Cal Basketball: Can the Golden Bears Dance Again This March?


Last year, after an inconsistent start, the California Golden Bears men’s basketball team finished the regular season with two wins against Oregon and Oregon State (both top 25 teams) and one win against Arizona. California’s strong end to the season earned them a berth in the NCAA tournament, where they lost to Syracuse in the third round of the East Region 66-60. Because of the Golden Bear’s success in the 2012-2013 season, fans are wondering if there’s any possibility of making it to the NCAA tournament again at the end of this season. For those wondering, yes, it is definitely possible. In fact, it’s quite likely. Here’s why.

The Golden Bears will come as close as possible to replacing Allen Cobbe.

California will be playing without 2012 Pac-12 Player of the Year Allen Crabbe. Crabbe, who was drafted as a first pick of the second round of the NBA draft, averaged 18.4 points per game. Being 6-foot-6 gave him size, and his ability to shoot the three pointer helped stretch the defense of other teams. It will be tough to fill his shows. That being said, coach Mike Montgomery accepted the challenge of replacing Crabbe, and may have done quite well.

April 3, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; McDonald’s All American guard Jabari Bird (23) poses for portraits before the 36th McDonalds All American Games to be played at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

I don’t think a single player on the team will replace Crabbe, but Montgomery was able to recruit Jabari Bird. Bird, who will be a freshman this season, was ranked number 23 out of all the incoming freshman in NCAA basketball this season, according to ESPN. We could see big things from him this year. Justin Cobbs will also be returning this season. Cobbs averaged 15.1 points per game last season and almost five assists. Cobbs should be better this season; he’s improved every year he’s played college ball. If Jabari Bird lives up to the hype and Cobbs plays even better this season, the Golden Bears will have a solid starting backcourt.

The Golden Bears will have size down low.

The starting front court looks to be talented this year—and big. The first post player I’ll talk about is David Kravish, the 6-foot-9 junior. Last season, Kravish averaged almost eight points per game, almost seven rebounds per game and almost two blocks per game. The one place Kravish has gotten criticism is his ability to hold his position in the paint. As a result, it hurt his ability to finish around the rim. In the offseason, Kravish put on some weight (as in muscle), so he shouldn’t have as much of a problem with this (if he does at all) as he did in past seasons. This will result in even better numbers than last year.

The next starting big man is Richard Solomon. Solomon is a 6-foot-10 senior who averaged almost nine points per game and seven rebounds per game last season. He is expected to be our best defender this year. His height will prove to be tough to deal with, and he’s also very athletic  According to Justin Cobb, Solomon has been working on his post moves and has a 40-inch vertical leap. Solomon could be a tough force to deal with inside. The main thing, for Solomon to do, is try to stick more to a post game. He has some perimeter skills, but he needs to remain selective about using it. As a senior, I will expect him to be smart enough to do just that.

March 23, 2013; San Jose, CA, USA; California Golden Bears forward Richard Solomon (35) grabs a rebound against the Syracuse Orange during the second half of the third round of the NCAA basketball tournament at HP Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The final big guy I’m going to talk about is Kameron Rooks. I don’t know much about Rooks. He’s an incoming Freshman this year. I do know, however, that he is related to former NBA player Sean Rooks. I’m going to expect good play from Kameron Rooks and not just because his dad was an NBA player. I’m going to expect good things from him because at 7 feet, he will be California’s only true center. California doesn’t have a ton of depth in the post, so Rooks will see playing time this year. He reportedly is a good passer and has a good basketball IQ. Rooks has worked hard to get in shape. Hopefully he’ll keep working hard throughout the season because if he does, he could have a huge impact on the court.

The Pac-12 will be a tough conference this year.

This seems counterintuitive. After all, wouldn’t it be better if California has a good team in a weak league? Not necessarily. For example, let’s say the Pac-12 was going to be weak and Arizona was the only really good team California was going to face in their conference. If California doesn’t either get a win against them during the season or win the Pac-12 tournament, it would make things very difficult come tournament selection time. The Selection Committee likes to select teams that can beat other top teams.

With a good team and plenty of other good teams in the conference, there’s no way California won’t be able to pick up key wins that will look good in the eyes of the Selection Committee. One thing to note is California is not expected to win their conference. NBC Sports predicts the California Golden Bears will finish fifth. Who will finish ahead of California? That would be Arizona, Oregon, Colorado, and UCLA. Not to worry, though, because halfway through last season, few thought the Golden Bears had a chance to make it to NCAA tournament. They still did. This year they’re expected to do good in a tough conference. Don’t be surprised if they outperform again this season.