California Golden Bears
Overall Rank: #27
Conference Rank: #2 Pac-12
California Team Page
2010-11: 18-15, 10-8
2010-11 postseason: NIT
Coach: Mike Montgomery (64-37 at California, 611-281 overall)
Few expected much from California last season. They had lost a ton of talent, but Coach Mike Montgomery pulled his team together with tough defense and opportunistic play. The Golden Bears did not make the NCAA Tournament, but they did earn a trip to the NIT. With Jorge Gutierrez leading what is now a very experienced squad, Cal will be back in the postseason tournament of choice. Gutierrez is not the most athletic player around. Nor is he the best shooter. However, he is truly the heart and soul of this team. Nobody will hustle more than Gutierrez. But he is not all hustle and defense; he can score and distribute as well. The 6-3 senior led the Golden Bears with 14.6 points, 4.5 assists and 1.6 steals. His hard-nosed style of play is a coach’s dream and contagious.
There are a few holes to replace this year. Markhuri Sanders-Frison was the starting center last season and averaged 10.9 points and a team high 7.4 rebounds. Both his interior scoring and rebounding will be missed and replacing his production is really the only question that this Cal team has left. Gary Franklin was the point guard, but he left the program in January and the Golden Bears managed to do just fine without him. Nigel Carter also missed most of last season and is replaceable.
The talented group of newcomers will give Coach Montgomery some much needed depth. This group may also give Cal a new point guard. Justin Cobbs, a transfer from Minnesota, is a big, strong floor leader who can do plenty of scoring on his own. Raffi Chalian and Rob Filley will also look for minutes in the backcourt, but it is Cobbs who will make an impact this season. Alex Rossi redshirted last season and is a smooth shooting 6-6 wing. If his shooting skills carry over into the Pac-12, he will be a nice option off of the bench. Even if his shot is not falling, Rossi is a very good defender. Christian Behrens is not the bruising forward this team needs to replace Sanders-Frison, but he is a decent scorer facing the basket. David Kravish is the more traditional power forward who can come in and play some solid defense and grab some rebounds. However, both need to add some strength before they will be major contributors.
Who to Watch:
Replacing Sanders-Frison will be the key for Cal’s success this season. Harper Kamp is a fine big man who developed into a great interior scorer last season. He averaged 14.2 points per contest and can step outside and knock down the mid-range jumper with consistency. For a 6-8, 245 pound forward, he is even very good at staying on the floor. He has the endurance and the intelligence to play 35 minutes per game. However, he is not a particularly strong rebounder and he has been known to suffer through some injury problems and the Bears cannot afford to have him miss a significant amount of time. Coach Montgomery expects better things from sophomore Richard Solomon. Solomon is a big body, but he does not have much of a back-to-the-basket game. That needs to change if he hopes to replace Sanders-Frison. Bak Bak is another youngster who should be able to fill in more minutes this season. Robert Thurman can add some emergency depth in the paint, but if the walk-on sees too many minutes, the frontcourt is probably really banged up and in deep trouble.
Allen Crabbe will join Gutierrez on the wing after having a superb freshman campaign. The 6-6 sophomore averaged 13.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists during his first season in Berkeley. He is a huge reason why Cal overachieved last season and a year older and wiser means the sharpshooter should be even better. Emerson Murray and Jeff Powers will look to provide some quality minutes backing up Crabbe and Gutierrez. The man who saved the team last year was point guard Brandon Smith. Unlike Cobbs who can score and create his own shots, Smith is a true point guard. He is a very efficient shooter and emerged as a capable ball handler and a fine floor leader. His lack of offensive production may relegate him back to backup duty, but at least this team knows they have a player ready to come in and run the show whenever he is needed.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Brandon Smith, Junior, Guard, 6.4 points per game
Jorge Gutierrez, Senior, Guard, 14.6 points per game
Allen Crabbe, Sophomore, Guard, 13.4 points per game
Harper Kamp, Senior, Forward, 14.2 points per game
Richard Solomon, Sophomore, Forward, 5.6 points per game
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