Basketball: Bears prep for tough 3-game stretch

Now 6-0 for the first time in five seasons under coach Mike Montgomery, the Cal basketball team is about to find out how good it can be.

Here’s the stretch of games directly in front of the Bears:

— Sunday: At Wisconsin

— Dec. 9: vs. UNLV

— Dec. 15: vs. Creighton

Those three teams have a combined record of 13-3, and that includes Creighton beating Wisconsin.

Looks to me like each succcessive game will be tougher than the one before, but Wisconsin on the road will be plenty challenging enough. Creighton (6-0) likely will be 10-0 by the time it visits, and features preseason national player of the year candidate Doug McDermott (21.0 ppg).

There was no update Monday on the status of Cal sophomore guard Ricky Kreklow, who sat out the three games in Anaheim after feeling a twinge in his foot during warmups before the Drake game. The Bears are playing it safe with Kreklow, as they should, because they want him healthy when the Pac-12 schedule begins in January.

Montgomery used a seven-man rotation at the DirecTV Classic, and the Bears got by. But Drake, Georgia Tech and Pacific don’t stand up to Cal’s next three opponents or Pac-12 level competition.

The Pac-12 so far . . .

— Arizona is 3-0 and untested. Freshman F Brandon Ashley, the one-time Bishop O’Dowd HS star, is averaging 13.7 points and 7.7 rebounds in less than 23 minutes per game. Young and talented.

— Arizona State is 4-1 with a loss to Creighton. The big news: freshman PG Jahii Carson is as good as he was advertised a year ago before being denied NCAA clearance. He’s averaging 21.0 points and 5.0 rebounds.

— Colorado, surprise of the Pac-12 a year ago, looks good again. The Buffaloes are 5-0 with junior Andre Roberson again averaging a double-double.

— Oregon is 5-1 with a win over UNLV and a loss to Cincinnati. Nothing to be ashamed of there. But the Ducks are shooting 29.9 percent as a team from the 3-point line.

— Oregon State is 4-1 with a win over Purdue and a three-point loss to Alabama. Five players are averaging double-figure scoring.

— Stanford is struggling at 4-3, but coming off a tough stretch of games in the Bahamas. Sophomore guard Chasson Randle, dynamite last season, is 9 for 37 from the 3-point line. Junior Aaron Bright missed all three games in the Bahamas with an ankle sprain, but has yet to make a 3-pointer in 12 attempts.

— UCLA is 4-2 after a 70-68 home loss to Cal Poly, in which the Mustangs rallied from 18 points down to beat the Bruins for the first time. Cal Poly is picked seventh in the Big West. Freshmen Shabazz Muhammad and Jordan Adams have played well, but fellow rookie Kyle Anderson is shooting 5 for 25 the past four games. And guard Tyler Lamb announced Sunday he is transferring.

— No Pac-12 team has been tested like USC, which is 3-3 with a win over Texas and losses to Illinois, Marquette and San Diego State. (SDSU has won 10 straight games vs. Pac-12 teams!)  

— Utah may have the nation’s most misleading 4-1 record. One of those victories came over Willamette, and the loss was to Sacramento State. Newcomer Dallin Bachynski, a 7-foot sophomore from Canada, is averaging 13.2 points and 9.0 rebounds. 

— Washington is 2-3 with home losses to Albany and Colorado State (by 18 points). The Huskies have to be better than this.

— Washington State is 3-3 with wins over Eastern Washington, Utah Valley and Arkansas-Pine Bluff. The Cougars lost by 37 to Kansas. Senior F Brock Motum has scored either 14 or 15 points in each of his past five games.

Jeff Faraudo

  • The Wisdom Cow

    I thought it was Dermot Muldougly at Creighton.

  • ConcordBear

    The key to the season is will Ricky get healthy?
    Add him to the mix and if the team improves throughout the year we could see something special develop.
    Hope RK gets his foot cleared and is able to play ball soon!
    Need that guy.
    Go Bears!!!

  • gobears91

    Great report – thanks Jeff. I like our team this year. Great backcourt and the big guys seem to be coming around. T. Wallace is the real deal. Should be an exciting season.

  • The Wisdom Cow

    Concord, I love the optimism, but the season has a realistic ceiling because of the lack of depth up front. Krekelow can’t mean more than a win or two. Granted, if it happens to be a key win, it can be the difference between a 2nd, 3rd, or 4th seed in the conference tourney, or even winning that tourney, but only if the front line doesn’t have injuries or foul trouble.

    And I am beginning to get really frustrated over it.

    Solomon and Kravish are exactly what I love most about college basketball, talent developing over time. Both have the potential to be outstanding bigs.

    Thurman, if he were the 4th, preferably 5th, big man off the bench, would be just as wonderful. As far as his individual development, I have greatly enjoyed it, but as a heavy minute 1st off the bench big man, he is not enough.

    Three of him after Solomon and Kravish? Then I’d be much, much happier.

    Why does this get me mad?

    Thurman graduates and the pipeline continues to lack height and bulk. Solomon and Kravish will be even better players, but they’ll still lack the reserves needed to be a consistent contender in every game.

