Basketball: Cal ranked 14th in preseason AP Top-25

The Cal basketball team is ranked 14th in the Associated Press preseason Top-25, its first appearance in the preseason poll in six years.

The Bears were ranked 13th in the 2009-10 preseason poll, before going on to win their first conference championship in 50 years under coach Mike Montgomery.

North Carolina earned the No. 1 spot, securing 35 of 65 first-place votes. Kentucky (10 first-place votes), Maryland (14), Kansas (5) and Duke (0) round out the top-5.

Virginia got the remaining first-place vote and finished sixth in the poll. The Bears face the Cavaliers in Charlottesville on Dec. 22.

Gonzaga is the highest-rated team in the West at No. 9.

No. 11 Arizona is the top-rated Pac-12 team. Utah, at No. 16, is the only other Pac-12 team in the Top-25, although Oregon checks in at No. 26.

In the interests of disclosure, I am an AP Top-25 voter again this season.

I voted Cal No. 13.

Here’s my Top-25:

1. North Carolina; 2. Maryland; 3. Kentucky; 4. Virginia; 5. Iowa State; 6. Indiana; 7. Duke; 8. Arizona; 9. Kansas; 10. Oklahoma; 11. Gonzaga; 12. Wichita State; 13. Cal; 14. Villanova; 15. Utah; 16. Vanderbilt; 17. LSU; 18. Purdue; 19. Oregon; 20. Michigan State; 21. SMU; 22. Connecticut; 23. Xavier; 24. Michigan; 25. Butler.


Football: Idle Cal climbs to No. 20 in AP Top-25

Cal got the weekend off and managed to move up three spots to No. 20 in the Associated Press Top-25 poll.

Cal is ranked in the AP poll four straight weeks for the first time since 2007.

The Bears (5-1) also moved to No. 19 in the coaches poll.

Utah (6-0) inched to No. 3 in the AP Top-25 and Stanford vaulted five spots to No. 10. The Cardinal’s 56-35 rout of UCLA — and it wasn’t that close — knocked the Bruins out of the Top-25.

Cal and UCLA meet Thursday night at the Rose Bowl.


Football: Computer gives Cal thumbs up

A week ago, after improving to 5-0, Cal was rated 30th nationally by the Sagarin computer.

The Bears weren’t higher because of a soft strength-of-schedule rating: No. 94.

Now, even after its 30-24 loss at Utah, Cal has climbed in both the Sagarin ratings and its strength-of-schedule ranking.

Cal is the 23rd-best team in the country, according to Sagarin, and its schedule is now rated No. 38.

Obviously, playing unbeaten Utah on the road gave the Bears a lift. The Utes are No. 11 in the latest Sagarins.

But results elsewhere also benefited the Bears, including:

— Texas beating No, 10 Oklahoma

— Washington winning at USC

— Washington State outlasting Oregon

Cal has wins over all three, and those victories are now worth more as a result of the Longhorns, Huskies and Cougars posting big wins.


Football: Bears inch to No. 23 in Top-25

Cal’s 34-28 win over Washington State lifted the Bears one spot to 23rd in this week’s AP Top-25 rankings.

The Bears (5-0) put their perfect record on the line Saturday at Utah (4-0), which climbed five spots to No. 5, despite having a bye last week.

Cal has not beaten a top-5 team since a 34-31 triple-overtime win over No. 3 USC on Sept. 27, 2003. The Bears have dropped six straight games to top-5 opponents since then.


Football: Next Cal opponent ranked No. 1

That’s no typo. Unbeaten Utah has moved to the top of ESPN’s weekly power rankings, creating a tantalizing matchup next Saturday at Salt Lake City against Cal, which is 23rd on that list.

Click here for the entire list.

Utah opened the season with a win over Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan squad, which has outscored opponents 119-7 over the past 15 quarters. The Utes had a bye last week after pushing their record to 4-0 with a 62-20 pounding of Oregon in Eugene.

This week is gonna be fun.


Football: At No. 24, Cal ranked for first time since 2010

Cal’s 30-24 win at Washington lifted the Bears into the Top-25 rankings for the first time in five years on Sunday. Cal is No. 24 in both the AP writers and coaches polls.

The Bears, off to their first 4-0 start since 2007, were last ranked in September 2010 after winning twice to open the season to secure the No. 24 spot. They dropped out after a 52-31 loss to Colin Kaepernick and Nevada.

It’s been a long, tough climb for coach Sonny Dykes’ program. The Bears were 1-11 in his debut season of 2013, but are 9-7 the past two seasons.

Cal is among five Pac-12 teams in the AP rankings, with UCLA at No. 7, Utah at No. 10, USC at No. 17 and Stanford at No. 18.

Absent from the AP Top-25 is Oregon, which fell to 2-2 after a 62-20 home loss to Utah. The Ducks are tied for 24th with Cal in the coaches poll.

