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Cal basketball: Bears have big opportunity vs. Oregon

Cal (15-8, 5-5 Pac-12) tips off at 6 pm against conference-leading No. 11 Oregon (20-4, 9-2) in a game that can alter the trajectory of the Bears’ season.

UPDATE: Cal just announced that senior guard Tyrone Wallace, who has missed the past five games with a broken hand, has been medically cleared to play. He will not start.

Cal, 14-0 at home, already owns a win at Haas Pavilion against Arizona. Beating the Ducks would be a huge check mark in their postseason resume and tighten the race at the top of the conference standings.

Consider this: Oregon has ascended to No. 1 in the NCAA’s official RPI listings. Cal is at No. 34.

The Ducks beat Cal 68-65 in Eugene on Jan. 6, but the Bears turned the ball over 18 times and shot 0 for 12 from the point arc. So there is some room for improvement.

In the house tonight: Mike Montgomery, doing national radio, and Bill Walton, working the game for ESPN2.

Check back for updates, including a halftime summary and postgame wrap.

Follow me on Twitter @jefffaraudo

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Cal football: Former Aggies’ offensive coordinator Jake Spavital lands at Cal, per report

Jake Spavital, who has coached the likes of Brandon Weeden, Geno Smith and Johnny Manziel and has a long history working with the Air Raid offense, is Cal’s new offensive coordinator, CBS Sports reported Thursday morning.

The hiring of Spavital, 30, to replace departed coordinator Tony Franklin, has been widely speculated for more than a week. He spent the past three seasons at Texas A&M, and was offensive coordinator in 2014 and ’15 before being dismissed Jan. 3.

Spavital also will coach Cal’s quarterbacks as the Bears enter spring ball next month searching for a new starter to replace record-setting Jared Goff, who is entering the NFL draft.

Spavital has a strong background with the up-tempo Air Raid spread offense, having learned the system under Dana Holgorsen at Houston (2009), Oklahoma State (2010) and West Virginia (2011-12). Holgersen and Cal coach Sonny Dykes worked side by side at Texas Tech from 2000 through 2006, including the final two seasons as co-offensive coordinators for the Red Raiders.

Spavital was hired as quarterbacks coach by A&M in 2013, and worked with Manziel, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner. Although the Aggies won fewer games than the year before, Manziel enjoyed a more productive season as a passer, throwing for 4,114 yards and 37 touchdowns in 2013.

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Cal basketball: Bears, Kameron Rooks face serious challenge vs. first-place Oregon

No. 11 Oregon (20-4, 9-2), sitting atop the Pac-12 Conference standings and No. 3 in the national RPI rankings, visits Haas Pavilion on Thursday night (6 p.m./ESPN2) to face seventh-place Cal (15-8, 5-5).

A mismatch?

At least on the surface. The Bears are determined to show that’s not the case, and they point to their 68-65 loss at Oregon a month ago as evidence the result could be different this time.

“We felt like we let one slip away in Eugene. So now we’re looking for a little revenge against them,” Cal point guard Sam Singer said. “They’re playing really good basketball and they’re on top of conference. So it’s a great opportunity to get them at home.”

Cal is 14-0 at home and coming off one of its strongest outings of the season, a 76-61 win over Stanford.

It’s true the Bears did all they could in Eugene to allow the Ducks to win. The Bears shot 0 for 12 from the 3-point arc and turned the ball over 18 times. They had just six assists.

“They play kind of a weird zone that we couldn’t figure out. But that’s no excuse for not moving the ball,” said Singer, adding that the Bears have devoted time in practice to solving the Oregon defense.

Oregon is just 5-4 in games away from home, but has won its past six games, including an 83-75 victory at Arizona two weeks ago that snapped the Wildcats’ 49-game home win streak.

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Cal basketball: Bears turn up defense to subdue Stanford

Note: I have Warriors’ duty tonight, so colleague Jon Wilner covered the Cal-Stanford game at Haas Pavilion. Here is his report:

Cal turned it up, Stanford couldn’t keep up, and order was restored to the Bay Area’s most prominent basketball rivalry.

Fueled by tenacious defense and sharp perimeter shooting, the Bears took control midway through the first half and rolled to a 76-61 victory over the Cardinal on Saturday that kept the teams on their projected paths.

For Cal (15-8, 5-5), which extended its home-court winning streak to 15 games, that’s a potential berth in the NCAA Tournament.

For Stanford (11-10, 4-6), which was blown out for the third consecutive game, that’s a lower-tier finish in the Pac-12.

