Can a team that has lost a game by 39 points win the Pac-12 Conference championship?
Technically, of course, it is possible. There are no regulations banning such things.
The question here is whether there is historical precedent for Cal — 4-1 but coming off a 92-53 undressing at the hands of Missouri — to win the conference crown. The Bears, after all, were picked second in the conference, and no other Pac-12 team looks invincible, either.
Note: Pac-12 favorite UCLA is 1-3 with a victory over a Division II school and coach Ben Howland is busy trying to squeeze himself into the mixed-up head of star forward Reeves Nelson. So things could be worse, Cal fans.
First, some bad news: No Pac-10/Pac-8/AAWU/PCC champion dating back to 1950 has ever lost a nonconference game by as many as 39 points. So, if the Bears go on to win the 2012 Pac-12 crown, they would boast an ignominious distinction.
Cal is offering a one-week half-off ticket sale for four specific Thursday night Pac-12 Conference games.
The sale is online only and runs through Tuesday, Nov. 29 at 9 a.m.
A few pieces of grim statistical history relating to the Bears’ 92-53 loss to Missouri:
— The 39-point margin equals Cal’s fourth-worst in a game since 1937.
— It was the Bears’ worst loss in 106 games under Mike Montgomery.
— It was their worst non-conference defeat EVER.
USC salvaged a bit of pride for the Pac-12 with a win over Morgan State and ex-Cal coach Todd Bozeman.
— USC 65, Morgan State 62: Aaron Fuller scored 19 points and Maurice Jones had 18 and six assists to lead the Trojans (2-3). USC got clobbered on the boards but forced Morgan State into 21 turnovers.
— Kansas 72, UCLA 56: The Bruins (1-3) trailed by 20 early in the second half, then rallied within five points before the No. 14 Jayhawks (3-1) regained control in the semifinals at Maui. Tyler Lamb had 15 points and Jerime Anderson scored 14, but UCLA shot just 36 percent. Reeves Nelson came off the bench and scored 12 points, but center Joshua Smith attempted only one shot and totaled one point.
It’s unusual for a Pac-12 football team to get two days off in a row, but Cal coach Jeff Tedford thought his team needed it after a hard-hitting game against Stanford. The Bears were back at it today. They’re practicing lightly all week before playing Arizona State on Friday night in Tempe. Tedford said three days of workouts is enough quality practice reps while at the same time giving players enough time to heal up. If you noticed, Cal had players being helped to the sideline all game long against Stanford. Lots of young guys were shuttled in along the defensive line as ends Trevor Guyton and Ernest Owusu got shaken up and missed time. Mustafa Jalil – one of Cal’s hotshot D-line recruits last winter – saw lots of time, and Tedford said he liked what he saw from Jalil, a 285-pounder who the Bears could look to play inside at tackle on occasion. “He has so much potential right now. I really wish I could be here to see him develop,” said Owusu, a senior. “I’m telling you guys right now, mark my words, he’s going to be very good.”
My story for tomorrow’s paper weighs in on Jalil and other young players who seem to set up Cal’s defense well for the next few seasons. There are holes to fill on offense for 2012 – Mitchell Schwartz and Justin Cheadle are seniors on the offensive line, and Cal will need another receiver to complement Keenan Allen with the departure of Marvin Jones. But the defense seems to have the depth to adequately fill voids.
–Speaking of players banged up in the Big Game, receiver Michael Calvin had an MRI on his injured knee that showed no tear in the anterior cruciate ligament, which is great news for the senior. Tedford said it’s possible Calvin could return – and he didn’t rule Calvin out for Friday’s game.
–So ASU is looking to bounce back following a close loss to its natural rival. Sound familiar? The Bears and Sun Devils are in the same boat in some ways, looking to rebound at Sun Devil Stadium. But ASU is in a more fragile state, having lost three straight to put coach Dennis Erickson on the hottest of hot seats. It makes me wonder how the Sun Devils will respond Friday night: Are they a lost ship that has no shot at getting back on course? Or will they come out sharp knowing that they’re still alive for the Pac-12 South championship?
Tedford sees ASU as an athletic, physical team with a solid quarterback in 6-foot-8 Brock Osweiler. “Their quarterback spreads it all over the field,” Tedford said. “They get you in (open) space. Any time these kinds of teams get their athletes in space and you’re a one-on-one tackler, you have to make sure you get them on the ground. It’s really important we tackle well in space.” Osweiler ranks second in the conference at 307 yards per game and he’s got a dangerous receiver in Gerell Robinson, fourth in the conference at 100 yards receiving per game.