    It will be a fun and enjoyable team, but real success, either conference championships of deep NCAA runs, require deeper benches up front.

  • The Wisdom Cow

    I had hoped to see Behrens take a step forward after some moments of promise last season. Maybe that can still happen.

  • BlakeStreetBear

    Yes, Concord, Kreklow is the glue guy and we need him at full speed. I will accept a couple early season losses with him not playing if it means he is full speed for the bulk of the season, and of course when it really matters: February and March.

    Go Bears!

  • BlakeStreetBear

    Wisdom, I hear you about the lack of frontcourt depth, but how about the absolute wealth of talent in the backcourt? Does that make up for us not having 2 more 6-10 guys ahead of Thurman, who you obviously have no faith in despite his solid contributions virtually every time he steps on the court.

    I am including BSmith in that backcourt group with Cobbs, Crabbe, Wallace and Kreklow. They always say that in college guard play is the key to success, I agree with that, and we have arguably the best backcourt in the West and one of the top backcourts in the country. Cobbs is playing as well as any Cal point guard ever, well almost – he’s no JK. He is totally unguardable 1 on 1 and will get EVEN BETTER!

    I look for this team to win at least 25 games and battle to the end for the conference crown. Nothing to complain about there. Go Bears!

  • The Wisdom Cow

    BSB, It’s presicely why I am frustrated. Don’t get me wrong, I am going to enjoy the hell out of this team, and next year looks even better.

    But this back court could be a legitimate top 16 team, meaning a good match-up or break (right ref style) away from a real shot at a final four, if they only had Thurman-quality from two more bigs off the bench.

    Instead, a good match-up or break means the sweet 16, at best.

    I’m not scoffing the team. I love the team. I just feel like it’s almost a “Giant pitching staff with no hitting whatsoever” situation. Think SF 2011. With just a few more contributors, it could be Giants 2010 or 2012. Well, almost 😉

  • BlakeStreetBear

    Wisdom, I hear you. Can’t wait to see them compete against some good teams in the next couple weeks. And really, really hope that Kreklow can go at full speed soon; I think that he will have to play down low some too.

    p.s. regarding the Giants, I wish spring training started tomorrow. Loved that 2012 team!!

  • Dan

    Jeff – Great to have you back. What a week or so.

    Also, nice mention of my Aztecs. Not only 10 straight vs. PAC 10, but also 25 straight vs. Teams frm CA. Next up, UCLA this Saturday.

    If USC gels, they’ll be no easy W. They fought their way back last night from down 19 to actually take a short lived lead, but unraveled in the last 2 minutes. Aztecs know how to win, even short 2 key starters, SC hasn’t figured that out yet.

    Lots of promising on court to be excited about, but also plenty to fret about. The Bears can win the P12 if they can improve, be consistent, and get/stay healthy. It’ll be fun to see Monty do his thing with this team.

    While everyone is over hyping UCLA and AZ, as usual, watch out for the Buffs.

  • Will

    I think we’re certainly a tournament team, but we’re not quite there yet due to our lack of depth (particularly inside). Hopefully we don’t go 0-3 in this tough stretch; I think the likeliest outcome is 1-2.

    Win or lose, I view these games as a positive since they will toughen us up for the Pac-12 schedule.

  • rollonubears

    I won’t sleep well until we have 20 wins under our belt. If we go 3-0 on this stretch, we’ll be ranked around #11. Gotta do it. Plenty of time to rest in-between these games, and two of ’em are at home. Hope the fans come out for these.

  • BlakeStreetBear

    I will be there for both of the home games, and LOUDLY too!

    I pray for the health RK’s foot…he can make a major contribution if healthy.

    Regardless, inn Monty I trust…GO BEARS!

  • Mitchie V

    Random thoughts:

    – Did you see Monty swearing out the refs as he walked over to shake the Drake coach’s hand post-game? He was still LIVID!

    – Really appreciate B-Smith knocking down those mid-range jumpers when opponents sag off to double/triple Cobbs or Crabbe. He makes the defense pay

    – Did you see UOP coach Bob Thomason’s comments about Cobbs? Paraphrasing: “Cobbs is clever and gets away with stuff the refs don’t see. He’s very good.” Not sure what he’s talking about, but I’ll be watching more closely

  • Will L

    That was kind of a low blow from Thomason, who is retiring after 25 years at Pacific as head coach(plus more as a player). I think Cobbs does tend to get a little chippy at times but still, you lost a game coach, that sounds like sour grapes.

  • SteveNTexas

    ASU AND OREGON have also lost recently. Teh Pac 12 has to be better than last year perhaps we are in the Top Six Conferences.

    This will be a good test for Cal -win them all and we will have a nice ranking.

    Tonight I’ll be watching Indiana v North Carolina on ESPN.

  • wehofx

    So far Ive really enjoyed watching this team. On twitter some cbs sports analyst said cobbs and crabbe is one of the better/best guard combos in the nation.

    If rk does get healthy and can play significant minutes in pac 12 play, we’ll be in good shape, especially with the play of Wallace.

    If the bigs get in foul trouble or need a blow, monty can play 4 guards and kravish/solomon/thurman.

    I’ll be more than happy with 2-1 in the upcoming games.