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Basketball: Cal-Duke post-mortem

Here are links to the stories we will publish in our morning editions:

– My game story on how Duke’s defense completely smothered the Bears.

– A notebook, featuring Patrick Christopher’s tough final game.

Monte Poole’s game column on how Duke left no doubt about the better team.

I have to catch an early flight home, but a few thoughts first on Sunday’s game:

– Mike Montgomery said afterward that if the teams played 10 times, Duke probably would win more than Cal. I’d say that’s an understatement. The Blue Devils are bigger, deeper, stronger, better defensively and at least as skilled. None of it diminishes what Cal achieved this season — its first Pac-10 title in 50 years, reaching the championship game of the conference tournament, and winning a first-round NCAA game for the first time in seven seasons. Not bad.

– I see many of you thought the refs tilted the playing field. I saw a couple calls I thought were clearly wrong, yet the refs had little to do with the game’s outcome. Duke is better. Simple as that.

– If there was a turning point, perhaps it was Patrick Christopher taking the elbow above his left eye. He was gone for seven minutes of playing time, getting four stitches, then had his lowest-scoring game in more than two years with two points. Duke defended him well, but Christopher didn’t seem himself. Shot 1-for-4, and did not attempt even one in the second half.

– That said, even with a sharp Christopher, I don’t see a way Cal beats these guys. Duke is 3 inches taller, on average, at every starting position, and they won despite senior guard Jon Scheyer (1-for-11) having quite likely his worst game of the season. It didn’t even matter.

– Do the Bears need to get bigger? Asbolutely. A year from now, their big men actually could be the strength of the team. I talked with Harper Kamp in the locker room and he cannot wait to get started. Figure him to be a leader and a productive player for the 2010-11 Bears. Max Zhang will be better, Markhuri Sanders-Frison hopes to clear up his back problems and get into better shape, Bak Bak is taking care of his academics (according to Kamp) and incoming freshman Richard Solomon (who needs strength and bulk) will provide some athleticism up front. And you can bet that finding a true big man will be the coaching staff’s top priority this summer.

– I have declined until now to comment on Internet rumors that Max Zhang might be leaving to join the Chinese National Team. Well, I talked to him afterward and he said, “I will be back.” He noted that he has commented on several occasions that he’d someday love to play for his national team, but that there is no year-round program to be a part of in any case. But he will be at Cal next season, and if he improves as much as he did from a year ago, that’s good news.

– For anyone still wondering, Omondi Amoke WAS NOT in Jacksonville this weekend. Again, we decline to offer speculation on what he did to get himself indefinitely suspended — there is plenty of that online if that’s your preference. We may not always have every bit if information you’d like (although we will try), but we will not publish unsubstantiated rumors. They may be right sometimes, but often they’ll be wrong.

– Biggest question mark for next season’s team: Who plays point guard? My guess is junior-to-be Jorge Gutierrez gets the first shot, although I wonder if Mike Montgomery might prefer someone else — Brandon Smith or incoming freshman Gary Franklin Jr. — earn the job so Gutierrez can remain primarily off the ball. Point guard requires a lot of energy that Gutierrez could use on the defensive end of the floor.

– Cal’s five seniors all conducted themselves with class in the dressing room afterward. They were disappointed, but proud of what they achieved this season. For those who like the numbers, Jerome Randle (1,835 points), Patrick Christopher (1,700 points), Theo Robertson (1,318 points) and Jamal Boykin (929 points) finished their Cal careers with a combined total of 5,782 points. I’m guessing the Bears will miss them a bit.

I’ll have more after I get home — well, after I sleep — including a look ahead at what we can expect in 2010-11.

Jeff Faraudo

  • Rollonubears

    Jf, great post. You do an amazing job. I agree with most of what you say, and yep, duke is a better, deeper team, but cal came into this one with all the heart it takes to win, and the officials stole that from them, early and often. You can’t underestimate the disheartening effect poor officiating has on a team. This was a classic example.

  • uh oh.

    “And you can bet that finding a true big man will be the coaching staff’s top priority this summer.”
    THANK YOU.
    (emphasis on the word true, no disrespect to the others mentioned)

    I also enjoyed your speculation about next year’s PG slot and look forward to upcoming focus on that, although it really won’t be until November that we get that look – why I attend the exhibition and early non-conference games. You get to sit up nice and close to see their eyes and temperament. Some freshmen come out of the gate simply looking scared, lost, or absent, I have noticed. Then again, other times you can’t tell. Vierneisel looked good hitting 4 treys his first outing, but then we never really saw that again, did we? But wait – I’m wrong again: “….scored a career-best 20 points on Senior Day vs. Washington, tying the school record for most 3-pointers without a miss (5-5).”
    Well, that’s a nice stat line on senior day!

  • SteveNTexas

    My most worthwhile post:

    Now to all real Cal Bear Fans I say this. Its great to come on here and post – love the insight and discussions.

