeping games at Memorial Stadium is preferable.

“If it’s up to me, I think the benefits of playing at Memorial Stadium are huge,” Williams said. “I like the home game. Our alums certainly like to be here. Memorial Stadium is a special place.

“I don’t know that we go back to Levi’s anytime soon. I can’t say that it would never happen.”

Asked how well the Bears fared financially, Williams said he believes they made more money at Levi’s than they would have keeping the game in Berkeley.

He stressed how much the players enjoyed it, added, “For the 50 of them who were on the field and won’t play pro football, that will be a highlight forever.”

Still, Williams said, “It’s always better to play here.”

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Cal’s first order of business on Friday night before its game the next day at Oregon State will be to get a good night’s sleep.

The Bears’ most recent visit to Corvallis, two years ago, had a disruptive start when the fire alarm went off in the team hotel sometime after 2 a.m. on the eve of the game.

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Academics: Football, basketball make GSR strides

The Cal football and men’s basketball teams made improvements, according to the latest Graduation Success Rate scores released on Tuesday, but both teams still rank last in the Pac-12 Conference

The football team made a seven-point gain to 51 percent and the men’s basketball program climbed by eight points to 46 percent.

Cal’s GSR score for football a year ago was 44 percent, worst in the Pac-12 Conference, and represented a decline for the third straight year after a peak of 65 percent in 2009-10.

The men’s basketball program ranked no better than second-to-last in the Pac-12 for the previous six years, and has not had a GSR score above 50 percent dating back to at least the 2004-05 results.

The latest GSR results measure graduation rates for incoming freshmen or transfers who arrived in the four-year period from 2004 to 2007 and completed their degrees within six years.

Cal interim athletic director Michael Williams said he is encouraged by the classroom progress of the Bears’ high-profile teams.

“We are focused on and quite proud of the turnaround we are seeing in both our football and men’s basketball programs,” he said in a statement.

“It takes a while to move a four-year average, such as the GSR, and we recognize that.

“There are areas where we are not pleased with our score, but our focus is on what we are doing moving forward.”

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Football: Cal, Auburn sign two-year deal for 2019, ’20

Cal has signed a two-year, home-and-home deal with Southeastern Conference power Auburn, the national runnerup last season and the 2010 national champion.

The Bears will visit Auburn on Sept. 21, 2019, with the Tigers making a trip to Berkeley on Sept. 19, 2020.

The teams will be meeting for the first time.

Cal also scheduled three home games for the 2016, ’17 and ’18 seasons.

South Dakota will visit on Sept. 3, 2016, Weber State comes to town on Sept. 9, 2017, and Idaho State will travel to Berkeley on Sept. 15, 2018.