California Golden Bears (0-0) vs. Idaho St. Bengals (0-1)
Sunday, Nov. 15, 5:00 p.m., Haas Pavilion, Berkeley, Calif.
Radio: None TV: None
Watch the game HERE
THIS WEEK'S OPPONENT The Idaho State Bengals women's basketball team (11-20, 7-9 Big Sky) was selected in the Big Sky media's preseason poll to recapture a four place finish as the team did last season while the coaches' poll voted for the Bengals to finish fifth in the regular season. In the 2008-09 season the Bengals tied for fourth place with Sacramento State, each recording a 7-9 conference record, even while competing with a reduced roster of eight players. This season the Bengals return six letterwinners as well as welcome ten promising newcomers.
Hit the jump and read Part II of the Cal Women's Basketball Preview (Part 1 HERE)
Last time we looked at Cal’s (lack) of returning impact players and a brief preview of Joanne Boyle’s highly rated incoming recruiting class. This time we’re going to see how Cal stacks up against the rest of the Pac-10 and if the schedule makers were kind to Cal (Spoiler Alert: No).
Pac-10 Preview/Schedule Analysis: Stanford and the rest - aka same old story.
The Pac-10 has reached a kind of status-quo over the last few years: Stanford wins the Pac-10. Cal and Arizona St., although able to compete and even defeat the Cardinal from time to time, ultimately fall short of the conference title while everybody else fights over the scraps. The storyline in 2009-10 will be if anybody deviates from that tired script.
Key Losses: Jillian Harmon
Stanford last year was Jayne Appel and a bunch of other players who are all-equally-good-but-not-Jayne-Appel-good. Appel could singlehandedly carry a bad team to the tourney by herself, but luckily for her she only needs to score 50 points when Stanford plays the really good teams. She’s one of the favorites for National Player of the Year. I’ve never hated a women’s basketball player until Appel. Hate hate hate. Stanford may just keep kicking along with Pac-10 championships after she leaves, but I’ll still be happy to never have to see her play the Bears again after this year.
Dymond Simon: Nice hops, questionable threads.
Key Losses: Briann January, Sybil Dosty, Lauren Lacey, Kate Engelbrecht.
Yep, ASU lost 4 of the 8 main players in their rotation, perhaps a greater loss than Cal. I have no idea if the Sun Devils have recruits that are ready to fill those minutes. I think it’s safe to say that Cal is lucky that the year they have to replace major production is the same year that ASU will have to replace even more. Yet despite these losses ASU is marginally higher than Cal in both the AP and Pac-10 media poll. Perhaps ASU is getting credit for not drawing Conneticut until the Elite 8 instead of the Sweet 16 last year – those sneaky Devils! ASU will be led by Senior guards Dymond Simon and Danielle Orsillo, (14 ppg and 9.3 ppg each) who will be asked to carry even more of the offensive burden.
Doreena Campbell leads UCLA
Key Losses: Tierra Henderson, Chinyere Ibekwe
UCLA is probably the most likely team to change the storyline. A veteran team going into the 2nd year under new, up and coming coach Nikki Caldwell, UCLA is a dangerous team. The Bruins welcomes back 6 of its top 7 scorers and will be led by Doreena Campbell, UCLA’s do-everything point guard who led the team in scoring, steals and assists. UCLA should have depth and experience, but do they have the pure talent to truly compete with Stanford, Cal and Arizona St.? I’m not sure if I’m ready to make that prediction, but I think it’s safe to say that the top three need to be ready for the trip to Pauley Pavillion.
Key Losses: Camille Lenoir, Nadia Parker, Brynn Cameron.
USC was the team that many would have picked in the last few years to contend with teams at the top of the conference. But with a new coach and with their best player gone to graduation, USC may have missed their window. Cal fans who watched the Bears take on USC three times last year will be thrilled to see Camille Lenoir take her game to the WNBA. Briana Gilbreath is USC’s top returner and will try to build on her successful freshman campaign
As much as I want to be complete, let’s be honest – the Pac-10 isn’t the strongest women’s basketball conference and in particular suffers from being top heavy. Last year especially four teams were wretched. I don’t see much hope for Washington, Washington St., or Arizona to improve on their miserable 2008-09 campaigns (combined for 11 Pac-10 wins – and they played each other 6 times!). Oregon also was not good last year, but they do return every player, so perhaps there is some upside in Eugene. Oregon St. was vaguely competitive last year, but they lose their point guard and leading rebounder and I would anticipate the Beavers falling back into the lower half of the conference. Despite graduation losses, Cal should expect to beat these teams if they want to match or surpass last year’s record in conference.
