Happy New Year, Cal fans! 2012 may be an excellent year for our men's basketball team, as another conference championship is within reach. ESPN's writers recently held a roundtable to discuss the state of college basketball in the West. When discussing the eventual Pac-12 champion, four of their six writers picked the Bears (the other two picked Arizona).
1. Pac-12 play is set to begin. Who wins the league and why?
Eamonn Brennan: Cal is probably the favorite right now, but I wouldn't be surprised if Arizona finished atop the table by season's end. The Wildcats' interior toughness (see Solomon Hill) has been a pleasant surprise, and their ability to get wins without star freshman Josiah Turner -- who has shown some recent signs he could turn his disappointing rookie season around -- could portend big things in league play. Really, though, the Pac-12 is wide open. Your guess is as good as any.
John Gasaway: Cal, because it is still a good team even though it dropped games away from home to Missouri, San Diego State and UNLV. Minnesota transfer Justin Cobbs is now starting at the point, and Allen Crabbe and Jorge Gutierrez are both shooting 45 percent from outside. The Bears even get a break from the league schedule, playing four games against the struggling likes of Utah and Colorado.
Andy Katz: Arizona. The Wildcats haven't shown a shred of consistency so far this season. But who has in the Pac-12? I wanted to get behind Cal, but the Bears have lost badly in two of their big games (Missouri and UNLV). Zona is young in key spots, but will get better throughout the course of the season. I kept going back and forth on this subject, but now I'm leaning toward the Cats to win the league.
Jason King: I've still got to give the nod to Cal. The 10-3 Golden Bears don't have any great wins, but the losses (to Missouri, UNLV and San Diego State) aren't terrible. Mike Montgomery may be the best coach in the league, and his squad is more experienced than any team in the conference. If any Pac-12 school works its way back into the Top 25, it will be Cal.
Myron Medcalf: A clear-cut favorite doesn't exist in this league. So for me, it's all about identifying a squad that possesses some kind of edge in a murky field. Cal's backcourt -- with Crabbe, Gutierrez and Cobbs -- is what stands out. That's a talented core that can propel the Bears to the league's crown. They've lost some lopsided decisions (Missouri and UNLV), but their three losses came against good teams.
Dana O'Neil: I still think Arizona wins. Why? Besides the fact that someone has to, the Wildcats have the most talent top to bottom. Sean Miller has had his hands full juggling and controlling it all, but at least he has talent to choose from. And unlike most of their league brethren, the Cats' losses haven't been horrific. They've lost to decent teams and played a good schedule, which is rated as the 26th best in the country.
After the jump Tedford looks forward to 2012 and the men's team ends 2011 with a bang while the women's team ends the year with a whimper.
- Despite the loss to Texas, Tedford sees bright days ahead for the Bears. With much more experience at quarterback and greater depth at running back (Sofele+Anderson+Bigelow? yes please!), Tedford looks forward to what the Bears can do on offense next season.
- They run a version of this story every year, but it's still a great read: SFGate's inspiring bio of Jorge Gutierrez.
- As usual, Faraudo's live thread is the best recap of the Bears' victory. Despite a 14-point lead with 11 minutes to go, Cal let USC get within one point in the final minute.
- CalBears.com has video and quotes from the post-game press conference as well as a photo gallery.
- CCTimes recaps the Cal-USC game and includes a photo gallery. Quite a few photos (2,3,7,14) are worthy of caption contests.
- Faraudo's live thread follows along as the Bears turn a one-point halftime lead into a blowout midway through the second half.
- Monty heaped praise on his team after that second-half performance.
- CCTimes and BearTerritory.net recap the game.
- After a solid start in non-conference play, the womens team dropped its first conference game. The Bears fell 55-60 on the road to UCLA.
- A terrible shooting performance doomed the Bears against USC.
Gottlieb and her team are obviously disappointed with their performances to start the conference slate.