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:
@Drake4444444 @pachoopsab Remember back when Gottlieb picked Cal as like #10 in the nation preseason? Don’t seem so crazy all of a sudden.
— Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) January 16, 2014
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.
Furthermore, if you’ve paid attention to the blog, you’d know I have something of a crush on hoop-math.com. 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:
First, 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.
3 thoughts on “Cal Doing Big things with Improved Richard”
Solo has been huge for the Bears thus far. But beyond him, the biggest change in the Golden Bears lineup that bodes well for continued success is the sudden emergence of real DEPTH on this team for the 1st time in I don’t know how long. Beyond the front line of Solomon, Cobbs, Kravish, & Wallace, you’ve got a lot of other guys contributing from Jabari Bird (McDonalds HS All-American) to Jordan Matthews (dropped 32 points on Oregon last week) to bench superstar Jeff Powers (look up his 3pt% this year – ridiculous) to other guys who can give you good minutes like frosh PG Sam Singer or the currently injured Ricky Kreklow (has been injury prone since his arrival at Cal but has big upside). Even Christian Behrensis starting to show that he can contribute valuable minutes off the bench. It’s not an all-star line-up from top to bottom like UofA, but on a given night there’s around 8+ guys who can contribute meaningful minutes without being a huge liability. That’s a big change from season’s past, and with Monty’s coaching, I see this group only getting better as the year goes on rather than fading as many Cal teams have in recent years come Pac-12/NCAA Tourney time.
JMac – you crushed it. I’ve been really impressed with Matthews and all of this depth is indeed quite shocking. It’s a monster asset considering those key injuries. Monty can flat coach and I maintain Ty Wallace is one of my favorites in conference as he’s even flirting with “three-point threat.” Not quite, but 35% is a far cry from last season’s 22%.
And then just: Justin Cobbs. Senior PGs are the best.