#42 California Women's Basketball Preview

California Golden Bears

Overall Rank: #42
Conference Rank: #5 Pac-12
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It’s a new era in Berkeley. Lindsey Gottlieb is taking over the coaching duties from longtime coach Joanne Boyle who left to return to her East Coast roots and take over the reins from Debbie Ryan as the new head coach at Virginia. Gottlieb had a successful three year run at UC Santa Barbara with a couple of NCAA Tournament appearances. She understands the challenges of working within the University of California system. The Golden Bears had a tough go last season, scratching out a WNIT berth and making it to the second round thus ending a run of trips to the NCAA Tournament that included a trip to the Sweet 16 in the 2008-09 season.  

2010-11: 18-16, 7-11
2010-11 Post Season: NCAA
Coach: Lindsey Gottlieb (0-0 at California, 56-39 overall)

Who’s Out:
Coach Boyle had resurrected the Cal program to prominence with very tough teams that would battle you tooth and nail for everything you got. The loss of Denesha Stallworth, the All-Pac 10 team post player, will be a significant one as she led the Bears in scoring last season and was a very strong physical presence down in the low blocks for the Golden Bears.

Who’s In:
A loaded freshman class comes to Strawberry Canyon led by Justine Hartman and Erika Johnson from Seattle. Hartman is rated as the number two post player in the nation and was a huge get once convinced not go to UCLA after Nikki Caldwell had left Westwood.  Rashanda Gray and Brittany Boyd anchor a top 5 nationally rated class according to ESPN and HoopGurlz. Also, it should be noted that there are no seniors on this year’s roster making the Bears one of the youngest teams in the country.

Who to Watch:
The play of Lindsey Sherbert, who was an All-Pac-10 Freshman Team selection in 2010-11, will be big for Cal this season. She is going to be an anchor in the backcourt as a sophomore. She was fourth on the team in scoring at 8.1 points per game and made 32 starts in 34 games last season. Another player to watch will be junior, Talia Caldwell, who will be counted on heavily early on to pick up the scoring and rebounding slack after the loss of Denesha Stallworth. Also, the ball handling of Layshia Clarendon and Eliza Pierre are going to be critical. The Bears last year had just 407 assists to 581 turnovers as a team. Those numbers have to improve for the Bears to shoot back up the ranks of the Pac-12 conference.

Final Projection:
The key for the Bears is going to be improving their ability to score the basketball in 2011-12.  Last year, they scored just 62.9 points per game and that is not enough in a conference like the Pac-12. The defense held teams to just under 40 percent shooting and 60.7 points per game, which is good. If they can keep it in that neighborhood this year they will be in the top half of the Pac-12 conference.

The schedule has an interesting twist as California will take on Coach Boyle’s Virginia squad in a preseason tourney in Hawaii around Thanksgiving time.  As with any coaching change, there will be an interesting transition to see how long it will take for the players to buy into Coach Gottlieb and her coaching style. However, there is too much talent from the freshman class and a culture of winning leftover from Coach Boyle for a return to the NCCA Tournament not to be in Golden Bear’s future.  

Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA

Projected Starting Five:
Lindsey Sherbert, Sophomore, Guard, 8.1 points per game
Layshia Clarendon, Junior, Guard, 13.2 points per game
Eliza Pierre, Junior, Guard, 6.4 points per game
Justine Hartman, Freshman, Forward, DNP last season
Talia Caldwell, Junior, Center, 9.4 points per game