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Cal basketball problems: Mike Montgomery recruiting, Cuonzo Martin coaching?

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Still a lot of questions to be answered.

Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

Let's look at coaches. What's a bigger culprit for Cal regressing on the court: Mike Montgomery's inability to recruit with their on-court success, or Cuonzo Martin's inability to max the talent of the players he's got?

Avinash Kunnath: I know there's a correlation between on-field success and football recruiting, but I imagine it's even more important in hoops. Before last season, Mike Montgomery has landed at most two impact recruits a year. Jorge in 2008. MSF in 2009. Crabbe/Solomon (I guess the Cobbs transfer counts) in 2010. Kravish in 2011. Wallace in 2012. Bird/Mathews in 2013. That's way too low a return ratio. Ben Braun couldn't coach his foot to get in his shoe, but the talent he brought to Cal was enough for Monty to get them to a conference title in two years.

With the team in decline, Monty jumped ship and left Martin with a pretty bare cupboard with which to install his new offense. It's a tough situation for Cuonzo, who did his most to get some big wins but just doesn't have the bodies. He particularly needs a primary ball handler and a big. If he gets those, Cal is in better shape.



boomtho: Montgomery's inability to recruit, by a hair. Of course, Bird and Rooks being injured really hurts this thought exercise, because the former is pretty damn essential to opening up the floor on offense even slightly and the latter is another big body we could use. Jordan Mathews is a really nice piece, but so far Singer, Moute, Behrens (injury qualifier goes here too) have been really disappointing this year. What strikes me is how unbalanced the team is with regards to offensive skills vs other sklils - we have a lot of guys who can't score but are decent in the "grit" department, and that makes it really tough to field a decent lineup.

That being said, there's a lot that seems to be on Cuonzo - Kravish has regressed tremendously, Behrens and Singer have lost their confidence on offense and seem to roam a lot, and there are some fair questions around who should be getting big man minutes vs who actually is.




Rob Hwang: This is a tricky question. Monty left us with a bottom-heavy roster allowing Cuonzo to mold the young guys to his game and mentality but that just hasn't happened. We arguably had our best recruiting class in a long time last season, but many of those guys are four year guys. The guys we expected to step up have done so (Bird/Mathews) but otherwise its been a sophomore disappearance for some guys who started bright (Singer/Rooks). Monty just did not recruit correctly. We always aimed for one 4-star recruit and the rest were guys he saw staying for 4 years.

We never were in the running for one-and-done guys which has become the trend in order to win. Recruiting should have been molded like Duke has. Until Coach K decided to take on 1&done recruits starting with Kyrie Irving, the Blue Devils were good but not as great as they are now. Simply put, getting talented players even if for one year raises the standard and value of the program. Recruits generally want to go where they might be able to get at a shot at the next level. That only comes with wins and exposure. Getting Jabari last year was huge, and that should help Cuonzo in at least staying in the conversation with big time recruits, but it will come down to whether or not players see that the program as the best place for their game to grow and develop.

In terms of whether Cuonzo and his ability to get the best out of his players, the jury is still out. Coach has done the best with what he has got right now, but it is evident that the team is lacking confidence and at times has no idea what their game plan is when on the court. Having a depth issue has definitely hurt Cuonzo setup a solid rotation and that is huge when players just do not know what their role is when on the floor. Monty's team have usually plateaued out towards the end of the season, maybe Cuonzo will turn this around and the team can still make the big dance. The opportunity is fading fast but it hasn't faded yet.