    However would you really like to help Cal?

    Duke has an advantage that they have nationwide fans posting everywhere to talk up their team and school. They are not limited to players from NC. We – Cal fans on the other hand are myopic and prefer to talk to ourselves.

    What I do and we SHOULD do is go national. Its free and easy and if we post on ESPN, Cbssportline and so many others – kids interested in basketball will see and hear about our school. We have a great campus, a great coach, great academics and we (you) are located in a super area… but our message doesn’t get out.

    We couldn’t compete with Duke yesterday but we have plenty of Bay Area fans and alum who could make us better known simply by turning on their computer and doing a few clicks. This is about the only way we can help- we can’t run in and make free throws for Zhang. We aren’t all wealthy enough to be benefactors but we can all write.

    if you think that high school kids interested in playing college basketball do not read these sites religiously then you don’t understand either basketball or kids.

    Let’s all help!

  • Beast Mode

    JF – thanks for your great updates this season! I look forward to your preview for next year. Although I am obviously sad about yesterday’s loss, this does not take away from the great season our Bears had. There’s no shame in losing to a better team, and certainly Duke was the better squad. We gave maximum effort but were just outmatched across the board. Cal probably “maxed out” on what it could accomplish this year. A bittersweet ending for sure…

  • The Wisdom Cow

    I think Duke would win 17 of 20 against us, but having Patrick sent for stitches and the refs tilting toward Duke made it pretty much impossible. Duke was clearly the better team regardless, but that does not make unbalanced officiating acceptable because “we probably wouldn’t win anyways” thinking. I wanted a chance at an upset, and one minute in knew that chance was taken from us.

    It felt like we were a long shot puncher in a boxing match who was not allowed to cock his fist, inly jabs allowed.

    Cal was driving the paint and getting no calls. Duke got touch fouls on the perimeter. Cal players were being sent to the floor after contact around the rim with no call. Duke got and-one’s from touches to the elbow after a shot release. While JF is correct there were only a few blatant bad calls, the tilt was clearly toward’s Duke overall.

    After Jorge covered the Duke PG for SIX counts by the ref with no 5 second call, I even began to entertain those thought of conspiracies. Kansas was out, so the NCAA made a phone call a la the NBA versus the Kings. “They probably won’t win, but make sure they never have a chance.”

  • Mitchie V

    We all agree Duke is an excellent team, but we could’ve made it a little tougher.

    Patrick doesn’t get an elbow, we sink a couple 3′s early, I think it’s a different game.

    And the officiating took away Jorge’s game. He’s been doing the same stuff all year and this ref team calls fouls on him.

    Anyway, thanks for passing on info, Jeff, and letting us woof and blow steam here.

    Until next year, Go Bears!

  • Bean

    To Jeff:
    You have provided some of the best coverage and commentary available from any source. Thank you.

  • milo

    I agree, if Christoper doesn’t get clocked in the first 20 seconds, different game. Not saying Cal would have won but you simply can’t lose 1/3 of your offense for 7 minutes at the start of a big game and get to a decent start.

    Oh well. Great season none-the-less. Go Bears!

  • MD in San Ramon

    I’d like to congratulate Cal for a great season. This team pretty much maxed out what it was capable of doing–a far cry from many of the Ben Braun teams which in many cases were more talented but underachieved. Duke was clearly a superior team and would probably beat Cal 8 or 9 times out of 10….Cal’s lack of inside presence makes it tough for a long tournament run. The Bears were on fire during the Louisville game but it’s tough to be that hot 2 games in a row, especially against a tough perimeter defending team like Duke. When you’re not hitting your three’s you need an inside game to either get easy baskets or to help open things up for the guards on the perimeter. The Bears couldn’t do that yesterday and Duke could.

    Again, that should no way take away from what the Bears accomplished this year. It was a terrific run and the future looks bright. Thanks for a fun season. Now if ANY Cal quarterback could at least develop Jerome Randle’s mental toughness and willingness to gamble a bit to make plays, then maybe a second Cal 50 year drought will finally end. :)

  • Bears

    Jeff, your coverage is outstanding. Thank you! Really nice to have a knowledgeable professional source to count on.
    Only beef I had with refs yesterday was they clearly took Jorge out of his game. The calls on him and no calls to him on offense were the ones that had me scratching my head. But Duke is big, if we had an experienced center to add to our team we play with anyone in the country.
    Great news that Kamp is chomping at the bit and Max will be back. Exited to see what those two plus MSF, Bak and Solomon can do. Our height length and athleticism will definitely improve.
    Monty is a great coach and knows what he is doing. I expect to see a quality center and true power forward sign with the Bears plus another pg and wing in the 2011-2012 class.
    Hope the team can surprise us next year and believe by 2011-2012 this program will make a major national statement.
    Great season, Pac 10 Champions!