The difference Saturday, before an announced crowd of 11,858 at Haas Pavilion, was Cal’s energy level and the play of its supporting cast.

Click here to read the rest of this story.

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Cal basketball: Bears hope they’re safe at home vs. Stanford

Cal returns to its safe haven of Haas Pavilion on Saturday afternoon for a 1 pm tipoff (ESPN2) against rival Stanford.

The Bears (14-8, 4-5) and Cardinal (11-9, 4-5) are tied for seventh place entering the second half of the Pac-12 schedule.

Stanford beat Cal 77-71 at Maples Pavilion back on Jan. 14, which is in keeping with a season-long trend that has just one deviation.

Cal is 13-0 at home, 1-8 away from home.

With a gradually sinking RPI rating of No. 42, are the Bears approaching a situation where they need to sweep the rest of their home schedule to maintain a reasonable shot at earning an NCAA tournament bid?

“I think you’ve got to win your home games, anyway,” Cal coach Cuonzo Martin said. “I don’t know if there is necessarily pressure. You have to win your home games because that’s what you should do.

“I’d be very surprised if we don’t win a road game. We haven’t gone into any road game thinking, `Man, I don’t think we can win this game.’ It’s just a matter of doing what we do.”

So far what the Bears do is play at a high level – especially on defense – at home.

But winning their final five home games won’t be easy; after Stanford, the Bears face the Oregon schools in Berkeley a week from now, them the L.A. schools the last weekend of the month.

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Cal football: Jake Spavital expected to be named Bears’ new offensive coordinator

Cal coach Sonny Dykes said at signing day on Wednesday he expected to name a new offensive coordinator by the end of this week or early next. All signs point to that being the case.

Football Scoop and Sports Illustrated both reported Friday that former Texas A&M offensive coordinator Jake Spivital is close to joining Dykes’ staff as replacement for Tony Franklin.

I reported nine days ago that Spavital, who has coached Johnny Manziel, Geno Smith and Brandon Weeden, was in the mix for the job. Here is that story:

Spavital, 30, spent the past three seasons at A&M, and was offensive coordinator in 2014 and ’15.

But Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin announced Jan. 3 that the two had “mutually decided to part ways.”

Spavital would bring one significant qualification to the job to replace Franklin, who announced last week he was leaving Cal after three seasons to serve as coordinator at Middle Tennessee State and be closer to family. Spavital has a strong background with the Air Raid offense, having worked under Dana Holgorsen at Houston, Oklahoma State and West Virginia from 2009 through 2012.

He arrived at A&M in 2013 after offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury took the head coaching job at Texas Tech, and served as quarterbacks coach, working with Manziel, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner. Spavital spent time coaching Smith at West Virginia and Weeden at Oklahoma State, even though Weeden was nearly two years older than Spavital.

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Cal football: Victor Viramontes a different kind of quarterback prospect

Victor Viramontes won’t be part of a four-man spring practice battle for Cal’s quarterback job.

Viramontes, who became the Bears’ 25th and final signee on Wednesday, won’t arrive on campus until the summer, and isn’t likely to steal the job away from returnees Chase Forrest, Ross Bowers and Luke Rubenzer or fellow 2016 freshman Max Gilliam. Those four will get a head start on the competition in spring workuts.

But Viramontes, a senior at Norco High, brings a unique resume to Berkeley. He is 6-foot-1, 240 pounds, and used that power to compile crazy numbers during his prep career.

Viramontes passed for 4,680 yards and 42 touchdowns in three varsity seasons, and ran for 4,190 yards and 53 TDs. As a senior last fall, he accounted for 2,085 passing yards and 21 TDs along with 1,112 yards on the ground and 17 more TDs.

Coach Sonny Dykes is beyond intrigued by what Viramontes potentially brings to the table.

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Cal football: Bears sign 25-player recruiting class

2016 CAL FOOTBALL RECRUITING CLASS

Traveon Beck CB 5-10 160 Paramount
Had 10 interceptions on team that was 41-3 in his three varsity high school seasons

Russell Becker-x DE 6-4 255 Maple Grove, Minnesota
Totaled 15.5 sacks in 2 junior college seasons after converting from O-lineman

Camryn Bynum CB 6-1 180 Corona
Rangy defensive back becomes the fifth Centennial High product on Bears’ roster

Derrick Clark-x RB 5-11 195 San Diego
Compiled 3,916 all-purpose yards and 39 TDs in two high school varsity seasons

Jake Curhan-x OT 6-7 320 Larkspur
Regarded as an athletic run blocker after earning all-state honors for mid-size schools

