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Women's Week In Review: Bitter End To Disappointing Season

The 2010-11 Cal women's basketball season was an exercise in unrealized hope and optimism.  Fairly or not, back-to-back top 15 recruiting classes and a dominating WNIT championship run created certain expectations.  It became clear early in the year that those expectations were unrealistic.  And yet those who came back to watch every subsequent game bent over backwards looking for signs, flashes, glimpses of the type of talent the recruiting services said Cal possessed.  When Cal started the season with a solid win over Rutgers we hoped it was an accurate reflection of the team's talent.  When they swept Arizona and Arizona St. at home we hoped it meant a corner had been turned.  When they scored 82 against USC we hoped it meant the offense had woken up.  When they swept through the first two rounds of the Pac-10 tournament and beat Cal Poly in the WNIT we hoped it meant the Bears had found themselves again.

Ultimately, all of those hopes were unfounded and we're left praying that 2011-12 becomes everything that this season was not.  There are absolutely reasons to think that next year will be much more successful - the potential return of two injured players and the debut of three touted freshman amongst them.  There are just as many reasons to worry that this group of Bears may never reach the lofty heights that some (including myself) predicted.  Unfortunately, all of the questions that plagued Cal's season will follow them throughout the off-season because of what happened in the first half against Colorado.

I could scarcely imagine a worse half.  Cal has had problems with good shooting and turnovers all year, so it was particularly surprising that they struggled on offense.  Cal has had poor defensive games as well, so it wasn't shocking that Colorado was having success on offense.  But to such an extreme?  What was shocking was that Colorado beat Cal on the boards 21-15 in the first half and didn't turn the ball over for the first 12 minutes of the game.  It was across the board domination.  The game was over after 16 minutes, or perhaps even earlier.

It was so rough that it quickly erased in my mind whatever momentum Cal gained by winning three of their previous four games.  A relatively easy victory over Cal Poly was nice, but Cal is well past the point of resting their hat on easy wins over physically and athletically over-matched mid-majors.  We didn't learn anything from that game that we didn't already know: Cal is going to beat teams when they simply overwhelm them with their size and speed.  But when BCS conference teams come calling, even mediocre ones like Colorado, it's not that easy.

We just came out flat. I haven't seen my team come out that bad before. I think we got shell shocked

We are young and injured. We have to be able to have buy-in and play 40 minutes. That has been our struggle all year, playing hard for 40 minutes.

Unfortunately, these quotes don't sound very unique to me.  They just as easily could have been about Washington St., or Stanford at home, or Oregon at home.  Now that the season is over, here's the more important quote:

Is this the feeling you want, for this to be the last game of the year, and you will have this feeling until you go into next season.

I still believe that this team has the talent to be great and the coaching to be great.  There are plenty of legitimate criticisms to be made on both fronts after this year.  I've made a number of them already.  But I've seen too many flashes of greatness to discount the talent, and I spent too much time watching Cal make four straight NCAA tournaments to give up on the coaches.  If the players and coaches learn from the problems on the court this year, fill a few holes with returning and freshman players and turn this group around then 2011 will not be a lost year, but rather a rebuilding and learning year.

With the season over I obviously won't be writing as frequently about Cal women's basketball, but be on the lookout for profiles of incoming recruits and other potential thoughts as the slow off-season grinds on.  It's only been a few hours since Cal fell in the Rockies and yet I find myself craving more Bear basketball.