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Basketball: With first practice set for Friday, Cuonzo Martin says of the Bears — `We could be really good’

New Cal coach Cuonzo Martin begins practice with his team Friday, but he’s already excited and encouraged by the Bears’ potential.

“I like this team,” he said this week. “If we can stay healthy, we could be really good.”

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Fans can see the Bears for the first time Saturday in an open practice starting at 1 p.m. at Haas Pavilion. The first 250 fans will get free T-shirts, fans will have the chance to win Cal gear including signed basketballs, and players and coaches will be available after for autographs and photos.

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Martin said he’s been impressed by the way his players have gone to work in the offseason since his hiring last spring.

“They’ve done a great job. It’s one of the best groups of guys I’ve ever been around,” he said. “They do what you ask them to do, work at a high level, come in and get the extra hours in. That’s what separates programs.”

That work also has created a team chemistry Martin believes will strengthen the club.

“They have a great passion for each other. Rarely have I been around a group of guys that want to see the next guy be successful like these guys.”

One of the team’s early questions is who replaces Justin Cobbs at point guard. Martin knows it won’t be easy, but there are three candidates in junior Tyrone Wallace, sophomore Sam Singer and freshman Brandon Chauca.

Martin said the Bears likely will play small at times, with the 6-foot-6 Wallace sliding to the power forward spot. But he also believes 7-1 freshman center Kingsley Okoroh, 6-8 junior Christian Behrens and 6-6 senior transfer Dwight Tarwater will get the chance to pair with senior power forward David Kravish.

Here is Martin’s quick evaluation of each scholarship player eligible to play this season:

* David Kravish, 6-10 senior forward: No longer the 205-pounder who arrived in Berkeley in the fall of 2011, Kravish has added nearly 20 pounds of muscle since last season and now weighs 240.

“It’s functional weight. He’s bigger, stronger, faster,” said Martin, adding that Kravish is now the clear team leader. “No question about it. On and off the court,  he way he carries himself, he’s one of those guys you want to model yourself after.”

Kravish has been a solid, dependable, understated player for three years. Martin thinks he can be more than that. “I expect him to be a great player. He’s on that path. He’s a guy who plays both ends of the floor and he plays hard.”

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Field hockey: With no place to practice or play, frustrated Cal players arm themselves with legal team

My story on the Cal women’s field hockey team — without a place to practice or play games on campus this year — ran in all our editions and on our website today. Three members of the team have hired a law firm to register their complaints to the university administration, with a Title IX lawsuit one of the options.

Click here to read the story.

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Football: Defense faces another epic challenge vs. WSU

If Cal’s defense has any chance Saturday night of slowing down Washington State, the nation’s most prolific passing team, there is no evidence to be found in the Bears’ past six quarters.

Here’s what the Bears have allowed since halftime of the Arizona game two weeks ago:

• 820 passing yards
• 12 passing touchdowns
• 99 points

All in a game-and-a-half.

It’s a puzzle to Cal coach Sonny Dykes, whose defense allowed just 562 passing yards, two touchdown passes and 44 points in the team’s first 2½ games.

“I don’t know what to make of it, quite frankly,” Dykes said. “We played really good against a very explosive Arizona team for three quarters. We wanted to make Colorado drive it and not give up big plays. We did that most of the game.”

Those two teams also clearly decided the Bears are most vulnerable in the secondary, and they combined to attempt 140 passes against Cal, compared to just 49 designed runs by running backs.

Dykes suggested you never know what a team might do in a game, then backpedaled when pressed about WSU’s offensive intentions.

“There’s no certainties in football,” he said, “but this is as close to certain as it gets.”

WSU will throw the ball, and keep throwing it. Connor Halliday leads the nation with 463.6 passing yards per game and has an NCAA-best 20 TD passes.

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Football: Dykes supportive of Task Force findings but declines to speculate on details of admission policy

Coach Sonny Dykes, in his first public comments on results of the Task Force on Academics and Athletics, said he is supportive of the findings, but declined specific comment on coming changes to the admissions policy.

“What does it all look like? I think it’s too early to tell,” he said during his weekly Sunday night media teleconference. “It doesn’t do a lot of good for me to speculate. I don’t know a lot of the details yet. I don’t think they’ve been decided yet.”

In fact, while the task force said athletes will generally face the same admissions standards as the entire student body in the future, the exact admission policy still is being revised, according to Panos Papadopoulos, chair of the Academic Senate, which determines admission standards.

“I’m in favor of all the things the NCAA has done in terms of making life better for student-athletes,” Dykes said. “At the same time, I’m also in favor of expecting more and more academically from them. These kids are capable of that.

“Like most kids, if you set high expectations, they’re going to meet those expectations. I’ve been in favor of all the things that have taken place, all the changes to make them more accountable.

“Our mission is to graduate student-athletes. That’s what they come to college for. I really believe this university wants to do things the right way . . . have tremendous success on the field, but have tremendous success in the classroom. That’s something that can clearly happen.”

When hired after the 2012 football season, Dykes was given a mandate to improve the football program’s academic performance. Athletic director Michael Williams said Friday that about 80 football players attended summer school and posted an average GPA of 3.0.

“I’m really proud of what’s going on in our program right now academically,” Dykes said. “I like their commitment to academics, their maturity, the way they balance football and academics.”

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Football: Goff earns national honors

Cal quarterback Jared Goff, who threw seven touchdown passes in the 59-56 double-overtime win over Colorado, was chosen as the national offensive player of the week by both the Walter Camp Football Foundation and College Sports Madness.

A statistical correction has altered Goff’s final official stats for the game to 24 of 42 for a season-high 458 yards, which ranks as the third-highest total of his career and No. 4 overall on the all-time single-game Cal list.

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Fooball: Bears in the NCAA rankings

Here’s where Cal fits into the NCAA rankings this week:

SCORING OFFENSE

1. Baylor 56.8 ppg

2. Texas A&M 51.2

3. Michigan State 50.3

4. Oregon 48.5

5. Cal 47.5

PASS EFFICIENCY

1. Marcus Mariota, Oregon 218.0

2. Deshaun Watson, Clemson 212.7

3. Connor Cook, Michigan State 192.3

4. Blake Sims, Alabama 190.8

5. Jared Goff, Cal 190.2

YARDS PER PASS COMPLETION

1. Georgia Tech 19.06

2. LSU 17.92

3. Navy 17.42

4. Cal 17.12

5. Oklahoma State 16.84

PENALTY YARDS PER GAME

121. Cal 93.25

122. Oregon State 94.50

123. Marshall 102.50

124 tie. Texas Tech 105.50

124 tie. BYU 105.50