Josh Drayden CB 5-11 175 DeSoto, Texas
Four-year varsity starter for powerhouse team that won 5-A state title as junior

Jordan Duncan-x WR 6-2 190 Hattiesburg, Mississippi
Caught 225 passes as prep, playing two seasons with Brett Favre as offensive coordinator

Zion Echols RB 5-10 175 Glendora
Rated the nation’s No. 14 all-purpose back, gained 6,511 yards, scored 90 TDs as prep

Nygel Edmonds CB 6-0 195 Chattanooga, Tennessee
Perhaps the Bears’ top defensive signee originally planned to attend Stanford

Marloshawn Franklin CB 6-1 185 Mesa, Arizona
JC transfer needed to complete one more class and won’t be here for spring ball

Logan Gamble WR 6-5 190 Seal Beach
A wideout & defensive end in high school, caught 67 passes for 1,136 yards as senior

Max Gilliam -x QB 6-2 200 Thousand Oaks
Dual threat had 6,333 passing yards and 69 TDs, 1,291 rushing yards 22 TDs in 2 seasons

Cameron Goode OLB 6-4 200 Spring, Texas
Father played at Oklahoma and was fifth-round draft pick but never played in NFL

Daniel Juarez OT 6-6 270 Corona
Never lost a league game at Centennial High on offense that averaged 47 points

Drew Kobayashi WR 6-3 200 Honolulu
Limited by injuries, caught 62 passes for 1,359 yards and 13 TDs in two seasons

Matt Laris WR 6-4 210 Renton, Washington
Caught 174 passes for 3,020 yards and 30 TDs in four varsity prep seasons

Tevin Paul DE 6-5 270 Austin, Texas
Had 20 career sacks on team that posted 15-1 record his senior season

Melquise Stovall-x WR 5-8 180 Lancaster
Cal’s highest-rated recruit gained 4,785 all-purpose yards in high school as back/receiver

Chinedu Udeogu DE 6-5 255 North Bethesda, Maryland
Began playing football in ninth grade after living nine years in Nigeria

Jordan Veasy-x WR 6-3 215 Gadsden, Alabama
The JC standout in Southern California is among three WR signees already on campus

Victor Viramontes QB 6-1 240 Norco
Dual-threat QB with great size rushed and passed for 4,000-plus yards each as prep

Dwayne Wallace-x OG 6-5 340 Riverside
Huge JC transfer figures to get shot at lone vacant O-line spot in spring ball

Evan Weaver DE 6-3 245 Spokane, Washington
State Player of Year after totaling 24 sacks and 1,000 rushing yards/17 TDs for 14-0 team

Gentle Williams OL 6-4 280 Florence, Mississippi
Four-year varsity player was a center in high school but could wind up at guard

Chris Yaghi DT 6-3 270 Santa Ana
Played nose tackle and fullback in high school, collecting 10 sacks as a senior

x-Midyear signees are already in school.

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Cal football: Bears reload at wide receiver on signing day

Cal announced its 25-player signing day class on Wednesday, with one unsurprising defection, two last-minute additions and eight players already on campus as mid-year enrollees.

None of those eight will be more important to the Bears in the immediate future than wide receivers Melquise Stovall, Jordan Duncan and Jordan Veasy. The trio will get a running start in spring ball as the Bears rebuild a receiving corps that lost six players who caught 256 passes last season from former quarterback Jared Goff, totaling 3,878 yards and 38 touchdowns.

The change-of-mind by three-star offensive line commit Francisco Perez to UCLA near his hometown of Baldwin Park was widely anticipated in recent days. The Bears countered that by landing running back Zion Echols and quarterback Victor Viramontes for a class that was ranked No. 38 nationally and No. 7 in the Pac-12 by Scout.com, No. 37 nationally and No. 7 in the league, according to 247.com.

Coach Sonny Dykes – like every coach in the country – said he likes the class he signed. But he acknowledged securing just one Bay Area player as the Bears could not lure either of two high-profile De La Salle standouts, defensive tackle Boss Tagaloa (UCLA) and tight end Devin Asiasi (Michigan).

“We need to get those kids,” Dykes said. “You’ve arrived as a program when you can recruit your backyard and get those kids you want. Clearly we haven’t arrived as a program.”

In Stovall, Duncan and Veasy, the Bears welcome three confident and accomplished players whose ambitions rise well above winning starting jobs when spring practice begins next month.

“That group is going to be much better than people think,” Dykes said of the new receiving corps. “They’re going to be raw, but the athleticism and speed and big-play capabilities are definitely there.”

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