Well hello there women's basketball fans. I don't know if you've noticed, but it's been more than three months since I last wrote about Cal women's basketball. Admittedly, there aren't hoards of reporters constantly breaking news in the world of women's basketball for me to analyze, but still - this is a depressing situation that needs to be rectified immediately. Luckily, three months is enough time for a decent collection of news to break. Here's everything you missed while a interminable summer without Lindsay Gottlieb crawled by:
Cal didn't bring in any freshmen recruits for this season. They can get away with this for two reasons. 1) Nobody graduated from last year's team (though losing Lindsay Sherbert hurts). 2) There is a ton of talent in California's 2013 high school class.
The goal for the coaching staff? Bring that talent to Berkeley. They're off to an excellent start with the commitments of Kendall Waters and Mercedes Jefflo. Jefflo has a solid 3 star rating, and Waters is 54th on ESPN's top 100 and one of three huge recruits in the Bay Area this year. Cal is going after her Bishop O'Dowd teammate Oderah Chidom (#10 in the nation) and Courtney Range (#38) out of St. Mary's of Stockton. If St. Mary's sounds familiar, that's because it's the same high school that produced current Bear Afure Jemerigbe.
Jefflo and Waters make for an excellent start in what will be a critical recruiting class. Three players will graduate this year, but I would anticipate that the coaching staff will take more than three recruits, particularly if multiple major targets want to come to Berkeley. I can only assume that any prospective recruit will like what they see on the court this winter.
New Coaches and New Titles!
Charmin Smith has earned a well deserved promotion to Associate Head Coach. She's done a consistently excellent job as a coach and stuck around when Joanne Boyle left for Virginia. Department of not-very-bold predictions: She'll be a head coach some day.
Meanwhile, Daron Park's position on the staff has been filled with the hire of Katy Steding. Am I a little weirded out that half of Cal's coaching staff attended Stanford? Yes. Am I acknowledging that pilfering Stanford's women's basketball pedigree is a pretty obvious strategy? Also yes. Do I have a meaningful analysis of this hire? No. But her resume is pretty impressive. Welcome Katy!
The schedule was announced! Kinda! The non-conference schedule has been released, which is where all the drama is anyway. I'll continue to assume that we'll play Stanford twice just like always. Let's break it down just like we did with the men's schedule yesterday:
Cream of the Crop – The following are teams very likely to have above average RPI numbers and as a result will boost Cal’s strength of schedule:
St. Mary’s (52), Georgetown (30), @ Duke (10), Kansas (53)
I’m not really expecting St. Mary’s to be a fringe top 50 RPI team this year, but then again I thought they would drop off without Louella Tomlinson last year. As a result the Gaels join a category that includes three other 2012 NCAA tournament participants, including two teams that advanced further than Cal in Duke and Kansas.
Duke is the only likely elite, top 10 team on the non-conference schedule, which is too bad. I was hoping that Cal would also play a home game against a team of Duke’s caliber. But that can be hard to do, and I certainly won’t complain that three of the four games above are at Haas Pavilion.
Solid mid-majors – A group of teams are likely to neither hurt nor help
Lehigh (186), Cal Poly (154), Eastern Washington (161), @ Old Dominion (178), @ Northwestern (120)
I debated putting Northwestern into the Cream of the Crop, but the Wildcats just don’t have enough historical success to justify their inclusion, regardless of their Big-10 affiliation. But this is a solid group with a decent recent history. I don’t expect Cal to be significantly challenged in these games, but I don’t expect anybody to roll over either.
RPI anchors – Teams that are very likely to have below average RPI numbers, and as a result will lower Cal’s strength of schedule:
CSU Fullerton (285), @ CSU Bakersfield (274), George Washington (250)
This is pretty acceptable. Cal will almost certainly not play CSU Fullerton unless a seismic upset happens in Cal Classic. And I can’t get mad about scheduling CSU Bakersfield – the Roadrunners are an independent and as a result have to schedule a full schedule without the benefit of the conference. It’s nice for Cal to do a solid for our neighbors down south. So George Washington is really the only truly objectionable game on the entire schedule.
But what about the Pac-12?
Man, I don’t know what to expect from the rest of the conference this year. USC lost players, Stanford lost Nneka, UCLA (at least currently) can’t be mistaken for an urgent care waiting room . . .
Last year the Pac-12 wasn’t great (only two teams made the tourney after all) but there weren’t any truly wretched teams. That kept the conference on relatively strong footing. If the total strength of the conference stays the same or even improves, Cal should be in perfectly fine shape once selection Sunday rolls around.
Formerly mediocre-to-bad programs like Washington and Oregon State have seen improvements in both recruiting and on-the-court performance, so there is reason to be optimistic about the strength of the Pac-12 outside of the California schools and Arizona St.
Cal should be aspiring for a top 4 seed in the NCAA tournament, and the Bears have a schedule that will give them ample opportunity to earn that spot.