Category Archives: Cal

PacHoops Two-A-Days: The Bay Schools (Cal & Stanford)

We’re finally previewing the Pac-12. This week, the last before games actually tip, I’ll post two previews of travel mates (i.e. UW and WSU will appear in the same post) and, in the interest of being fully prepared for Friday’s hoop joy, I’ll post two-a-day. Thus the title. Although it’s 4 previews-a-day. Regardless. Enjoy. (Other school previews)

California Preview


We’re entering year three with Cuonzo which is his average tenure. He stayed three years at Missouri State before earning a Sweet Sixteen and a ticket to Knoxville where petitions were started to oust him. The people demand Bruce Pearl! And now we’re here. He’s got an outbound lottery pick, a four-year-five-star, a Columbia grad transfer, and Marcus Lee on the bench. His athletic department has significant deficits but Cuonzo got a contract. Alas, that’s a grim outline for what’s generally viewed as a promising season. The Bears were picked to finish 4th this season and, despite my run down, all can’t be bad in Berkeley (I have friends that live there!).

Last season on “Everybody Love Cuonzo”

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California Golden Bears Basketball Preview: Cuonzo’s Guards

We never really ever talked about the Cuonzo hire. So, for the record, it was a great parting gift from Sandy Barbour. This partnership is mutually beneficial in that Cal gets a coach, fresh off a Sweet Sixteen who is young and hungry and has proven he can win. For Martin, he gets himself into a situation where he’s actually wanted. That’s right, Bruce Pearl and Tennessee fans seemingly had a Gone Girl relationship. There were FIRE CUONZO petitions with upwards of 20K signatures. No thanks and Bruce wound up at Auburn. So Cuonzo got himself a cozy pad in Berkeley and a decent roster, too. One concern: they say the Bay Area can make you soft. Cuonzo’s teams play hard. Time will tell.

Why I Love Them:

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Cal Doing Big things with Improved Richard

The Golden Bears of Cal have jumped out to a 4-0 conference record. Three of those wins are on the road and I love road victories. I also love getting swept up in momentum and the promise of what could be despite a slight sample set. Hey, getting lost in the moment is part of being a fan. Beautiful, right?

But there might be something bigger than just a moment or momentum to what these Bears are doing. It might be worth thinking about it because:

Alas, we could have a full conversation about Gottlieb but that not the point although I think he did have a point with regards to their team.

I love Cal’s lineup and I said as much in October. Veterans, youth, big, small, shooters, bangers, these Bears have pieces that can do some of everything. The only question was would they show up? Namely, would Richard Solomon please stand up? He has.

Solomon has the eighth highest DR% in the nation – an increase of more than eight percentage points from last season. He’s improved his eFG% by more than 20% (48.1% to 58%). And he’s decreased the number of fouls he commits extrapolated across 40 minutes by 27% (5.2 down to 3.8). As I’ve said before, the immediacy of graduation can be a confidence stimulator.

And if tempo-free isn’t your thing, Solomon is averaging a double-double each night on the court (12/10) which naturally are both career-highs. And speaking of double-doubles, he’s recorded six of them this season. In 79 career games prior to this year’s 15 games, he recorded just two. To pile on, he’s doubled the number of basketballs he steals per game.

I also see it as no coincidence that amongst Cal’s four losses, Solomon didn’t play in two of them and in the other two he posted his worst and third worst ORtg games. Did I mention he’s improved his ORtg by 8%? Dick Solo is doing work.

Richard Solomon Tommy BoyFurthermore, if you’ve paid attention to the blog, you’d know I have something of a crush on It’s where I got to learn about things like:

  • Does [player] really hit that many jumpers?
  • What does “protecting the rim” really mean?
  • Where do babies come from?
  • How does [team] beat [team]? Or vice versa?
  • How do I appear as cool as Bond, popular as Gosling, and get JLaw’s attention?

Very important site that allows me to create awesome charts that my friend Jamie hates and others seem to like (tangent). What I mostly love about hoop-math is that it allows us to understand the obvious. More succinctly, it confirms our hypotheses that things like “taking more shots at the rim will increase your offensive efficiency.” Which is indeed a theory of mine and one of the first things I check when examining a player or team’s improvement or otherwise.

Well to this point we’ve discussed the gross improvement of a certain Cal Golden Center to which I present Exhibit Solomon:

Richard SolomonFirst, and to be honest, I’m still refining my Excel game so bear with me as our X-axis is devoid context (it’s last three seasons). Secondly, notice the correlation between Solomon’s shots at the rim (yellow) and that same season’s ORtg (navy). When he’s around the basket he’s more effective. Solomon is putting up the highest offensive rating of his career (apologies that hoop-math doesn’t go beyond the 2011-12 season) while putting up the most shots he’s ever taken at the rim.

Richard Solomon was going to be a big reason Cal did whatever they were going to do this season.

And thus far he’s been big.



A Pick Short of a Guarantee, Allen Crabbe isn’t Worried

Allen Crabbe’s name wasn’t called by David Stern. It was perhaps disappointing that Adam Silver announced the former Cal forward’s name following the Cleveland Cavalier’s third time on the clock. Crabbe was the first pick of the second round in Thursday’s draft and the Cavs promptly traded the lengthy shooter to the Trailblazers.

