Women’s basketball: Cal upbeat despite departures

Here is staff writer Elliott Almond’s report on the Cal women from Wednesday’s Pac-12 basketball media day in San Francisco. I will be attend the men’s event on Thursday:

Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb opened practice this month with a daunting realization: “OK, no Brittany and no Reshanda. What do we do now?”

Good question.

Gottlieb enters her fifth season at Berkeley with the challenge of replacing All-American point guard Brittany Boyd and Pac-12 player of the year Reshanda Gray.

The loss of the two graduated seniors has led to downgraded expectations. The Golden Bears were picked to finish tied with UCLA for fourth place in a preseason coaches poll announced Wednesday.

But Gottlieb isn’t concerned about prognostications. The Pac-12 has improved from top to bottom, and leading pick Oregon State returns four starters from a team that won 27 games last season.

“We have a young group that says this is just the beginning,” Gottlieb said at Pac-12 media day in San Francisco. “They are locked into meeting those challenges and being better than people expect us to be.”

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Football: Cal defensive player honored by Pac-12 for second week in a row — the world is upside down!

Senior safety Stefan McClure was named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week — the second straight week a Cal defensive player has been honored by the league.

You might remember 2014 when the Bears’ defense was the most futile in Western Civilization, much less the Pac-12.

Not anymore.

A week after defensive end Kyle Kragen was honored, McClure got the award for delivering a timely sack and returning a fumble for a touchdown after a Washington State fake punt try.

The Bears have now scored three touchdowns with their defense this season — and I count this as defense (rather than special teams) because the fake punt made it an offensive play not a kicking-game play.


Basketball: Pac-12 announces conference schedule

The Pac-12 announced dates and times for its men’s basketball conference games, with Cal opening at home against Colorado on New Year’s Day.

Tipoff is 8 p.m. and the game will be shown on the Pac-12 Networks.

The Bears complete the first weekend of Pac-12 play on Jan. 3 against Utah at 4:30 p.m.

Cal misses its annual trip to Los Angeles this season, with UCLA visiting Cal on Feb. 25.

The regular season ends with a trip to Arizona on the first weekend of March. Cal faces Arizona on March 3 and closes the Pac-12 schedule against Arizona State on March 5.

Here is Cal’s entire conference schedule:

Jan. 1 vs. Colorado, 8 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks): The Bears did not play the Buffaloes at Berkeley last season.

Jan. 3 vs. Utah, 4:30 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks): The Bears did not play the Utes at Berkeley last season.

Jan. 6 at Oregon, 6 p.m. (ESPN2): The Bears did not play the Ducks at Eugene last season.

Jan. 9 at Oregon State, 6:30 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks): The Bears did not play the Beavers at Corvallis last season.

Jan. 14 at Stanford, 8 p.m. (FS1): The Bears lost 72-61 at Stanford last season.

Jan. 21 vs. Arizona State, 6 p.m. (FS1): The Bears lost 79-44 to ASU at Berkeley last season.

Jan. 23 vs. Arizona, tba (ESPN2): The Bears lost 73-50 to No. 7 Arizona at Berkeley last season.

Jan. 27 at Utah, 8 p.m. (ESPNU): The Bears lost 76-61 at No. 11 Utah last season.

Jan. 31 at Colorado, 2 p.m. (FS1): The Bears won 68-61 at Colorado last season.

Feb. 6 vs. Stanford, 1 p.m. (ESPN/ESPN2): The Bears lost 69-59 to Stanford at Berkeley last season.

Feb. 11 vs. Oregon, 6 p.m. (ESPN/ESPN2): The Bears lost 80-69 to Oregon at Berkeley last season.

Feb. vs. Oregon State, 3:30 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks): The Bears beat Oregon State 73-56 at Berkeley last season.

Feb. 18 at Washington, 8 p.m. (FS1): The Bears beat No. 21 Washington 81-75 at Berkeley last season.

Feb. at Washington State, 5:30p.m. (ESPNU): The Bears lost to Washington State 69-66 last season in Berkeley.

Feb. 25 vs. UCLA, 6 p.m. (ESPN/ESPN2): The Bears beat UCLA 64-62 last season in Berkeley.

Feb. 28 vs. USC, 5 p.m. (FS1): The Bears beat USC 70-69 last season at Berkeley.

March 3 at Arizona, 6 p.m. (ESPN/ESPN2): The Bears lost lost 99-60 at No. 5 Arizona last season.

March 5 at Arizona State, 5 p.m. (ESPN2): The Bears lost 74-70 at Arizona State last season.


Basketball: Wallace earns all-Pac-12 honors

Cal junior guard Tyrone Wallace picked up first-team all-Pac-12 honors as voted by the league’s coaches.

Wallace was one of the league’s most productive and versatile players, averaging 17.2 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.8 assists for the Bears, who open Pac-12 tournament play Wednesday against Washington State.

Oregon senior guard Joseph Young and coach Dana Altman, who guided the Ducks to a surprising tie for second place in the Pac-12, won the league’s top honors.

Young earned Pac-12 Player of the Year after scoring 19.8 points per game for an Oregon team that won 11 of its final 13 regular-season games. He also led the conference in free-throw accuracy and 3-pointers per game.

