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.