In my scouting report prior to Thursday’s Coaches vs. Cancer semifinal game against Syracuse, I posed four questions worth considering this week.
With Cal set to face Ohio State in Friday’s third-place game, let’s revisit those questions and grade the Bears on their performance so far at Madison Square Garden:
– What does Cal’s No. 13 national ranking mean?
Suffice the Bears will not be ranked anywhere near No. 13 after their 95-73 loss. But it means little at this point in the season. No one would agree more than coach Mike Montgomery, who has often stated preseason rankings reflect only which teams have the best cast of returning players. Cal has plenty of time to demonstrate whether it deserves national recognition, but in the eyes of the New York media, at least, the Syracuse game will take time to overcome.
– Can the Bears’ three senior perimeter players deliver in a high-octane setting?
The Bears get an incomplete on this one, of course, because Theo Robertson was sidelined by a foot injury. He won’t face the Buckeyes, either, so Cal isn’t playing right now with a full deck. Return Robertson and forward Harper Kamp (knee) to the lineup at some point, and we’ll get the chance to see what this team can do. Of course, no one knows just when that will be.
Jerome Randle played well against Syracuse with 25 points, but Patrick Christopher had just six points and was shooting 3-for-17 until making three late baskets.
– Can new center Markhuri Sanders-Frison, at just a shade more than 6-foot-7, give Cal a viable man in the middle against the taller post players he will see this week?
Round 1 on this one did not go well. The taller Syrcause post players swarmed Sanders-Frison inside, and for the third straight game he would up with four fouls. The Bears need him on the floor and they need him to present at least the threat of a low-post scorer.
– Montgomery is hoping one way the Bears are improved over a year ago is through better depth. But is that perceived depth real?
The Bears’ would-be depth is disappearing. Starting forward Jamal Boykin said Thursday night that the injuries to Robertson and Kamp will provide opportunity for others, which should create more depth. But are these guys ready for the assignment? Even if they grow, they cannot replace the Robertson or Kamp at this point.
THE DOMINO EFFECT: The absence of starting small forward Robertson not only forced sophomore Jorge Gutierrez to make his first start against Syracuse, it messed with the rest of the Bears’ rotation.
“We had people playing our there that had not ever played in situations like this,” Montgomery said.
Sophomore center Max Zhang played 12 minutes, contributing six points and four rebounds, but he struggled defensively, too. Sophomore guarad D.J. Seeley also played 12 minutes, shot just 1-for-5 and also had difficulty on defense.
OHIO STATE SCOUT: The Buckeyes feature junior forward Evan Turner, who has put together two triple-doubles in three games this season. He’s likely only proud of one of them.
Turner had 14 points, 17 rebounds and 10 assists in the Buckeyes’ 100-60 season-opening win over Alcorn State.
On Thursday against North Carolina, he had 23 points and 11 rebounds, but also 10 turnovers.
Ohio State boasts four players averaging double figures, including junior guard guard Jon Diebler, who averaged 40 ppg as a high school senior, becoming Ohio’s all-time prep scoring leader with 3,208 points.
This won’t be an easy game for the Bears. The Buckeyes have size across the board, and Turner is a superior athlete who will be a tough defensive cover for Cal.
HISTORY: Cal leads the all-time series 9-8, but the Buckeyes beat the Bears 73-56 in their most recent meeting, the second round of the 2008 NIT. The teams met in the third-place game at the NCAA championships at Madison Square Garden in 1946, then again in the NCAA title game in 1960. In both cases, Ohio State prevailed.
TIPOFF: 2 p.m.
Starters Ht Yr Pts Rebs
PF Jamal Boykin 6-8 Sr. 8.7 7.7
C Markhuri Sanders-Frison 6-8 Jr. 5.3 6.3
SG Jorge Gutierrez 6-2 So. 5.0 3.0
SG Patrick Chrstopher 6-5 Sr. 14.3 3.7
PG Jerome Randle 5-10 Sr. 21.7 3.7*
F Omondi Amoke 6-7 So. 3.0 4.7
C Maz Zhang 7-2 So. 3.7 3.7
OHIO STATE (2-1)
Starters Ht Yr Pts Rebs
SF Evan Turner 6-7 Jr. 20.3 15.0
C Kyle Madsen 6-9 Sr. 4.0 3.0
SG Jon Diebler 6-6 Jr. 15.5 3.3
SG David Lighty 6-5 Jr. 11.0 4.0*
PG William Buford 6-5 So. 13.0 3.3
PG Jeremie Simmons 6-2 Sr. 8.0 1.0
PF Dallas Lauderdale 6-8 Jr. 2.7 3.3
* – Assists