California's Jorge Gutierrez (2) and Oregon St.'s Jared Cunningham (1) encountered each other often in the first game this season between the Golden Bears and the Beavers. Gutierrez had a game high 26 points, but Cunningham got 24 points, and Oregon St. got the 92-85 win. Expect both to be in the thick of things again Saturday when the teams rematch. (Photo by Andy Wooldridge)
As the Oregon St. Beavers head across the Bay to Berkeley for the rematch with the California Golden Bears tomorrow night, we wanted to share what California Golden Blogs had to say about some things we were wondering about, and update them on the Beavers as well.
What did it mean to the Bears to finally get that sweep of LA?
NorCalNick: Honestly, it would've been a much bigger deal a few years ago - before Cal broke their 50 year title drought, and before Ben Howland somehow managed to kill a budding Bruin juggernaut. If it weren't for the names on the jersey it would've been just another road trip.
Still, sweeping UCLA is a good, good feeling for Cal fans. The USC sweep is kinda incidental to everything else, but taking two from the Bruins while Cal is competing for a conference title - and knowing that UCLA is NIT bound (or worse) . . . that's a new experience for Cal fans.
LeonPowe: It seems like Monty has been helping to at least erase decades of bad to mediocre results - while it isn't as vexing as losing to UCLA for a super long streak (ended by beating a Reggie Miller UCLA team in '85) it's nice to erase that off our record. Plus its a lot of fun for the large percentage of LA kids at Cal and on the team (Crabbe, Solomon, Cobbs).
This Saturday is the last home game ever for Jorge Gutierrez and Harper Kamp. Is this going to be an impossible situation for Oregon St.? Or given that the Beavers seem of have matched up well against California (see earlier this season in Corvallis; oh that's right, you didn't see that), is there a possibility of the Bears getting so emotionally wrapped up in everything that they don't focus, and an upset becomes a real possibility?
NorCalNick: OSU scares me, but I don't think the senior day aspect will make much of a difference either way. I think there's a good chance that the crowd will be larger and louder than usual because these are a couple of guys that deserve a strong send-off. It's true that Jorge is the type of player that can occasionally let his emotions get the better of him, but that emotion is usually anger and frustration aimed at the opponent as opposed to anything he'd be feeling because of senior day.
LeonPowe: If it were another player - maybe, but having follow Jorge for the last four years, I don't see it happening. Or State presents matchup problems for us to be sure, but we're a pretty good home team and have been excellent defending Haas under Monty, I see the possibility as quite slim.
Both Jared Cunningham and Ahmad Starks shot things up the first time, and the 1-2 punch was more than Jorge could match single handedly. What does Monty plan to do differently this time to control the Beavers' guards?
NorCalNick: That's hard to answer in part because I'm not really sure what Cal tried to do the first time. I actually think that Cunningham might not be the best matchup for Jorge, if only because Cunningham is so good at drawing fouls and Cal has to have Jorge on the court. I wouldn't mind seeing a quicker Justin Cobbs trying to stay in front of Cunningham, but I think the key to defending him is good help defense on the interior that can contest his drives without fouling him. Easier said than done, and I wish Richard Solomon was eligible to help out.
Cunningham will get his points - the key is to prevent a secondary guy like Starks to go off.
LeonPowe: We'll need more help from Cobbs and Crabbe and Smith on the defensive end for sure, but seeing as how I didn't see the game last time, I'm not sure what we did in Corvallis anyways.
Speaking of Jorge, how do California fans feel about the, shall we say, lack of respect he gets in some quarters around the conference (Corvallis not being one of them)?
NorCalNick: Woe be unto he who doesn't respect Jorge, for he will smite thee with his deathly glare!
Honestly, I think how people feel about Jorge is an interesting litmus test for how they view basketball. He obviously doesn't have the type of elite athleticism, handles or shot that force you to respect him. And so much of what he does doesn't really show up in the box score. I try to focus on the stats when I evaluate players but he's a guy that doesn't lend himself to easy evaluation.
But if Cal wins the regular season title he'll be the only player who played meaningful minutes for both Cal title squads. That speaks volumes.
LeonPowe: I think around the Pac, people respect him. They may not like his aggression, but they respect him. I don't see it as an issue.
