Today's the big day! Oakland (Ca.) Bishop O'Dowd big man Ivan Rabb is making his commitment tonight between the California Golden Bears and the Arizona Wildcats, and we will know for certain whether Cal men's basketball will be a definite conference contender next season. Cal has been rumored as the favorites and hey we've been down this road before so let's not read too much into it.
There are many reasons why Rabb's decision has been talked about for months here. A lot of Cal fans didn't think we'd be in the race a year ago. Heck it was hard for us to envision us even being close to being in the final mix a few months back. But Cuonzo Martin has shown he's eager and able to recruit, and he has been recruiting Rabb for quite some time. It's made all the difference in the world, and Cal has managed to get themselves in the mix for names like Rabb, Caleb Swanigan, Jaylen Brown and more.
Rabb's decision might be the most important for Cal basketball going into the future though. Let's take a look at why.
A legit bona fide big man. The biggest issue for years with Cal basketball is big men depth. With Kingsley Okoroh and Kameron Rooks the lone returning big men, Cal is pretty much down to Rabb as their remaining big man recruiting target (the remaining options are Cornell transfer Shonn Miller and USF transfer Mark Tollefsen to fill the Tarwater/Behrens role, with probably one of them being taken as well).
Filling all positions. Cal definitely has already added two solid pieces to their recruiting class in Davon Dillard and Tyson Jolly, ensuring that the Bears will definitely be stacked all along the wing next season. Cal will have so many 2s and 3s next year that they won't have any issue spacing the floor. But Cal needs a legit big to complement the still developing Okoroh and Rooks and whichever transfer the Bears manage to land.
Returning to the tournament. This is a duh. Rabb would become the best Pac-12 commit, pretty much ensures Cal will be in the NCAA tournament mix, as they return plenty of talent and will be in the hunt for a conference title. Just in terms of immediacy, his impact would be felt instantly.
Tyrone Wallace. Wallace is still deliberating on his decision, and Rabb's commitment to Cal would probably push him back to ensuring he returns to lead Cal as the primary point guard the senior season. Rabb committing to Arizona might push Wallace the other way. The Bears could be really solid at all spots or might be searching for answers at point guard and power forward next year. That's how thin the razor's edge is here.
The 2016 class. Martin has already shown that he's ready to recruit, and he's been making inroads with all the major prospects for not just this year, but the next two years. Cal has already landed a huge Bay Area blue chipper in Oscar Frayer for next season and appears rock solid to be a Bear, but I imagine that Cuonzo would love to secure Rabb to make it clear that he is capable of attracting the best players and give Cal a REAL shot at landing a dynamite 2016 class. Just like Sonny Dykes managed to make big strides on the recruiting trail after his second year on the job, Martin would probably be able to do the same with another season under his belt.
Cal can attract national prospects. Anytime you can build positive momentum on the recruiting trail, it's always a good thing. Cal getting this type of buzz is great. But results are all that matter in the end. Landing an actual commitment would really deliver the tangible results that Martin and the Golden Bear staff are looking for. It would prove that they are indeed ready to start landing great prospects year after year. It would put Cal in the direction that other Pac-12 bluebloods like Arizona and UCLA have established. These are huge steps toward building a long-term program.
Denying Arizona supremacy of our backyard. Arizona has pretty much owned Bay Area recruiting the past few seasons, and Martin needs to end that. Aaron Gordon, Brandon Ashley, Elliott Pitts have all been poached from our backyard recently, and have laid the foundation for two straight Elite 8 squads. Cal needs to send a clear message that they are the masters of their domain.
We'll know a lot about the destiny of Cal hoops for the next 12 months in the next 12 hours. A lot hinges on what is to come tonight.