  • Bears

    Thank you seniors! If any of you, your family or friends ever read this want you all to know how much Cal fans appreciated and enjoyed following you. Quite an accomplishment to shatter the glass ceiling at Cal and win the Pac 10. You guys will not be forgotten! Hope you all don’t forget about Cal. If the program can continue to grow, improve, and make progress consistently on the legacy you left your accomplishments will shine even brighter. Come back often!
    Thank you Jerome, Nicola, Jamal, Pat and Theo.
    Thank you, we are proud of you!
    Go Bears!

  • rollonubears

    ditto Bears!

  • joey

    Sure Duke is a better team than Cal just like Kansas is better than Northern Iowa. If the game was called evenly Duke probably still have won but who really knows?

  • ondal

    jeff–

    thx for all your efforts. you are by far the best cal hoops beat writer/columnist out there.

    love,
    ondal

  • TME

    Also would have appreciated more even officiating because I think it changed the momentum with Patrick being take out early and some rather questionable calls against Jorge. Duke already had the height advantage and a deeper bench, but I honestly don’t think they are a “better” team. They played more together than Cal on that match but if they played them again (with fair officiating) I think the Bears could do it. Regardless – awesome season and they are Pac-10 Champions!

  • nickle

    I don’t get why people keep mentioning “Duke is the better team so they should have won.”

    This is March Madness. The “better team” doesn’t always win. That’s why it’s so exciting. It gives everyone a shot. Just because a team is supposed to win 9/10 times doesn’t mean they deserve to win a game. This isn’t the NBA where the format is set for the ‘better team’ to move on. It’s that ONE time they lose that sends them home. Northern Iowa anyone? How many times do you think they beat Kansas in 10 tries? Does it even matter. It’s the ONE game that matters.

    I mention this because I’m still upset about the officiating that took place the other day. I’m not saying that’s the reason we lost but I truly believe it certainly took away any chance we had of winning that day. I agree with the notion that Duke is a better team than Cal but that doesn’t matter in this tournament. It’s what happens in that one game in the tournament and the refs completely took away that opportunity. I’m all for playing a hard game where we come up short and as disappointing that would have been, it’s nowhere like the disgusted feeling I have about how we didn’t even have a shot b/c how the refs called the game.

    With that said it’s been an unbelievable season and I enjoyed the ride. Big congratulations to our team and a big thank you to our seniors not for only this year but for their entire careers at Cal. What they’ve done is outstanding and the fruits of their labor will be seen in the years to come. And thanks to Jeff for OUTSTANDING coverage this past year the coverage has been excellent every step of the way.

    GO BEARS!

  • robert

    Great season from the Bears. They battled against duke but just did not the horses!

    Jeff, thank you for the great coverage!!

    Do you know if there will be any further announcement regarding Amoke’s suspension? Will the team announce how long it is for, or even if he can come back?
    Also, any word on whether there may be another recruit for the 2010 class?

  • Dancing Bear

    The five seniors will be missed. They had a great season and they accomplished much. They raised the bar higher, and the program will be built upon their success. It’s going to be better for the years to come. Go Bears!!!!!!!

  • Bears

    There was no mention of Amoke by Roxie on the post game radio show when they were talking about next season. Assuming that must mean his return is either uncertain or he won’t be back. Obviously basketball is a long way away right now so there is no rush to uncover the story. But, the answer to Amoke’s status is sure to be a question Cal fans have as they look toward 2010-2011.

  • Zag Man

    Not a Cal fan, transplanted Gonzaga alum, but I follow Bay area hoops. What I saw was that Cal simply didn’t adjust to the refs. What some posters may not know is that officiating crews from around the country work NCAA games. Those weren’t Pac-10 refs. Each ref, each area calls games differently. The teams have to figure out how the games will be called and adjust. Even the ref teams do the same, they aren’t always from the same conference, especially after the first round (only the best rated ones from each round advance).

    The Zags lost to Arizona in the tourney in ’03 in OT. The game was called by a mix of east coast refs. We were in foul trouble all game – 2 guys fouled out, including Ronnie Turiaf. Zona didn’t have nearly as many fouls. Later Coach Few said that we should have adjusted, but couldn’t, while they did.

    Can’t blame the refs for a game. In the end, it’s up to the players and coaches. Upsets can always happen, but unlike Kansas (which didn’t play up to its potential), Duke did. Tough to beat a more talented, taller team when they play well. That Zoubek guy was a big difference.

    But great season to Cal. All conferences go through down years, but even so somebody has to step up and win. And Cal did. Congrats, Bear fans!

  • easybay

    Can anyone tell me why DJ Seely didn’t get much pt this year?

  • Mitchie V

    And now for a little humor. This Jerome Randle quote from a Louisville paper after the first round game:

    “I feel like our defense down the stretch was really good as a team. They had a great big man in Sampson, Sanborn — whatever — and we doubled him and were able to get out to the shooters.”

    High praise for good ol’ whatsisname (Samuels).