Ahh the top 10. It's good to be back. After spending essentially the entire 2012-13 season in the top 10, our Bears are back amongst the elite thanks to a series of surprising upsets that have pushed traditional powers like Tennessee, Maryland and Kentucky down in the rankings.
Does this matter at all? Nah. For now, it's just fun. It's worth noting that the Bears have yet to face a particularly tough team, and won't face a ranked team until #7 Louisville comes to Berkeley in a few weeks. But the Bears are playing fun, exciting basketball that has some pretty significant differences than years past, and the result has been wins.
I'm going to offer some quick thoughts on recent games, then go through some various news and items of interest. There's certainly plenty to catch up on:
Cal 94, Creighton 69
If you take opponent strength into account, this game was almost certainly Cal's best offensive game of the season, and it was tons of fun to watch. Nine different Bears scored, and all ten players on the roster recorded at least one assist in the best display of passing basketball I can recall under Lindsay Gottlieb.
And really, this might have been the best passing team Gottlieb has ever had. You might recall that before Brittany Boyd arrived on campus, Cal's fatal flaw was the lack of a point guard. The year before she arrived, Cal had close to Final Four level talent, except they didn't really have a point guard, so instead the Bears were a WNIT team. And while Boyd's arrival solved that particularly painful issue, it took awhile for more passing talent to arrive in Berkeley to help Boyd out.
Mercedes Jefflo helped out a bit last year. Now, a year older, Jefflo is capable of running the offense in Boyd's offense. So is Gabby Green, who looks remarkably comfortable as a ball-handler and passer. With three legitimate ball-handlers, Cal can do so many more interesting things on offense that couldn't be done previously. Brittany Boyd can actually play off the ball occasionally. She can also sit for a few minutes on the bench without all hell breaking loose. Now, multiple players can initiate in transition, and Cal has been able to play much faster as a result.
Again, caveats apply: Cal has been doing this against mediocre competition. Who knows how things will work against the Stanfords, Louisvilles and Oregon States of the world. But if nothing else Cal is showing a dimension they didn't really have before, and it's exciting.
Cal 107, Sacramento State 94
Before the game even started, I kinda sorta predicted that Brittany Boyd would finish with a triple double. Frankly, it wasn't a very bold decision, because when you give Brittany Boyd 93 possessions, is it really so weird that she would get to 10 assists, 10 points, and 10 rebounds?
As predicted, everything about this game was wacky, and I'm inclined to throw the whole thing out because it hardly resembles modern basketball. It's good to know that Cal can beat Sacramento State in a game of, let's say, Rocketball, but it doesn't say much about how Cal will do when they go back to playing their preferred sport.
The defensive numbers are undeniably ugly. For the first time all year Cal allowed an opponent to score more than .9 points/possession, and that allowed Sac. St. to sorta hang around. The Hornets managed that because they shot 17-48 from the 3 point line, a 39% clip well above their season shooting percentage. If Sac St. had shot more in line with their averages, the Hornets probably finish in the low 80s and it's just another huge romp for Cal.
Cal ran right with a team that tries to exhaust you through sheer force in numbers, and did it with basically only seven players. That speaks well to Cal's conditioning, although I bet the team is plenty sore tonight.
Oh, and by the way Reshanda Gray scored 37 points, is currently 15th in the country in scoring, and 3rd in the country in field goal percentage behind two players who take waaaay less shots than Beast Mode does. She's good.
Other News and Notes
- Mikayla Cowling was in a walking boot and didn't play against Sacramento State. Coach G says that she's day-to-day. It would be great to have her this weekend on the road against Kansas, but the big game to have her available for would be Louisville. For now, just hope that it's not a long term thing, because Cal obviously doesn't have a roster to absorb significant injuries.
- ESPN updated their 2015 recruiting class rankings, placing Cal 9th. The insight is pretty superficial, but it's nice to see Cal first among Pac-12 teams. Next year's squad will be very, very young, but exciting in equal measures.
- WBBState has Cal's RPI at 7. RealtimeRPI has it at 12. I assume the discrepancy has to do with when games are inputted into each system. Regardless, the point is that Cal is building a solid non-conference resume despite a current lack in obviously huge wins. The good news is that Louisville, Stanford, Washington, Arizona State, USC and Washington State are all putting together strong computer profiles. Schedule strength won't be an issue for Cal this year.
- If you haven't already, do yourself a favor and watch the videos that go up roughly weekly on thisiscalbasketball.com. That's where you can see highlights from Hawaii (including Coach G getting ejected!) and Missouri (including waiting for the Tigers to escape from a broken elevator!) and any other game you might have missed. The intro graphic is super cool, and the highlights are always perfectly edited.
- After some confusion last week with webcast coverage of the Cal classic, I got an e-mail from Cal women's basketball regarding the live stream status. The basic message is this: please be patient, because most of this year's issues are being caused by the renovation that will occur to Haas Pavilion between now and next season. There are two pieces of good news: 1) There is only one more games at home this year that won't be televised (Old Dominion) and 2) Streaming will be significantly better next year thanks to the upgrades.