Here’s what Osweiler had to say about Cal …
FINAL SCORE: Missouri 92, Cal 53. The Bears (4-1) suffer their worst defeat in 106 games under Mike Montgomery. The lost 109-77 at Washington last season. No. 21 Missouri (5-0) looks like a top-10 team. The No. 20 Bears will fall out of the rankings but have other worries. They must learn from this, figure out a way to repair their psyche, forget it and move forward. This game was 20-16 at one point — and Missouri outscored Cal 72-37 the rest of the way. Six Mizzou players in double digits. Gutierrez and Cobbs, with 11 and 1o points, respectively, were the Bears’ top scorers. They also were the only two players who continued to playy aggressively when the game began to get away, but Gutierrez was gone early after fouling out. Cal shot 30.4 percent, 2 for 9 from 3-point range and had 21 turnovers. The Bears had six assists — fewer than in any game last season. The Bears may not face a team the rest of the season with the quickness of Missouri, but their biggest opponent going forward is themselves.
Cal will need better talent and/or execution to beat Missouri in the CBE Classic final because the Bears don’t have an edge in two other areas.
— The crowd: It’s not a home game for the Tigers, but it wil be a home crowd. Mizzou has not played a game outside its home state this season, and fans in KC will be its corner. It’s up to the veterans — Jorge Gutierrez, Harper Kamp and Brandon Smith — to steady the ship if the waters get choppy.
— Fatigue: Both teams were able to substantially rest their regulars Monday night in one-sided semifinal games. Cal’s first seven averaged just 25.4 minutes, and only Allen Crabbe (33 minutes) played more than 30. But Missouri’s top seven averaged only 26.6 minutes, although three players did see 33 minutes or more. Still, a wash.
Well, it would have been interesting to see how the Bears might have fared against Notre Dame, a big, physical team that forged a ridiculous 21-5 halftime lead against Cal in Orlando, Fla., last year.
“You mean the ugliest game in the history of college basketball?” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey quipped last week. “We came out after halftime and Mike (Montgomery) said, `You know, Mike, we usually don’t shoot it this well.’
“They were young last year and we were old. I’m very, very impressed this year with them. I think they’re a very very confident group”
The 20th-ranked Bears should be confident after their 70-46 dismantling of Georgia in Monday’s first round of the CBE Classic at the Sprint Center in Kansas City.
Now they face a quick and athletic team in 21st-ranked Misouri, which obliterated Notre Dame 87-58 in the early semifinal.
This will be Cal’s toughest challenge of the non-conference schedule. The Tigers are older, better and faster than Georgia.
Brey had serious concerns about the Tigers’ four-guard offense prior to their meeting.
“They spread you out. They’re so good off the dribble and finding each other,” Brey said. “They’re so quick. That’s the ultimate test: us taking care of the ball against their speed.”
The Irish failed the test miserably. Cal gets its chance Tuesday night.
Arizona, which fired Mike Stoops last month after a 1-5 start, has hired former West Virginia and Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez. The details.
Pac-12 teams played Monday night in Kansas City, East Rutherford, N.J., and Maui.
Where would you liked to have been?
— UCLA 90, Chaminade 62: The Bruins (1-2) found paradise in the second half of their Maui Invitational opener, outscoring the Silverswords 52-22 to advance past the first round. Lazeric Jones scored 19 points, Jerime Anderson had 18 and Tyler Lamb 15 for UCLA. Reeves Nelson, who missed the bus to the airport on Sunday and then the team flight, sat out the first half before contributing one point and five rebounds in 11 second-half minutes. (Rather a severe punishment, huh?) UCLA will play in Tuesday’s semifinal against Kansas, which beat Georgetown 67-63.
— Vanderbilt 64, Oregon State 62: Brad Tinsley’s basket with 4.5 seconds left gave the No. 18 Commodores (4-1) the win in the title game of the Legends Classic in East Rutherford, N.J. The Beavers (4-1), who scored 100 points in an overtime win over Texas the night before, shot 2 for 14 from the 3-point arc. Devon Collier scored 19 for OSU. Jared Cunningham, the Pac-12 Player of the Week after scoring 72 points in two previous games, had just nine points. The San Leandro HS grad had seven steals, but also seven turnovers and shot 3 for 9.