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Cal Sports Monday Thoughts: Returning defense, NBA draft, laughing at Pat Haden

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Cal fans, when USC gives us material like this, the only option is a joke-off

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

One more measure of 2017 returning talent

Last week we looked at returning starts on the offensive line and returning yards from scrimmage. This week, Phil Steele put out his percentage of tackles returning to give a rough estimate of how much each team brings back on defense. Here's how Cal stacks up with the rest of the Pac-12 and 2017 non-conference opponents:

  1. UCLA - 82.84%
  2. Colorado - 79.90%
  3. San Diego State - 75.38%
  4. Texas - 73.09%
  5. Washington - 72.53%
  6. Oregon State - 67.07%
  7. Washington State - 65.32%
  8. Arizona - 63.30%
  9. Arizona State - 60.49%
  10. Hawaii - 59.90%
  11. USC - 59.10%
  12. Stanford - 58.26
  13. Oregon - 53.16%
  14. Utah - 51.19%
  15. California - 44.20% (116 out of 128 nationwide)
Oh. Oh my.

On one hand, a list like this is going to overvalue teams that have returning linebackers and safeties, since those positions tend to rack up tackles regardless of how good the defense actually is and whether or not those other positions are doing their job. On the other hand, there's no denying that Cal's defense is going to be green next year, in an absolute sense and in comparison to the competition.

An optimist will argue that Cal wasn't a great defense last year, and so there's hope that new players might potentially outperform departing veterans. A pessimist . . . well, I suppose it's rather obvious what a pessimist would argue.

From the list above, SDSU and Washington are the defenses that should scare you - both were top-25 quality units last year, and they both return plenty on that side of the ball. Texas and UCLA will test whether or not experience can turn mediocre units into above-average units.

And since I don't want to end on a down note, you should check out Phil Steele's weighted two-deep ratings, which basically try to holistically measure how much experience a team is bringing back. You won't be surprised to see that Cal isn't ranked particularly highly (7th in the Pac-12, 87th overall). You might be surprised to see that Stanford is ranked 4th from the bottom. If Stanford maintains their recent level of performance this season, then one or both of Christian McCaffrey and David Shaw are demons.

Going pro is almost always the right choice (if money maximization is the priority)

In case you missed it, Jaylen Brown was selected 3rd in the NBA draft, and Tyrone Wallace was selected 60th. And congrats to both! Jaylen will be playing under a great coach, and Ty is headed to a team that isn't thrilled with their guard situation. They'll have a shot to succeed, which is about all you can ask for.

From our perspective as college fans, I'm interested in what their draft positions say about when you should leave college. Jaylen Brown has a ton of question marks as a pro prospect. He hasn't proven that he can shoot the ball well enough for a wing. He hasn't shown elite defensive skills yet. He turns the ball over too much. While nobody is questioning his talent or work ethic, there are major doubts about his game. He still went 3rd overall, and will make something in the vicinity of 4 million dollars as a rookie.

Tyrone Wallace was projected to be a late 1st round, early 2nd round prospect last year. He thrilled Cal fans by electing to come back to school (DAMN YOU INJURIES) and after a season in Berkeley was considered lucky to be drafted, period. Utah drafted four players this year including Ty, one of which is a combo guard. It will be a challenge for Ty to make Utah's opening day roster. Ty, of course, got his degree. I hope that doing so made his decision to return, by itself, worthwhile. But coming back materially damaged his draft position.

We fans spend lots of time speculating about what decision would be best for underclassmen with pro prospects. The reality, of course, is that it's a deeply personal decision based on what a player personally values. Some players intrinsically value the college experience, or have specific bench marks for when they feel ready for their professional career.

But I don't think there's any denying (particularly when it comes to the NBA) that if a player's only goal is to maximize his draft position/rookie contract*, the right decision is almost always to go pro. The likelihood of improving your draft position is offset by the chance of sustaining injuries, and that's ignoring the fact that professional leagues tend to prefer younger players that they can coach up with professional quality practice time. To say nothing of taking away one year potential earnings in a very finite career.

It bums me out. I prefer watching players develop in college at Cal. But Jaylen Brown and Tyrone Wallace are examples of how the business works.

*This entire discussion is based on the assumption that the player in question is projected to actually be drafted. Walk-ons could, in theory, declare for the draft after all.

Around the Pac-12

In which we find random news impacting conference-mates. Hopefully the kind that allows us to shamelessly laugh at them.

In case you missed it, Pat Haden is in mildly hot water (in that he will be publicly shamed but will receive no actual punishment) for allegations of impropriety:

Pat Haden, who will officially step down as USC's athletic director on June 30, used his position on a foundation to enrich himself and his family while he also funneled a vast majority of scholarship money towards USC and away from other schools, according to an investigation by the Los Angeles Times.

When news like this breaks, the only recourse is a long list of lazy, obvious jokes at USC's expense! Here's mine, I expect plenty more in the comments!

  • Glad to see Pat putting his USC education in action in the professional world
  • Finally this nation's non-profits are focusing their efforts on the truly impoverished: private universities
  • Millions in salary for just a few hours of work? I thought USC fired Steve Sarkisian?
  • "Skimming off the top . . . isn't technically illegal, but it goes against the spirit of the foundation" has to pretty much be a USC motto, right?
Washington State has reached an agreement to play Kansas State in 2029. The Cougars haven't announced how they plan to fit that game around their SW Canada-12 conference schedule, but the Wildcats expect to be independent by then so they should be good.

I don't often recommend you read Rule of Tree articles (no offense to them or anything, but I want you guys to be happy) but I'm going to make a very rare exception this time.

I'm not entirely sure if this reflects positively on UCLA fans for being so committed, or negatively on UCLA fans for wasting their time on probably the 5,927th most important thing happening on campus, but clearly the message is that you need to send an e-mail to Gene Block in support of Steve Alford.