Draft day – and this one in particular – can be a wild, unpredictable day. But the Blazers find themselves with a player who is anything but wild and unpredictable. With a marvelous shooting stroke and a tall frame by which to shoot over people, Crabbe seems to have NBA written all over him. The Blazers have now acquired a commodity that will be sorely missed in Berkeley.

But don’t soon feel bad for Mike Montgomery and his Golden Bears. First of all, they have a sweet new floor and will welcome McDonald’s All-American, Jabari Bird. The local – Salesian High, Richmond, CA – will help to replace the scoring Crabbe takes with him to the NBA.

But the most intriguing piece on this forthcoming Cal Bears roster is sophomore Ty Wallace. The dynamic athlete has the ability to guard up and down the lineup and showed a propensity to score from all over the court. Or at least a fearlessness to shoot from anywhere on it. A refined offensive game from Wallace could prove a lethal weapon for the reloaded Cal Bears who finished fourth in 2012-13 season.

Of course that sort of dependence on youth in the wake of a Pac-12 Player of the Year can be daunting. Crabbe scored 18.4 points and grabbed 6.1 boards per game this past season. In layman’s terms: that’s a lot of production. According to many, it was NBA first round-type production. Alas, for reasons only the player-pickers could give us (and they won’t), Crabbe dropped into the latter round in which he will not be guaranteed a contract.

That disappointment, however, didn’t deter from the love and support showered on the newest member of the Portland Trailblazers:

The timing of the pick may not have been to Crabbe’s exact fancy, but he’s league bound.

No bother, right? Time to get to work.


On Last Night’s Stanford-Cal Game. And Beyond

I don’t know if you were at the game and so if you were we’re tied in the following category. But my guess is that if you weren’t, I now have a new “Never Have I Ever” trump card.

Never have I ever seen an entire assistant coaching staff ejected.

Because that happened in Haas Wednesday night following the “Brawl in Berkeley” (that’s what people are calling it, right?). I mean, Mark Madsen got tossed. And what a ridiculous rule that only the HC can leave the bench to break up a fight. Whatever.

I kinda loved it.

But not that much. I won’t condone fighting, it’s pretty bush league, but I sure as hell love a rivalry game. I’ll always reference the “anything can happen” factor and it most certainly can. Cal was a 6 point favorite at home. They lost by 12.

When the dust settled from the scuffle and we watched the most tense final five minutes of a blowout I may have ever seen; and after Allen Crabbe tried his best at a mega comeback (assisting and scoring a swift 8 points post delay); and following Ricky Krekow going full Rudy for three of those minutes trying to get his entire lost season’s worth of physical contact in; indeed, after all of that the only thing Spencer and I could discuss was how could we get these two to play in Vegas.

As it were today, we’re going to need some help. Arizona will have to beat ASU and Washington must beat…OK well it’s impossible at this point but it stands that I want Arizona to beat ASU (handily). Write that down.

But there is one way in which this occurs (I’m telling you there’s a chance). Each of UCLA and Oregon lose-out and Arizona triumphs over ASU causing a four way tie for first and Stanford (currently sitting in ninth) stays where they are (I don’t believe they can move much beyond eighth). They’ll then need to win their first round game and – voila! – we have a Thursday Big Game!

Note: There is the obvious situation in which these two meet in the semis or finals but I want spice early and often which explains my hope for a Thursday meeting. Also, after scouring the standings and tiebreakers, this:


But the overarching point here isn’t a commentary on fighting or even rivalries for that matter.

It’s the ubiquitous fact that March is magnifying and tense and highlights everything we love about sport. It’s the lone time in our lives in which we encourage drama. For this fact, it makes total sense to put this thing in Vegas because if there was ever a place for drama to stay, it’s Vegas.

Last night we saw the 12th place team handle the 1st place team. We watched the ninth place team complete the convincing sweep of the third place team. And there is still a chance of that four-way tie for first in which case hell wouldn’t freeze, it’d just get hotter.

One week out. BRING ON THE DRAMA.

And maybe let’s party with Mark Madsen.

Cal is the favorite, CU is real, and Other Haas Discoveries

I went to the showdown at Haas on Thursday night with a good crew and discovered a few things.

  1. Cal is not a basketball school
  2. Colorado is for real
  3. Soft pretzel trumps nachos
  4. The best Haas Pavilion parking spot
  5. Andre Roberson will be drafted in 2013

It was indeed a great night and now I’ll elaborate, discovery-by-discovery.

1. Cal is not a basketball school – Granted, it was a late start (8pm) but it was also the Thursday before a three day weekend so who was really going to get any work done Friday? Haas got to about 65% capacity with first place on the line and rarely recognized their cheering moments. The crowd’s greatest effort to get into the game came with a West-to-East: “GO!” … “BEARS!” call and response. This got the volume up and the fans approaching vertical but it also came as Allen Crabbe toed the line at a critical juncture in this battle of conference leaders. Bad timing if you ask me. But the Cal fans were comfortable and looked good. Thusly fulfilling the goal of the arena/pavilion’s namesake, Walter A. Haas, Jr. the philanthropic San Franciscan who ran Levi Strauss for some twenty years. However, I firmly believe that Monty will begin putting butts in the seats just like Haas made butts look good in jeans. He’s got a good thing going in Berkeley and it’s a fan base that I believe wants to erupt.

