Cal men's basketball keyed early on by defense, athleticism, balance

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Can the Bears keep their defensive effort going against top-notch competition in Hawaii?

If you were a top opponent and examining Cal's early performances against non-conference opponents, what would worry you the most about facing the Bears?

Nick Kranz: Cal's ability to prevent good shots inside. True, Cal's best-in-the-nation two point shot defense (34.3%) has come against iffy competition. But with nearly identical defensive personnel, Cal finished 6th in the country and 1st in the Pac-12 in the same stat last year. This is a team with guards who can stay in front of you, posts who know how to give help, and a bunch of long, quick athletes who eliminate passing lanes. It's really, really hard to get easy shots against the Bears right now, and as a result teams have been chucking threes at a very high percentage.

If you're a coach, you have to ask yourself if you have a big who can reliable get a decent look against Richard Solomon or David Kravish? Do you have a guard who can get past Tyrone Wallace or Jabari Bird, and then if they do, can they finish over Cal's posts? This year, Cal is blocking roughly 15% of opponents' two point shots. So far, we own the paint.

Ruey Yen: Without a clear go to guy like Allen Crabbe this year, the Bears have been able to feature a well balanced offense. Sure, sophomore guard Tyrone Wallace has been the scoring leader for the Bears in 3 of 4 games, but freshman Jabari Bird is the leading scorer on the team, leading 4 guys in double figures (Bird, Wallace, Cobbs, and Solomon...Kravish is just behind with 9.3 points per game).

Jabari Bird has been just as good as advertised in the early going. He has made 9 of 18 3-pointer attempts so far. Ricky Kreklow has mad 5 of 11 from 3's. While freshmen Jordan Mathews and Sam Singer have yet to find their shooting touches, Bears appear to have plenty of good shooters in Bird, Kreklow, Cobbs, and Wallace (much much improved over last year) from the guard positions.

Scott Chong: Defense and rebounding has improved over last year. There's plenty of length to challenge shots and to play the passing lanes. Unlike last year where the offense was essentially Crabbe w/ some help from Cobbs, you can't really key on just one guy.

atomsareenough: I would worry about Cal's length. Solomon and Kravish are both tall and rangy, and good shot-blockers, and Wallace and Bird are also long at the guard position. I'd also be somewhat concerned about the number of shooters Cal can put on the floor at the same time, with Cobbs, Bird, Kreklow, Mathews, and Singer all able to make perimeter shots.

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