This article is supposed to be my weekly post about women’s basketball. If you’re not a women’s basketball fan and you occasionally wonder why I love talking about it, I’ll give you a quick answer: 99% of the time it’s fun.
Here’s the thing. Talking about Tosh Lupoi and basically anything related to recruiting right now? Not fun. And that directly conflicts with the reason I’m a Cal fan.
The reason that college sports are fun is because you get to watch players grow and improve and do amazing things as an athlete. Players that you share an (admittedly tenuous) common bond with, because they are attending the same institution you attended or have rooted for. I watch college sports for players like Talia Caldwell. I can watch her play and think ‘Wow, she’s a great offensive rebounder . . . and she’s also going to the Haas School of Business! I would never have been able to do all that when I was at Berkeley."
Of course, you can get that out of football, too. I loved watching Will Kapp, Marvin Jones, Joe Igber, Syd-Quan Thompson, Alex Mack . . . countless players that grew as players and excel as people. But football comes with a dark side, and that’s pretty much everything else that distracts me from rooting for Cal athletes on Saturday (and eventually Sunday!). Boosters, recruiting, ‘talent scouts,’ million dollar salaries, the BCS, corrupt bowls, insane fan demands – all of that junk just gets in the way.
Everything that has happened this week has been frustrating. It’s disturbing that we can watch a rival try to pay to gut our team. But I’m choosing to ignore it as best I can because as soon as I start thinking about it too much I stop enjoying college football. I might have to disconnect until I see who shows up for fall camp. But when they do I look forward to welcoming back returning players and meeting new ones. They are Bears, and they chose to be a Bear just like I did, and I can’t wait to root for them on Saturdays.
I can’t blame those who have reacted strongly to the recent football news. I’m not naïve about it, and I know about the likely negative impacts the changes could have on the football team. Those who want to continue to discuss what it means for Cal football are more than welcome to do so. Me? I’ll be focusing my fan energy towards Cal basketball. When that ends we’ve got Cal baseball and softball. And for that I’m very grateful.
OK, that’s out of the way. Have I mentioned that the women’s basketball team is in 3rd place in the Pac-12?
We fans actually had a game on TV to enjoy last Sunday, and as a result I’ve already offered my thoughts on the Utah game. So let’s talk about that Colorado game.
I’ll admit, I was terrified of that Colorado game. Cal was on the road against a team with a record of 13-1. I don’t care how weak Colorado’s schedule may have been – when you have a record like that it scares me.
So I was delighted when Cal got out to an early 19-8 lead! And then imagine my despair when Colorado stormed back to take a 51-39 lead with just 12:45 left in the game. Colorado couldn’t miss from three, Cal wasn’t controlling the boards like usual, and everything seemed bleak.
And then Cal went on a 29-4 run to end the game.
What? Where did that come from? I can’t really tell you, other than it happened very quickly and everybody contributed. Cal’s offense sometimes seems like the ultimate momentum offense. When everybody gets going at once the Bears can score a huge amount of points in a very small amount of time. In this case they scored 28 points in 10 minutes. By my count Cal had 18 possessions in that span, and 13 of those possessions ended with points being scored. To compound things, Cal managed seven steals from five different players in that span. Cal starts running, the opponent presses, Cal keeps running, the opponent can’t get an offensive rebound, Cal keeps running, the opponent turns the ball over, Cal keeps running. As you might have guessed, I think that Cal’s depth is a big help this year.
There will be more in-depth previews of both Washington and Washington St. within the game threads. But focusing on the bigger picture, this weekend allows Cal another opportunity to secure their claim as one the very few teams that can stay within shouting distance of Stanford at the top of the conference. If Cal (and, we can take for granted, Stanford) both sweep this weekend it will leave Stanford, USC and Cal well clear of the jumbled middle of the conference standings almost exactly halfway through the schedule. That would place all three schools in excellent position for the NCAA tournament.
But a sweep, even at home, is far from guaranteed, particularly considering how Washington St. has played at times this season. These are games that Cal can’t afford to drop prior to the critical 5 game stretch that will define the season. Stanford on the road, Arizona and ASU on the road, the LA schools at home. Get the wins now, because they’re getting harder to earn each time.