As we get ready for Saturday's game against California on "Gary Payton Night", which will be the only meeting this season between the beavers and the Bears, we got together with Nick and Leon from down at California Golden Blogs, the best Bear site there is, to get a scouting report.
Thanks, guys for taking time to get Beaver fans up to speed.
1. Looking at the stats, it appears that Justin Cobbs is scoring but still dishing out assists, Richard Solomon is rebounding and still scoring, David Kravish is complementing both of them, and Tyrone Wallace seems to be gradually improving and settling into better production as time goes by. Looks like a typical solid Coach Mike Montgomery team. Have I missed anything really significant?
Nick Kranz: The biggest development is the injuries to Jabari Bird and Ricky Kreklow. Bird is the single highest rated recruit Monty has brought to Cal, and he's a potential big scorer. Kreklow is Monty's glue guy, and he provides lots of flexibility in terms of what kind of defense Cal can play. Without those two, there's lots of pressure on the 4 main guys you listed above to not have an off game.
Leon Powe: The biggest issue is the two guys you didn't list. Freshman Jabari Bird and Junior Ricky Kreklow. Both guys are out with injuries for an undisclosed amount of time. Bird is the first five star Cal recruit since Leon Powe (the real Leon Powe, not the CGB poster) and looks to be a future Pac-12 scoring champ, and Ricky Kreklow was a guy who brought a lot of intangibles - also a good outside shooter and another scoring wing.
2. Monty seems to have already shortened his bench; a lot of the box scores look like stretch season & post season ones, in that the the big name players are all logging major minutes. Any concerns about wearing anyone out?
Nick Kranz: Probably, yes. As I noted above, Cal needs to get Bird and Kreklow back healthy and not suffer any more injuries. Otherwise it's a choice between running the starters ragged or playing freshmen more minutes than they are necessarily ready for.
Leon Powe: I'm actually not that sure this holds true this season. Monty, for the first time in forever is playing a lot of freshmen a lot of minutes. And going deeper on his bench then he ever has. Guys like Jeff Powers (3 point specialist), Christian Behrens (european forward), Sam Singer (freshman point guard), Jordan Matthews (freshman swingman) and Kam Rooks (freshman center) are getting a lot more minutes this year than I've seen Monty give out to his bench players before.
3. And in that vein, prior to this weekend, the Bears had only played 7 games in about 6 weeks. Any concerns about going from about 1 game a week to the Pac-12 conference schedule grind? And in case of foul trouble, or injury/illness, who off the Bear bench should we be watching for?
Nick Kranz: I don't think there's any major concern - the veterans know what they're doing. But in terms of foul trouble, absolutely it's about Richard Solomon and David Kravish. Cal only has one other true post player on the bench, and that's freshman Kameron Rooks. Simply speaking, Cal can't win games against good teams without Richard Solomon and David Kravish playing at least 30 minutes each. They are the two players that make Cal a good defensive team and they keep the offense balanced. If OSU can get one or both in foul trouble it goes a long way towards beating Cal.
Leon Powe: The bench I mentioned above - the main guys I'd look for are Jordan Matthews who has the ability to really score a lot of buckets at once (although he's been quite off lately) and Jeff Powers (who can shoot and showed some surprising defense skills against Stanford).
4. Did Cal get what they needed out of their pre-season? Other than a better showing in Hawaii, what would you have liked to have seen go differently during the first 2 months of the season?
Nick Kranz: If I could change two things about Cal's non-conference performance I'd have Richard Solomon not have to miss the last two games in Maui with an eye abrasion and I'd have Cal not have their worst performance in a road loss to UCSB. Solomon's injury really hurt Cal against Syracuse and Dayton, two opportunities for high value resume wins. The UCSB loss wasn't a total shock considering the quality of the Gauchos and playing on the road, but it was still probably the worst performance of the year and the one Cal wants back the most.
5. This is the only time the Oregon and Bay Area teams will see each other this season, due to the Pac-12 conference schedule rotation. Do you think there should be any "protected" matchups other than the local rivalry games? Or divisions for basketball like there is for football?
Nick Kranz: I guess not. Personally I'll be annoyed when Cal only gets to play UCLA and USC once, because I look forward to those games. But between the 18 game schedule and the Pac-12 tournament I won't feel too deprived. That's partly why I prefer basketball to football - more than twice as many conference games to enjoy!
6. We're chatting before the Bears meet a top 10 opponent in Oregon Thursday night. That's the "bigger" game of the weekend. Any concerns, win OR lose, about that game carrying over and distracting from the game Saturday evening against the Beavers? What does Monty do to deal with these kind of inevitable challenges?
Nick Kranz: Oregon would be the bigger win to get, but Oregon State will be the more important game in the likely reality of a loss in Eugene. I don't think Cal will do anything but approach OSU with total focus, and if Monty is worried about it all he has to do is point out how closely the Beavers played Cal in each game last year, when the Beavers easily could have swept Cal with a few difference bounces.
7. What concerns you most about the game against Oregon St.? What's the biggest key that if it happens gives you the most confidence that a California win will follow?
Nick Kranz: My biggest concern is Roberto Nelson going off. More specifically, I'm worried about his ability to draw a ton of fouls. I'm assuming Tyrone Wallace will get the assignment, but there's only so much you can do to prevent him from getting into the lane. Solomon and Kravish are both good shot-blockers, but the line between a blocked shot and a foul are always thin.
What gives me confidence? I'm confident that Cal's main scorers are coming off of encouraging performances that they should be able to repeat against a questionable OSU defense. I don't want Cal to have to simply outscore Nelson and his compatriots, but I think Cal can do it if they have to.
Leon Powe: What concerns me? You guys have had our number the past few years despite some talent differences. Just one of those things - even though this year's team is quite different from last years and the year before - you guys have been able to really get us.
Thanks, again, guys! Saturday should be interesting.