It was probably already time to get excited. But the more you write about sports, the more you learn to be cautious with your words, because you typically end up looking stupid(er than usual).
But after a 4-0 start to conference play, and especially after a thoroughly dominating win over Washington, I'm done with caution. This is a team that every Cal fan should be excited about. A team that deserves sell out crowds at Haas Pavilion.
Why should you be excited? Because Cal might have the best point guard in the conference in Justin Cobbs. Because Cal might have the best interior duo in Richard Solomon and David Kravish. Because Cal is getting healthy at the right time. Because Cal's freshmen are getting better every game.
Because this team is undefeated in conference play, and that's always worth being excited about.
And as great as Cal played last night, they can play even better. In fact, they have already. Last night's offensive performance was just a hair less efficient then what the Bears put up against both Oregon and Oregon State, and they had more than a few sloppy, unforced turnovers in the first half. As soon as those were cut out, it was off to the races.
Cal dominated offensively, scoring 1.17 points/possession despite playing five minutes with an all-freshman lineup. The Bears totaled twenty-two assists from ten different players in one of the most impressive team passing clinics you'll see. Granted, some of it may have been due to Washington's bad defense, but Cal knew exactly what they wanted on offense and executed it perfectly.
Cal dominated defensively, holding UW to their single worst offensive game of the season. Justin Cobbs blanketed C.J. Wilcox and prevented him from getting good looks from three. Ty was all over Nigel Williams-Goss. All of Cal's defenders effectively switched on most of the screens Washington ran, and the Huskies didn't really seem to have a plan B. But mostly, Richard Solomon and David Kravish completely dominated an undersized Washington front line. The duo collected five combined blocks and they altered plenty of others. And when Washington missed shots they tried to sky over Cal's interior duo, the Bears cleaned up the defensive glass with ease.
Prior to the game, I read a preview from a Washington beat writer who described Solomon as a 'finesse' player. That might have been true in the past, but it damned well isn't any more. Watching the zeal Solomon has as he chases rebounds, contests shots, and attacks the basket for dunk after dunk has been such a joy. He's the most productive big man in the conference.
Other scattered shots from a game that was over early and included lots of fun garbage time:
- Christian Behrens gets better every game. First he came in and showed he could play minutes without disrupting the team on either end. Then he started playing plus defense. And pulling down boards. And now he's finishing at the basket, and flashing some athleticism in the process. Granted, UW doesn't really have any bigs that might have exploited him a bit more, but his ability to spell our starters is the biggest unexpected surprised of the season.
- Unless the biggest surprise is folk hero Jeff Powers. Clearly, he's going to hit one amazing three pointer in front of a raucous Cal bench in every game!
- Sam Singer might take up the mantle of 'Monty point guards the rest of the conference hates,' which hasn't been seen since Jorge left. I look forward to him annoying people while thrilling Cal fans for another 3.5 years.
- Jabari Bird very quietly dished out five assists in his return from injury, and although his shooting looked rusty, he showed off his explosive athleticism with a couple of leaps near the basket. I suspect he'll be fine. Most importantly, he doesn't need to press to immediately be amazing.
- I knew, some day, that Monty would have a deep team. Lo, it has happened, and it is even more beautiful than what I imagined it would look like.