2. Colorado is for real – In an interview with Jeff Eisenberg, Tad Boyle said he wanted his team to play defense and rebound to remain atop the conference. He didn’t mention that he wanted to shoot the ball well or not turn the ball over – both of which his team didn’t do Thursday night. Getting back to the his remarks, Boyle’s Boys play some tight defense and move well. It may not be the prettiest brand of basketball but Carlon Brown has some skills and there is a supporting group there understanding their supplementary roles to the Brown-show. Andre Roberson fills in nicely for any defensively minded team as he’s incredibly versatile on that side of the ball. I like that the Buffs are making the Ski Trip a lot more than a bunny slope and I think – particularly considering their forthcoming recruiting class – that Colorado is for real for 2012 and beyond. Welcome to the conference.

3. Soft pretzel trumps nachos – This may be a given but when your diet for the day consisted of coffee, a scone, animal crackers, and some beers, soft pretzel definitively trumps nachos. The key here, of course, is to garner a bite-for-cheese agreement. If you can pull this off – and I did – you’re in the money. This purchase got me through to the post game meal at Triple Rock Brewery; a must if you’re ever in Berkeley and a need if you haven’t eaten all day. Try the A-B-S burger and the IPA. Legit.

4. The best Haas Pavilion parking spot – Not telling.

5. Andre Roberson will be drafted in 2013 – Sure, this too may be a given but to see him in person is to see what scouts talk about when they talk about length. He can grab anything. The lanky sophomore swallowed fourteen boards and guarded nearly every position on the floor. Athleticism for days. He had a tip dunk where he appeared to hover for half the shot clock awaiting the ball out of the cylinder (debatable whether he waited long enough but filthy nonetheless). He highlighted his night, however, late in the second half with a drawn up isolation play from the wing. The Buffs cleared out and Roberson used a jab then drive for an easy layup. It was impressive and demonstrated just what how high a ceiling he has. His shot is less than pretty but he has time still (I did say 2013, yeah?). Worth noting in this section is the block Carlon Brown put on the Bears during a fastbreak. There unfortunately isn’t any footage I could find (someone in this league has gotta get ranked) but anytime someone gets pinned above the square it’s gotta get mentioned.

Big year coming: Allen Crabbe

If Allen Crabbe follows suit with the four previous Pac-10 Freshmen of the Year, expect the 6’6” wing to have a monster year. That’s because he’d be playing like Chase Budinger, Kevin Love, Isaiah Thomas, or Derrick Williams. Yes, that’s four NBA players, two-conference POYs, and two lottery picks. Lofty shoes to fill for the reining conference FOY.

But Crabbe has the skill set to do so.

He opened his collegiate career as most freshmen would on a team that just lost eight players to graduation and transfer. He struggled out of the gate averaging just 9 ppg and taking more than ten attempts just twice before conference play (compared to taking single digit attempts once in conference play). But once leauge play began, Crabbe’s level of play picked up. He asserted himself as the elite shooter that he is and finished the season as the league’s top in conference three point shooter (48%) and sixth leading scorer (16.4 ppg).

No one has ever doubted that Crabbe could shoot. The question is can he take the next step – both literally and figuratively – and be more than a shooter. The knock has been that Crabbe isn’t quite an elite athlete, perhaps can’t turn the corner, slash through the lane.

But Crabbe’s demonstrated improvement, progressing into the conference FOY, bodes well for the wing heading into his sophomore campaign. He has a dynamic tandem in seniors Harper Kamp and Jorge Gutierrez, both of whom should be able to open the floor up – either by slashing or from the post, respectively – for Crabbe to shoot. He has that going for him.

And while he may not be an elite athlete – and this is what I love about Crabbe’s game – he crashes the boards. He’s not the biggest guy on the court, not by any stretch of even a Dr. Seus imagination, but at 6’6” 205 lbs, Crabbe gets after it. He finished his freshman year pulling in 5.3 boards per game, third most for the Bears. And do I see two assists per game? Thirteen, five, and two? Sounds a bit like a complete player to me.

What’s more, players often make their biggest strides between their freshman and sophomore years; having acclimated to the college game, gaining some strength and experience. Here’s some anecdotal evidence using players similar to Crabbe:

Player Freshman Sophomore
Patrick Christopher (Cal) 5 points, 2.4 rebounds, 1 assist 15 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2 assists
Trent Lockett (ASU) 6.7, 3, 1 13, 5, 2.5
Brandon Roy (UW) 6, 3, 1 13, 5, 3
Arron Afflalo (UCLA) 10, 3, 2 15, 4, 2

While he certainly has things to improve – strength being one of them –from a skill set stand point, Crabbe can flat out play. Can he play like his FOY predecessors? Time will tell. But don’t be surprised if Crabbe is among the top five scorers in the league this season and an All-Conference performer.