Before we tip-off tomorrow night's game, we decided to get a little Pre-Game chat going with California Golden Blogs, the SB Nation California blog. We asked TwistNHook, LeonPowe, and Kodiak some questions about tomorrow's game, and his responses are below. To see my answers to CGB's questions, click here. Enjoy!
Q. Who has been the best player so far the Golden Bears? Who should Beaver fans be looking out for?
A. LeonPowe: I think Junior PF/C Harper Kamp has been the most consistent, steady performer. I don't know if he's really a player to be feared though - he'll put in 15 points and 9 boards with smart, heady and physical play, but he's not really a player to look out for. As a freshman, Alan Crabbe has been up and down - but trending up quite a bit in the last few games, and he has the potential to drop 30 on a team. But as a frosh, expecting him to do so every game would be folly.
Kodiak: Kamp has been the most consistent. Markhuri Sanders-Frison has also been really solid in the low post. Jorge Gutierrez is a defensive pest, but his offense comes and goes. If Crabbe is lighting it up, life is good.
Q. Cal has had a couple great wins (Temple, Washington State), but they have also looked horrible at some points. What has been the main issue?
A. LeonPowe: Youth youth youth and lack of depth. We have a horrible turnover issue with a point guard by committee which had up until now been manned by a defensive specialist energy shooting guard with a loose handle, a now-transfered shoot first, shoot middle, shoot last scoring guard and a true point guard who, may not be quiet up to the standards of a starting, everyday Pac-10 point guard.
With the middle player (Gary Franklin) now transferring to Baylor, the last player (Brandon Smith) has settled into the starting position - and played superbly - maybe not shutting up his critics entirely, but he has been able to at least be more of a positive than a negative for the Bears at that position.
We are also super thing at all positions, going maybe 4 deep off the bench (Solomon, Bak Bak at the bigs and Murray and Carter at the back-court) - and honestly, only really Solomon has been a game to game contributor, and he's a freshman who has lots of bright spots, but has looked occasionally lost too. Kodiak: Youth. Earlier in the year, the guys would abandon the offense in favor of quick shots. They're starting to buy in on defense and be more patient running the offense. We have a solid low post game, but our best outside shooter (Crabbe) is a true frosh. Growing pains.
Q. Adding on to the last question, the Golden Bears have had a few awful halves of basketball this season, including a five point first half against Notre Dame. What was the main problem in those stretches, and what can the Beavers do to make it happen again?
A: LeonPowe: Turnovers, inability to shoot or create scoring opportunities. The way the Beavers can make it happen would be to leave the court for 20 minutes. Yeah, that's the ticket. Actually, you probably won't have to do anymore than play that 1-3-1 zone. With 4 seniors we couldn't figure it out last year. I don't think we'll do much better this year.
Kodiak: Strangely enough, we've played decently against zones, but have trouble with really fundamentally executed man to man...especially if there are bigs with some size/length/athleticism to make it tough on Kamp/MSF. Because our team only has 1 really good 3-pt shooter, they're pretty good about working it inside/out against a zone. Because your 1-3-1 is what you hang your hat on, it's going to be a contest between our inexperienced guards/wings passing ability and your defensive skills. If we turn it over all day, you'll be really happy.
Q. What must happen for California to make the postseason?
A. LeonPowe: Win at home, split on the road. We'll probably get swept by UW and Arizona, so we'll need to pick up a couple of road games - but if we keep staying in games like we are, we'll be NIT bound.
Kodiak: Win out at home, split on the road. Honestly, we're doing better than I would have imagined. Probably NIT-bound at this point.
We are also super thing at all positions, going maybe 4 deep off the bench (Solomon, Bak Bak at the bigs and Murray and Carter at the back-court) - and honestly, only really Solomon has been a game to game contributor, and he's a freshman who has lots of bright spots, but has looked occasionally lost too.
Kodiak: Youth. Earlier in the year, the guys would abandon the offense in favor of quick shots. They're starting to buy in on defense and be more patient running the offense. We have a solid low post game, but our best outside shooter (Crabbe) is a true frosh. Growing pains.
Rest of the Q&A after the breakQ. In regard to Allen Crabbe, when the Bears get him the ball on the move, and he has the option to go to the hoop or pull up and shoot, he's almost uncontrollable. But after seeing the Cal-Washington game, I noticed that he almost disappeared at times when the Huskies denied him the pass. What can we expect him to do, and more importantly what will Coach Montgomery do to still get him involved?
A. LeonPowe: My hope is that we'll install some Reggie Miller/Rip Hamilton like sets where Crabbe runs off 2-3 picks in order to free himself up. One of the biggest criticisms of Crabbe (and justified in my opinion) is that he just isn't assertive and aggressive enough. As our most talented player, he needs to realize that we're only going as far as he'll take us, and sometimes, that will mean freelancing, pulling up on a heat check or forcing it against a double team.
Kodiak: He's a true frosh, but he's a smart player. He's already noticed that if you play him tight, physical, and deny him the ball, that you can shut him down. He knows he needs to be more aggressive. After being locked down for most of the game against UCLA, he didn't let the same thing happen against USC. Monty is pretty savvy, too. He'll run Crabbe off staggered screens or call plays for him on inbounds plays. At home and against a zone, I'd expect Crabbe to hit his share of 3's.
Q. Which newcomer has had the biggest impact for the Golden Bears?
A. LeonPowe: Kamp - not really a new-comer, but he's been hurt the last two years. Kamp and Crabbe.
Kodiak: Crabbe. He's the first frosh since Ryan Anderson to score 30 in a game. The cool/scary thing is that I don't think he's figured out how good he is yet.
Q. Did you guys lose anyone from last year's team, and if so, were they key player(s)?
A. LeonPowe: Just a few guys. You know, Pac-10 player of the Year Jerome Randle (and Cal's all time scoring leader). First team All Pac-10 shooting guard Patrick Christopher. 2nd team All-Pac-10 player and glue guy Jamal Boykin. Cal team MVP and another glue guy (and dead-eye 3 point shooter) Theo Robertson. Also, Nikola Kenezvic who looked just like Micheal Cera. And Max Zhang (went pro in China). And DJ Seeley (transfer) and Omondi Amoke (another transfer) - so from our top 10 players last year we return just two (Guttierez and Sanders-Frison).
Kodiak: Seriously? Soooo...Besides Pac-10 POY Jerome Randle, team MVP Theo Robertson, all-Pac-10 Performers Patrick Christopher and Jamal Boykin...Four seniors who accounted for 90+ % of our scoring/rebounding/assists...nah. Didn't lose anyone important.
Q. Predictions for the game?
LeonPowe: U-G-L-Y. But Cal pulls out a defensive barn burner - 43-38
Kodiak: Ugly game...which is your fault. Deliberate offense + 1-3-1 zone creates an eye-bleed of a game. But, it's at home...I think we take you thanks to friendly rims.