Only four months to go. That's how long until the return of basketball, not that I've been counting or anything. And as always, Lindsay Gottlieb has put together a diverse, challenging but reasonable schedule for the Bears in 2014-15.
With Brittany Boyd and Reshanda Gray both seniors, there will be high expectations. I am of the opinion that this year's non-conference schedule should do what it is supposed to do: prepare a team for conference play and build a computer resume that is competitive come Selection Sunday in March.
Below is our traditional schedule analysis, with last year's RPI rankings for each opponent in parenthesis.
Cream of the Crop
The games that get fans excited and largely shape a team's non-conference tournament resume.
Louisville (8), Kansas (127), Creighton (64)
I'l admit to being very generous to Kansas, who fell off a cliff last year after graduating a group of seniors that had led the Jayhawks on multiple Sweet 16 runs. But the game is in Lawrence and Kansas has enough talent on the roster and recent success to suggest that they could be a more difficult, valuable opponent than last year's record suggests.
Cal will play either Creighton or Cincinnati in the 2nd game of the Cal classic, and Creighton appears to be the more likely opponent after the Blue Jays just missed out on an NCAA tournament bid last year.
But obviously the biggest game is against Louisville in Berkeley four days before Christmas. Shoni Schimmel and Antonita Slaughter will have graduated, but the Cardinals have four top-100 recruits to go along with some strong returning contributors. Even at home it will be the toughest non-conference game of the year by a wide margin.
Should be wins that don't hurt a team's computer profile. Sometimes sneaky good teams in this category can provide a solid resume boost.
Pacific (77), Missouri (108), Nevada (159), Hawaii (110), Sacramento St. (133), Cincinnati (134), Old Dominion (128), Long Beach St. (194)
An interesting mix of over-achieving mid-majors and struggling major conference foes. Cincinnati and Missouri both finished well below .500 in the AAC and the Big-12 respectively, but either could potentially bounce back this year.
Perhaps most interestingly, Cal will be playing three smaller schools on the road. The Bears will visit UOP to open the season, will play Hawaii in an island tournament, and Long Beach St. before finals. A trip to Stockton isn't too far off the beaten path, but the Tigers have been solid for a few years now and almost beat Cal last year. We certainly can't forget last year's George Washington game. Cal must be on upset alert for all three road games.
Like fast food, one or two of these games in October and November probably won't hurt, but empty calories should generally be avoided.
San Jose St. (274)
Cal will play San Jose St. in the first round of the Cal Classic. It makes all kinds of sense to have an easier win when you're playing again the very next day against a major conference opponent. And as SJSU is the only team on Cal's schedule with an RPI of 200 or higher from last year, I'd say job well done.