Basketball: Stanford game preview

TIPOFF: 8 p.m. Wednesday at Haas Pavilion. TV/Radio: ESPN2/910-AM.

The Bears will honor three seniors playing their final home game in the Pac-12 regular-season finale against rival Stanford.

But will it also be the last appearance at Haas Pavilion for junior Allen Crabbe?

“I haven’t made a decision at all,” Crabbe said this week, when asked if he will enter the NBA draft this spring.  Whatever the decision I’m gong to make after the season, that’s between me and my family.

“Right now I’m focused on this Pac-12 tournament and the NCAA tournament.”

Crabbe entered the week as the conference scoring leader (18.4 points per game) and perhaps the favorite to capture Pac-12 Player of the Year honors.

He said before the season he wants to play in the NBA, but won’t leave until  he’s ready. His name has jumped in and out of various NBA mock drafts this season, even as the experts proclaim this to be a weak crop of pro prospects. The website NBAdraft.net currently projects him as the No. 20 pick — in the 2014 draft.

“Everybody’s going to have their opinion and throw it out there,” Crabbe said.

Everybody, that is, except his teammates and coach.

“It’s Allen’s decision … whatever he decides to do,” sophomore David Kravish said. “Obviously, I’d love to have Allen back.”

Coach Mike Montgomery used humor to sidestep the question of whether he believes Wednesday night will Crabbe’s final game at Haas.

“We’re going to have a home-game schedule next year,” he said in deadpan tones.

So you expect him back?

“I would think — he’s a junior.”

Stay tuned. 

THE SENIORS: Brandon Smith, Robert Thurman and Bak Bak take their final bows at Haas tonight. The three have been the team’s top bench players, with Smith and Thurman playing especially critical roles.

Smith was a starter early in the season before giving way to freshman Tyrone Wallace. Then he missed six games with a concussion and the Bears went 2-4. 

“Brandon doens’t put up numbers that are gaudy, but he’s very, very important for us, to allow us to rest people, change the tempo, stabilize things. We missed him,” Montgomery said. “Coincidentally, when we started winning was about when Brandon came back.”

The Bears are 10-2 since Smith returned to action.

Thurman, known affectionately to Cal fans as “The Thurman-ator,” gives the Bears a big man with some muscle and is perhaps the team’s best inside finisher, according to Montgomery. He is a walk-on who transferred to Cal from tiny Norwich University.

“Robert has made unbelievable progress,” Montgomery said. “When he first started with the jump hook, you went, `Oh Lord.’ Slowly but surely, it’s evolved into a good play for him. Physically, he’s changed. He’s way better than he was two years ago.”

WHAT’S AT STAKE: With a win tonight, the Bears will finish the conference season 13-5 for the third time in the past four years. That would also guarantee them no worse than a No. 3 seed for the Pac-12 tournament.  If Cal wins and Oregon and UCLA each lose once this week, the Bears will earn a co-title. Because they own the tiebreaker vs. both the Ducks and Bruins, they would be seeded No. 1 for the Pac-12 tourney. Likewise, if the Bears finish in a tie for second with Oregon or UCLA,  they would earn the tiebreaker nod for the No. 2 seed.

UCLA visits Washington State tonight and plays Saturday morning at Washington, where it has not won since 2004. Oregon has a challenging matchup Thursday at Colorado, then plays at Utah on Saturday.

THE STANDINGS: Oregon 12-4, UCLA 12-4, Cal 12-5, Arizona 11-6, Colorado 9-7, USC 9-7, ASU 9-8, Washington 8-8, Stanford 8-9, Utah 3-13, Oregon St. 3-13, Washington St. 2-14.

ABOUT THE CARDINAL: Stanford has lost four of its past six games, beating only Oregon State and Utah during that stretch. Prior to that, Stanford had won four of five and inserted itself into the conference race. Coach Johnny Dawkins said the club’s downfall often has been defense. “We had some momentum. You have to defend. That’s something we were very good at last season and we haven’t been as good,” Dawkins said.  “We just have to stay focused and keep working on things that need to improve. We’re in almost every game except two this season. It’s not just being in the right position, but making plays. That’s something we have to work on.” … Offensively, the Cardinal poses some challenges. Forwards Dwight Powell and Josh Huestis are difficult matchups for the Bears, able to move away from the basket shoot or drive the ball.

THE SERIES: Cal leads 145-116. The Cardinal won 69-59 at Maples Pavilion earlier this season. Cal won two of three meetings last season and has won the past four at Berkeley.

ETC: Cal is allowing opponents to shoot just 33.5 percent from the field during its seven-game win streak, just 28.4 percent the past four games. In their first 22 games, the Bears allowed 40.8 percent shooting. Cal has moved to No. 1 in the Pac-12 in field-goal percentage defense at 39.0 percent. … Crabbe remains in the No. 10 spot on Cal’s career scoring list with 1,465 points. Next up: Brian Hendrick (1990-93) at 1,556. … Cal has won 20 games for the fourth time in five seasons under Montgomery, who boasts 17 seasons of 20 wins or more.

WHAT’S NEXT: Cal plays in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 tournament, Thursday, March 14 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Time and opponent TBA.

Cal (20-9, 12-5 Pac-12)

Starters Ht Yr Pts Rebs
SG Allen Crabbe 6-6 Jr. 18.4 6.0
PF Richard Solomon 6-10 Jr. 8.4 6.6
PF David Kravish 6-9 So. 8.2 7.0
PG Justin Cobbs 6-2 Jr. 14.8 4.7*
SG Tyrone Wallace 6-3 Fr. 7.5 4.6
Key reserves
G Brandon Smith 5-11 Sr. 2.7 2.1*
C Robert Thurman 6-10 Sr. 4.8 3.8
F Bak Bak 6-9 Sr. 1.7 1.1

Stanford (17-13, 8-9 Pac-12)

Starters Ht Yr Pts Rebs
PF Dwight Powell 6-1- Jr. 15.3 8.2
SF Josh Huestis 6-7 Jr. 10.2 9.4
SF Andy Brown 6-7 Jr. 6.5 2.8
SG Chasson Randle 6-1 So. 14.1 3.1
PG Aaron Bright 5-10 Jr. 8.4 3.4*
Key reserves
F John Gage 6-10 Jr. 5.5 2.2
F Rosco Allen 6-9 Fr. 3.6 2.3
G Robbie Lemons 6-3 Jr. 3.1 0.9


Jeff Faraudo