UCLA is No. 10 in the coaches poll, followed by Utah at No. 12, USC at No. 16 and Stanford at No. 20.


Basketball: ESPN ‘early’ rankings have Cal at No. 12

I watched the Bears practice for about an hour Wednesday as they prepare for their Aug. 13-24 tour of Australia. Freshman Jaylen Brown got the day off — not injured, just a breather, according to coach Cuonzo Martin — but Cal looked good.

The Bears are bigger, deeper and competitive. Freshman Ivan Rabb is going to be something special, transfer Stephen Domingo is long and active, and center Kameron Rooks, leaner than I’d seen before, aggressively engaged fellow 7-footer Kingsley Okoroh in their private duels.

So how good will Cal be?

ESPN on Wednesday released its “Way Too Early” top-25, and placed the Bears at No. 12. Not bad for a team that didn’t play in the postseason a year ago.

Here are the full rankings: 1. Maryland; 2. North Carolina; 3. Kentucky; 4. Virginia; 5. Kansas; 6. Duke; 7. Iowa State; 8. Oklahoma; 9. Wichita State; 10. Villanova; 11. Gonzaga; 12. Cal.

13. Utah; 14. Indiana; 15. Arizona; 16. Notre Dame; 17. Baylor; 18. Vanderbilt; 19. Michigan State; 20. West Virginia; 21. SMU; 22. LSU; 23. Butler; 24. Wisconsin; 25. Texas A&M.



Basketball: Sporting News pegs Bears at No. 13

Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News, who knows his stuff, has projected the Bears as the nation’s No. 13 team entering next season.

Heady stuff for a program that finished in a three-way tie for eighth place in the Pac-12 last season and did not participate in the postseason.

DeCourcy notes that Cal has three double-figure scorers returning in the backcourt — Tyrone Wallace, Jordan Mathews and Jabari Bird. “Elite recruit Jaylen Brown is better than all of them,” he writes. “McDonald’s All-American Ivan Rabb was one of the most coveted frontcourt recruits.”

But DeCourcy also points out, “What’s worrisome about the Bears is how truly mediocre with a fairly solid roster last season. We’re supposed to be excited about Jordan, Mathews and Bird returning, but they’re returning from a team that lost six of its final eight games and barely competed in two losses to Arizona.”

Here’s The Sporting News’ entire top-25:

1. Kansas; 2. Maryland; 3. North Carolina; 4. Kentucky; 5. Duke; 6. Virginia; 7. Iowa State; 8. Arizona; 9. Wichita State; 10. Gonzaga; 11. Oklahoma; 12. Villanova; 13. Cal; 14. North Carolina State; 15. Indiana; 16. West Virginia; 17. Cincinnati; 18. Michigan; 19. Oregon; 20. Wisconsin; 21. Florida State; 22. Butler; 23. Michigan State; 24. LSU; 25. Xavier.


Basketball: Bears skid to No. 120 in latest RPI

No surprise here, but the news continues to be bad for Cal in the latest official NCAA RPI computer ratings.

The Bears are No. 120 in the rankings, ninth-best in the Pac-12 and about 70 spots away from reasonable consideration for NCAA tournament at-large entry.

Here’s the complete list of Pac-12 teams:
6. Arizona
11. Utah
27. Stanford
53. Washington
67. UCLA
80. Colorado
89. Oregon State
93. Oregon
120. Cal
123. Washington State
135. USC
142. Arizona State


Basketball: Strengh of schedule sinks Cal’s RPI

At 9-1, Cal is among 11 teams nationwide with the best records (minimum 10 games).

At the top is Kentucky, 11-0, top-ranked all season in the AP and, finally, according to RealTimeRPI.com.

Where do the Bears reside on the list ranked by the computer?

Not particularly high. At No. 95 in the RPI, Cal is 10th among those 11 teams, ahead of only Notre Dame, whose 10-1 record is good for a No. 143 RPI rank.

The key variable, of course, is strength of schedule. And Cal’s is weak: No. 274.

But that’s about to change. The Bears face Eastern Washington (No. 41 RPI) on Friday, then take on Wisconsin (No. 17) on Monday. Win or lose, merely playing those teams will elevate the Bears in the computer rankings.

If they get a split, better still.

If they sweep, expect a huge leap.

Here’s how the 11 teams with the best record after a minimum 10 games sit in the RPI ratings:

1. Kentucky 11-0 (No. 5 strength of schedule).

6. Arizona 10-0 (49)

14. Villanova 10-0 (73)

17. Wisconsin 10-1 (36)

26. Northern Iowa 9-1 (113)

36. West Virginia 9-1 (102)

38. Maryland 10-1 (94)

44. Miami 10-1 (162)

73. TCU 10-0 (291)

95. Cal 9-1 (274)

143. Notre Dame 10-1 (322)