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California-Chico State Analysis: First Glimpses

The season tips off against Murray State Monday night at 8 PM PST/11 PM EST, and you can watch the game on ESPNU! Rags will have a preview of the game in tonight's open thread. If you want to start panicking, stare at this horrifying line Vegas posted for the game.

Preseason basketball is a strange animal. Strategy-wise, you learn nothing. Rotation-wise, you learn even less.
This one's all about getting a taste of the icing before diving in.

Unsurprisingly, we learned the least about our seniors. Randle made one of those crazy 3s and had a few nice drives and dishes to Christopher. Theo nailed some wide open shots. In many ways, it was just like old times.

There was only one thing I noticed that I didn't see during those old times. We're playing really hard on the defensive ball.

Chico State only shot 29%, and I can't recall many easy shots. The Bears played very well off their man, scrambled into their rotations, made sure no Chico player got off a good look. They forced 25 turnovers, a trouble spot all of last season. Most importantly, they played great as a team, ratcheting up the pressure on every possession.

Now let me say that it's just effort at this point. We don't really know how efficient the Bears D will be until they start playing quality opponents, starting in Madison Square Garden. But right now I'm really digging the way Cal is digging in. Even Randle sees it.

"I liked the intensity. As a team, we came out and tried to stop them, put it on them defensively. I think the defensive intensity was definitely there. I was proud of my team."

Chico State is not a very good team, so you're free to take what I'm saying and file it away. But if the Bears can replicate that effort through the season and especially on the road, maybe they're as good as our early ranking shows. We should know more in 12 hours.

After the jump, snap judgments and quick thoughts on the players.

Here are quick looks at the players.

  • Markhuri Sanders-Frison looked a little out of place, although he managed to grab nine rebounds. He didn't really seem to space correctly on offense. Any rebounding down low will be much needed though, so we can worry about that later.
  • Brandon Smith played unselfish, efficient ball. Exactly what you'd like from your future point guard. He appeared to do everything right with the time he had, dishing off four assists. More importantly, zero turnovers. Good good stuff.
  • Omondi Amoke? Finished great with the opportunities he got. There'd been a lot of talk that Amoke had made huge leaps this offseason, and it looks like he could be a very capable backup this season. Plus he was rebounding too. Overall I was most impressed by what Amoke was doing.
  • For what seems like the hundredth straight game, the moment Jorge came into the game, the Bears immediately went on a scoring run. You always worry with him since he always plays amped up, and that ankle sprain near the end of the game left us a little anxious. Everything looks good though.
  • D.J. Seeley was alright offensively, but really looked good defensively, playing great off the ball and forcing the Chico ball handler to throw into traffic on several occasions. Struggled in the second half a little bit, although Cal was cruising. Sporting a fine beard.
  • Max Zhang had two blocks on two consecutive possessions. This could very well be highlight of his year, so savor it Max fans. I really didn't see anything offensively in the post to suggest he'll be anything more than a 2-3 minute breather for Sanders-Frison, Boykin, and (when he comes back) Kamp. I hope he proves me wrong. If I does, I'd be sporting the giant Max head on a stick before game days.
  • Nikola Knezevic looks like he has a crush on his cousin Maeby. Apparently CBKWit has been making this joke for years.
  • Boykin was a rebounding force early on. His post moves looked really polished and he could really be underrated in his efforts this season, especially with the perceptions that the Bears are weak inside.
  • Randle looks built. They weren't exaggerating about his offseason workout--you can tell he's Ironmanned it up this offseason. His offensive game looked a little out of whack--four turnovers, including two on two possessions, but hopefully he'll round into form next week.
  • Patrick Christopher keeps on wearing out his shoe collection with his hops. He was slashing, stroking it from outside, making steals and breaking away for the hammer.
  • Theo hit a few open shots. That's just what Theo does. What Theo shouldn't do is commit four turnovers.
  • Nigel Carter's probably going to have to wait his turn barring injury. Too much depth at guard.
  • A lot of what happens this season could rest on Harper Kamp's knee. With Boykin, MSF and Kamp rotating in and out, I feel the Bears can get by. We'll probably have no such luck if it's Max who has to be spelling the two starters (Note: I don't think Max is totally lost, but at this point, with that height, you have to show some ability inside right?)
  • As for our future hero, Bak Bak? He displayed some of the potential that'll hopefully be on display in 2010 when he had one freakish block (albeit goaltend) that made him look like Anthony Randolph. Crazy athleticism. He'll probably redshirt.