Altman, whose Ducks were picked to finish eighth in a Pac-12 preseason media poll, was voted the John R. Wooden Coach of the Year. Oregon will be the No. 2 seed in the Pac-12 tournament, beginning Wednesday in Las Vegas.

Arizona’s Stanley Johnson was named Freshman of the Year in a vote of the league’s coaches, Washington State’s Josh Hawkinson was named Most Improved Player of the Year, and Oregon State’s Gary Payton II was chosen as Defensive Player of the Year.


Basketball: Bears and most of Pac-12 lose some momentum as conference schedule approaches

The Pac-12 and its television network had to be giddy at the prospect of a tantalizing conference opener Friday night in Berkeley: Unbeaten Washington vs. Cal, with a resume marred only by losses to a pair of top-10 foes.

Instead, we get teams that tripped over their own feet Sunday in home defeats to Stony Brook and Bakersfield.

“This came as a total surprise to me,” said UW coach Lorenzo Romar, who was referring to his team’s loss but could have been addressing the general state of things in the Pac-12 in recent days.

The conference was handling itself fairly well until last week, when . . .

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Where does Cal fit into my updated Pac-12 preview? Find out here and let know if you agree. (Hint: You probably won’t).


Women’s basketball: Chris Dawson named to NCAA chair

Chris Dawson, former long-time athletic administrator at Cal, has been named to serve as chair for the 2015-16 NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee, charged with selecting and seeding the NCAA tournament field.

Currently an associate commissioner of the Pac-12 Conference, also is serving her fourth year as a member of the NCAA committee. Dawson will succeed current chair Dru Hancock, senior associate commissioner for the Big 12 Conference. She will officially become the 17th chair of the committee on September 1, 2015.

“It’s an honor to be selected by my fellow committee members to serve in this role,” Dawson said. “I look forward to our continued work together to enhance the game and create memorable NCAA tournaments for student-athletes and fans alike.”

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Basketball: Busy night as curtain lifts on Pac-12

It wasn’t just Cal that enjoyed a big basketball opening night.

The Pac-12 went 10-1 on Friday night, with only USC abstaining. Some notable performances by familiar names, and some impressive debuts.

Here’s a rundown:

* No. 2 Arizona got 21 points from East Bay native Brandon Ashley in its 78-55 win over Mount St. Mary’s. Ashley, who missed the second half of last season after breaking his foot in a loss at Cal, shot 9 for 10 and played perhaps the best game of his career, according to coach Sean Miller.

* Stanford posted a 74-59 win over returning NCAA tournament team Wofford, despite an off-shooting night from star guard Chasson Randle. Didn’t matter because senior center Stefan Nastic scored a career-high 26 points on 11-for-14 shooting. Dating back to last season, Nastic is shooting 84.4 percent (!!!) from the floor on 38 for 45 and averaging 11.9 points per game over the past eight games. He is, without question, the most improved player — from freshman to senior season — in the Pac-12.

* Oregon lost just about everyone else from last season’s roster, but returning guard Joseph Young scored 32 points and got plenty of help in a 107-65 rout of Chicago State.

* UCLA had three players taken in the first round of the 2014 NBA draft, but point guard Bryce Alford delivered 18 points and 12 assists and backcourt mate Norman Powell added 25 points in a 113-78 win over Montana State. Freshman forward Kevon Looney made a splash in his debut with 20 points and nine rebounds, and got to the free throw line for 17 attempts.

* Point guard Nigel Williams-Goss stuffed the stat sheet with 10 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds and Washington dispatched South Carolina State 77-59.

* Utah point guard Delon Wright is another guy who fills in all the categories — had 13 points, eight assists, four rebounds, four steals and three blocks — in a 90-72 win over Ball State. Freshman 7-footer Jakob Poeltl of Vienna, Austria, provided 18 points and 10 rebounds.

* The son of The Glove, Gary Payton II, had six points, nine rebounds, two assists, two steals and three blocks in his first game as Oregon State beat Rice 67-54 in coach Wayne Tinkle’s debut.

* Colorado sat three starters to open the game, but Josh Scott had 21 points and 10 rebounds in a 65-48 conquest of Drexel.

* Arizona State rode 20 points from Shaquielle McKissick to an 86-50 win over Chicago State.

*  A tough start as coach at Washington State for Ernie Kent, whose squad lost 65-52 at Texas-El Paso. The only Pac-12 team that played on the road, the Cougars had more turnovers (22) than baskets (19). Ouch.



Women’s basketball: Media pick Bears to win Pac-12

A panel of 17 media members has picked the Cal women’s basketball team to win the Pac-12 Conference title, ending a streak of 15 straight years that distinction went to Stanford.

The Bears picked up nine first-place votes and scored 194 points, compared to seven first-place ballots and 190 points for Stanford. Oregon State secured the remaining first-place vote and finished third in the poll.

The Pac-12 coaches gave Stanford a slight edge over Stanford for the league title.

Cal guard Brittany Boyd and forward Reshanda Gray were chosen to the five-player preseason all-conference team.