Cal has had a pretty challenging non-conference schedule lately, playing ranked powers like Baylor, Oklahoma and Rutgers. This year is no different, although a bit lopsided. Cal has four exciting and important games against big conference foes, and some of the weakest dregs of west coast, small conference women’s basketball.
Baylor at home, Ohio St. on the road, Texas A&M at home and Boston College at a neutral site will all be excellent tests for the Bears. Baylor is ranked #4/#6 to start the season, but lost its 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th leading scorers from last year’s sweet 16 team.
Baylor will be led by Senior Danielle Wilson, an absolute monster down low who led Baylor in scoring (15 ppg.) and rebounding and blocked 83 shots last year. (EDIT: Apparently Wilson mysteriously left the team last spring. I'm not sure why Baylor is ranked so highly if they lost their best 4 players, but they stayed with a good Tennessee team already this year and they are one of the few teams in the country that can make the argument that they brought in a better recruiting class than Cal.)
Danielle Wilson: Cal freshman test #1, except she left Baylor for reasons unknown.
Assuming Cal can knock of Southern (and Ohio St. beats IUPUI) they will face a Buckeye team entering the season ranked #3 in both polls after being eliminated by Stanford in the sweet 16 last year. This game will almost certainly be Cal’s toughest pre-season test, particularly because it is on the road. The Buckeyes return Big 10 player of the year Jantel Lavender, who averaged a cool 20 points and 10 rebounds per game. Dealing with Lavender (and Wilson in the Baylor game) will be the best preparation for Cal’s freshman posts for Jayne Appel, and if the Bears leave Ohio with a victory I’ll be beyond ecstatic.
Jantel Lavender: Cal freshman test #2
After the Bears beat Colorado St. (right?) they will face Texas A&M, #16/#26 this season after falling to Arizona St. in the sweet 16 last year. The Aggies are replacing their two best players and are facing a rebuilding process similar to what Cal faces. I hesitate to say that Cal should beat Texas A&M, but this might end up being a key game, especially if Cal falls to Baylor and Ohio St.
Cal will face Boston College in the first round of the "Surf n’ Slam Tournament" in San Diego. Boston College doesn’t have the strong national reputation (yet), but they are a veteran team returning the vast majority of their talent from a team than went 7-7 in the always tough ACC. The returners are highlighted by two players who averaged better than 15 ppg. Similar to the Texas A&M game, this game could be very important for Cal because of the weak slate outside of the big four games.
And after that…well, you have a lot of teams that finished below .500 in the WAC and Big Sky. Idaho St., Saint Mary’s, Colorado St., San Jose St. and Long Beach St. all come to Berkeley and all finished well below .500 overall last year. Saint Mary’s is probably the best team on the list and they finished 11-19 (7-7 in the WCC) last year. Yikes. At least Southern and Nevada or San Diego in the 2nd round of the Surf n’ slam tourney finished above .500 last year. Cal should win all of these games, and if they don’t then expectations will need to be revised.
If Cal can split against Baylor, Ohio St., A&M and BC they’ll be in excellent shape going into Pac-10 play. 1-3 would be marginal but OK. If Cal drops all 4 they will have proven almost nothing and would make me very nervous about the next three games…
January 2nd- @ Stanford
January 8th - @ UCLA
January 10th - @ USC
Wow. Unless you threw a road game at Arizona St. into the mix there’s no harder way to start the Pac-10 schedule. If it were either of the last two years, when Cal seemed to play its best basketball early in the year, I would have seen this as a benefit. But with so many freshmen expected to contribute I can’t help but see this as a huge liability. If Cal can emerge from these three games with two wins that would be a huge accomplishment. Frankly, I just don’t see Cal beating Stanford, especially on the road, and if Cal falls to the Cardinal as expected then the road trip to L.A. becomes even more important.
Needless to say, the schedule lightens up and Cal should rack up the wins. Arizona St. comes to Berkeley on January 30th in a critical midseason matchup. The Pac-10 schedule ends with a tough trip to the desert and then the final game at home for our quartet of seniors as Stanford bookends the Pac-10 regular season.
Unless our recruiting class is a reincarnation of the Fab Five (plus one) 2009-2010 will not be as good as last year. Yet I think maintaining 2nd place in the Pac-10 is a difficult but attainable goal. I’m going to hope for an 11-2 non-conference performance and a 13-5 Pac-10 record. I’m guessing a loss to Baylor, Ohio St., two losses to Stanford, a split with ASU, a split with UCLA and another random loss, probably to Oregon or USC. We will see if that’s good enough to beat ASU and UCLA. A record like this would probably give Cal a 5 or 6 seed come March.
Comment starter: What’s your prediction, and what would qualify as a successful season in your book?