We know the hope at Cal is for a regular season championship and a Pac-12 Tournament championship, and that's not unreasonable. But with 3 road games left, and given that the conference is quite competitive, if not terribly talented, this year, what are the tempered expectations of "realistic" Bear fans? If the Bears get to the NCAAs, can they get to the second weekend? What happens if the Bears get relegated to the NIT?
NorCalNick: Realistically? Cal fans would, I think, be incredibly disappointed with anything less than a split of the title. I think fans would be realistic in assessing why it might not happen (lack of depth, UW getting hot, etc.) but it wouldn't lessen the blow.
Tourney wise it'll all depend on seeds and matchups. If Cal gets a 7-10 seed then one win would be pretty nice. If Cal falls to an 11 or rises to a 6, then maybe they'll face teams they can beat. But few fans are using the NCAA tournament as a measuring stick of a successful season, other than getting there in the first place.
LeonPowe: No doubt the NIT would be a disappointment, but it's a realistic scenario. We can make the second weekend in the NCAAs or lose in the first. This team isn't deep or talented enough to overcome a bad matchup, and the committee has saddled us with some really bad ones in the last decade. But I like our chances against some teams too.
Again speaking of Jorge, and Harper, have Bear fans come to grips with these guys moving on? Or will there be a day some time in the future when a feeling of DOOOOOOMMMMM suddenly hits?
NorCalNick: Monty is such a great coach and has enough returning talent that nobody expects a collapse to the bottom half of the conference in 2012. But Harper and Jorge have been such great Bears that there's a sense of urgency amongst Cal fans on their behalf. They deserve a conference title and a trip to the dance before they leave.
But Allen Crabbe, Justin Cobbs, David Kravish and an eligible Richard Solomon should be enough of a nucleus that Cal is at least considered a dark horse contender in a still-not-all-the-way-back Pac-12 next year. I hope!
LeonPowe: I'm trying to pretend its not happening.
NorCalNick: Phew, I almost answered that above! I think so. I don't think you replace the intangible leadership of a Jorge Gutierrez or a Harper Kamp, but I think Cobbs and Crabbe (left) are both at least talented enough to replace their production. I suppose some will argue that the team might lack 'toughness,' but that's a pretty hard thing to quantify. I don't think Monty has ever failed to field a team that is tough, so it's not something I worry about too much.
LeonPowe: I think for Cobbs it will be natural transition especially from the point guard role. We hope Crabbe will do so as well, and not just lead through his scoring and talent.
How do the Bears feel about freshman David Kravish's season and his progress?
NorCalNick: Generally we feel pretty great about what he's done. I certainly don't think many fans expected him to average 23 minutes. If he didn't come into college ready, or if he picked up Monty's system slowly, Cal would have been screwed when Richard Solomon became ineligible. David has done much better than I anticipated filling Solomon's role as a rebounder and he's a pretty solid interior defender for someone so thin.
What do you make of the less than wall to wall TV coverage of what has been a pretty spectacular year for the Bears? It's not like the Warriors and the Kings are playing such great ball. Is there a marketing problem with Cal basketball, or a Comcast California problem? (I'm betting on the latter, but I wonder if that's fact or perception.)
NorCalNick: Many Cal fans haven't been happy about how Cal sports have been marketed generally, but I think the basketball program has done reasonably well. And it's not like they should have to try really hard to get fans to come out and watch this team.
The lack of TV coverage I blame completely on Tom Hansen, but thankfully that will soon be a relic of the past. Attendance-wise, I think Cal in particular has been hurt by the Pac-12 being so down, and we're still recovering from the Ben Braun malaise. But things are slowly turning around, and there have been a few great crowds this season for big conference games.
How is the California crew team looking this year? In light of football and football recruiting seasons, will there be deck guns and mines deployed when Washington's boats come down to the bay this spring?
NorCalNick: The men have been thisclose to beating the dreaded Huskies over the past few years. I can't say if the latest football drama adds any extra motivation, but maybe it will encourage a few more Cal fans to show up for the Pac-12 title race in Sacramento this year!
Thanks, guys! Looking forward to an interesting evening at Haas!
(Photos by Andy Wooldridge)