Rivalry games tend to lead to over the top emotions, expressions of joy and rage far beyond the events of any game should reasonably call for. So as I watched Stanford pull away from the Bears with a seemingly effortless 29-14 run over the bulk of the 2nd half, I found myself getting far angrier than I'm comfortable with over a college basketball game.
It was a collection of bad timing. I had just finished 90 minutes of driving through occasionally torrential rain after watching the Cal women get blown out by the same university that was busy beating the men. And all of this was going on 24 hours before the Orange Bowl is set to kick off. None of these events have anything to do with each other beyond a private university in Palo Alto with a limited enrollment, but in the addled mind of a fan they conspired to collectively ruin my day.
So you can imagine why I felt the need to rant. Every turnover, every open shot that Stanford would inevitably nail, every ill-advised contested jumper pushed me closer to the edge. I knew this season, particularly the first half of the Pac-10 schedule, would be rough. But I knew that the men are arguably better than Stanford, that they could beat Stanford, and that beating Stanford is always a welcome bright spot amid frustrating results. It's the type of stuff fans hold on to in a rebuilding year.
That's why it's painful to admit that Jeremy Green was the best veteran player on the floor, and even worse to realize that Dwight Powell was the best frosh from two highly regarded groups. As of right now, Stanford looks like they are ahead of the Bears in the rebuilding race.
Is that an over-the-top overreaction based on one road game? Absolutely. Going into this game Cal's eFG% defense was 44.9, and Stanford's eFG% offense was 49.2%. So everything about Stanford's 67% eFG percentage screams fluke. Will that make any of you feel any better? Probably not. And to make matters worse, this loss goes way beyond one team getting hot from the field.
Cal lost the turnover battle 16-11, they got to the line less often than Stanford, and then shot them at a lower percentage, something that should be really hard to do. More generally, this game illustrated how very fragile Cal's offense is. For the Bears to compete against a team scoring efficiently they have to get above average games from their three main contributors - Harper, MSF and Jorge. Harper and Markhuri were both efficient, but Cal just can't get them enough touches. Gary Franklin again took more shots than both, something that needs to stop happening. and Jorge made too many mistakes to offset all of the good things he does. Simply losing the ball for no reason on a fast break or missing wide open three pointers is, unfortunately, the type of thing Cal can't get away with. It's not remotely fair to our veteran threesome, but that's how thin the margin for error is on offense.
I'm not sure what to make of Cal's defensive effort. We have a collection of convincing evidence to suggest that Cal plays good defense and Stanford plays bad offense, and as I mentioned earlier that implies that this game screams fluke. But watching Jeremy Green come open off a series of screens to nail a three, or watching Dwight Powell, Jack Trotter and Josh Owens go a combined 13-20 with good look after good look makes me wonder if this game was really all that fluky.
So I'm in a sour mood. I'd like to hear a reason why I should be less pessimistic, but the only reason is 'this team is too young.' That's true. I don't know if my expectations were realistic, but I'll admit that I was hoping to have seen a little more progress from our freshman by now. I will say that when he took the initiative I liked what I saw from Allen Crabbe, and Gary Franklin did shoot 50% from the field with a 2 to 1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
So here's my motto for the rest of the season, and I'll be repeating it every time Cal loses the rest of the way:
Remember when Jerome Randle and Patrick Christoper drove us crazy as underclassmen? Remember when Jerome Randle and Patrick Christoper drove us crazy as underclassmen? Remember when Jerome Randle and Patrick Christoper drove us crazy as underclassmen? Remember when Jerome Randle and Patrick Christoper drove us crazy as underclassmen? Remember when Jerome Randle and Patrick Christoper drove us crazy as underclassmen?