Basketball: Pac-12 writers roundtable

For the second straight season, Doug Haller of the Arizona Republic has organized a Pac-12 writers roundtable where we address questions related to the conference.

Participating this season, besides myself and Haller, are Percy Allen of the Seattle Times, Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times and Bob Clark of the Eugene Register-Guard.

Here’s our first roundtable of the 2011-12 season:

– True or false: The Pac-12 is destined for a disappointing season after losing so much talent to the NBA.

Allen: “False. I think 2010, when the Pac-10 sent two teams to the NCAA
Tournament, was an aberration and won’t occur again any time soon. Last season
four conference teams made the 68-team tournament. I predict five will receive
invitations in March, although four is a safer bet.”

Bolch: “True. It’s another hodgepodge of mediocrity, with no team poised to earn
the national spotlight for a third consecutive season. Even the conference
favorites have severe flaws that likely will be exposed during the NCAA
Tournament. UCLA and coach Ben Howland  have shaky wing players. Cal has a nice starting five but questionable depth. Arizona? Two words: Seattle Pacific.”

Clark: “I’m saying false, on the basis that not much is expected, so with the
bar set low, there’s a chance for the league to exceed expectations.”

Faraudo: “False. I think the league has lots of intrigue this season, partly
because traditional powers UCLA, Arizona and Washington saw players defect to
the pros. Cal has great experience, Oregon is coming on and there is plenty of
young talent. I predict a great conference race, where no team avoids losing at
least two or three times.”

Haller: “False. There may not be a Final Four contender among the bunch, but
1-through-8 this conference should be pretty competitive. Outside of the big
four, Oregon, Stanford and Oregon State are poised to make an upper-division
push, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Kevin O’Neill finds a way to keep USC
relevant, even without injured point guard Jio Fontan.”

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Basketball: CBSSports.com ranks Cal’s Jorge Gutierrez 47th-best player nationally

CBSSports.com has ranked the top 100 players in college basketball this season and Cal’s Jorge Gutierrez is No. 47 on the list:

47. Jorge Gutierrez (senior guard, California). It’s hard not to love this kid. Terrific work ethic and can do it all for the Bears. — Jeff Goodman.

Allen Crabbe checks in at No. 77 on their list:

77. Allen Crabbe (sophomore guard, California). A lights-out perimeter shooter who needs to develop more versatility in his game this season. — J.G.

Curious that Oakland native and Oregon freshman Jabari Brown, who plays essentially the same wing position as Crabbe, is No. 49 — without having ever played a college game:

49. Jabari Brown (freshman guard, Oregon). Could wind up being Dana Altman’s leading scorer. Strong, athletic and can fill it up. — J.G.

Other top-100 Pac-12 players: No. 23 Terrence Ross, Washington; No. 24 Reeves Nelson, UCLA; No. 42 Josh Smith, UCLA; No. 46 Josiah Turner, Arizona; No. 85 Jared Cunningham, Oregon State; No. 88 Trent Lockett, Arizona State.

Two other players with local roots: No. 84 Damian Lillard (Oakland) Weber State; No. 94 Kevin Foster, Santa Clara.

The full list is here. 




Basketball: Bears No. 24 — again — in power rankings

ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com have released their joint preseason college basketball “Power Rankings,” and they look awfully familiar. Compare them to both the preseason AP top-25 and the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll, and there’s hardly a difference.

Cal is No. 24 in the “Power Rankings,” the same spot it occupies in the AP and coaches polls.

Here are ESPN’s “Power Rankings:”

  1. North Carolina
  2. Kentucky
  3. Ohio State
  4. Connecticut
  5. Syracuse
  6. Duke
  7. Vanderbilt
  8. Florida
  9. Memphis
  10. Louisville
  11. Pittsburgh
  12. Baylor
  13. Wisconsin
  14. Kansas
  15. Xavier
  16. Arizona
  17. Marquette
  18. Alabama
  19. Cincinnati
  20. UCLA
  21. Texas A & M
  22. Michigan
  23. Gonzaga
  24. California
  25. Michigan State





Basketball: Five things I look forward to seeing as Bears open season with UC San Diego exhibition

The Bears make their 2011-12 debut on Tuesday when they take on UC San Diego in an exhibition game at Haas Pavilion. Tipoff is 7:30 p.m.

The Tritons lost 74-42 at Utah State last Friday, shooting 31 percent from the field and committing 21 turnovers. They feature one local player making a return trip home: junior forward Justin Brue, a Bishop O’Dowd HS grad who averaged 9.2 ppg last season.

We pretty much know what Jorge Gutierrez, Harper Kamp, Allen Crabbe and Brandon Smith bring to the equation. But there are questions.

Here are five things I am most eager to see tonight:

1) How will freshmen forwards David Kravish and Christian Behrens look? Are they players who can make a contribution to this team and provide some much-needed front-court depth?

2) Can walkon center Robert Thurman’s surprising contributions to the Bears’ Euro trip translate back here in the States? Cal has a place for Thurman if he can execute the things they need from him: Rebounding, post defense, finishing at the rim.

3) How will transfer guard Justin Cobbs fit in?  A combo guard who began his college career at Minnesota, Cobbs brings an aggressive, physical element that complements Smith at the point, but I want to get a glimpse of his decision making with the ball in his hands.

4) What improvement will we see from sophomore forward Richard Solomon? Does he have the beginnings of a low-post game? Has he streamlined his game? Will he play like a guy who has been there before? A key man for the Bears, if he has made strides from his rookie season.

5) What kind of reception will coach Mike Montgomery get at Haas four days after his announcement last Friday that he had bladder cancer? My guess: Fans will show the man some love when he comes onto the court pregame.




Basketball: Bears No. 24 in AP preseason poll

Lost in the swirl of attention given Friday to coach Mike Montgomery’s announcement that he faced bladder cancer was the unveiling of the Associated Press’ preseason top-25 poll. The Bears checked in at No. 24.

Arizona and UCLA are ranked No. 16 and 17, respectively.

A few other things you might want to check out:

– Columnist Monte Poole says Montgomery gave us a rare glimpse of the man behind the coach.

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Basketball: Bears 24th in preseason coaches poll

Cal is ranked No. 24 in the ESPN/USA Today preseason coaches poll.

North Carolina secured 30 of 31 first-place votes to easily top the coaches’ first poll of the season, Kentucky got the other first-place vote and is No. 2. Rounding out the top 5: Ohio State, UConn and Syracuse.

Other Pac-12 teams in the rankings are No. 16 Arizona and No. 20 UCLA.

Voters include Arizona State coach Herb Sendek and Randy Bennett of Saint Mary’s.