Cal basketball has only a few real tests in non-conference play. Who will be our toughest opponents? What are your predictions for our non-conference record?
Norcalnick: Well, let's start with Kenpom's pre-season algorithm projections. (On a side note, there are a few other systems I'd like to quote, but they're behind pay walls, so I'll pass.)
He's got Cal as a favorite to win every single non-conference game with the exception of a road trip to Creighton. It's worth noting, however, that the system can't project games that are uncertain, such as 2nd and 3rd round games in Maui.
Even without With Doug McDermott back, you would expect the Blue Jays to be a very tough team, especially at home. Denver is probably the toughest game after the games in Maui and against Creighton, which gives you a sense of how weak the home slate is this year. But what about those games in Maui?
Cal starts against an Arkansas team that didn't even make the NIT. But Cal will face either Minnesota or Syracuse in the 2nd round. The Gophers are probably about as good as the Bears, while Syracuse is likely to be a top 10 team again. And good teams like Baylor and Gonzaga potentially await in Cal's final game.
In all likelihood, three of Cal's four toughest non-conference games will come at the Maui Invitational. If the Bears could leave Hawaii with a 2-1 record or better at the Invitational it would all but assure a successful non-conference schedule.
Ruey Yen: Like Nick said, the toughest game would likely come from the Maui tournament. Given the experience that is supposed to be on this team, I am expecting a clean home record in non-conference (no more home loss to Harvard this year, please). The Creighton game on the road should be winnable as well. Between the Creighton game and the two games post Arkansas in Maui, I hope the Bears can win two of those. That would go a long way toward the Bears having a decent RPI (depending on who the opponents are in Maui).
Vlad Belo: The game at Creighton will be tough. But I'd have to say the toughest non-con opponents may be at the Maui Invitational, depending on how the tournament shakes down. Arkansas is projected as a lower-tier team in the SEC, but if Cal can get by the Hogs, Syracuse looms. And Gonzaga and Baylor are also supposed to be very good. Winning the Maui Invitational would be great, but I'd be happy if the Bears went 2-1 in the tournament. As for a prediction, I'll err on the rosy side and predict a 10--3 or 11-2 nonconference record.