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Cal Sports Monday Thoughts: Depth Charts, Fouling, Pac-12 Networks

We're all over the map this Monday.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Pre-fall depth chart released

In case you haven't seen it yet, here's the link. Some quick thoughts:

  • The defense is exactly as young and inexperienced as you'd expect. Of the 12 starters listed (showing who would start depending on whether or not Cal plays a base defense or nickel) only five were regular starters last year, and one of those five has an injury that casts serious doubts as to his availability and effectiveness next year.
  • Having said that: If Cal's defense is solid this year, it could be excellent in 2017. Only 6 out of 24 players listed as either starters or backups are seniors. There's tons of danger in the unknown of youth, but also the potential to build something that's better than anything we've seen recently.
  • Getting past the boring-but-true coach speak that every position is a constant competition, the spots worth watching look to mostly be on the offensive side of the ball - at center, and at wide receiver, where a dozen or more different players will be fighting tooth and nail for the opportunity to catch passes in the Bear Raid.
  • Will quarterback actually be an ongoing battle? Conventional wisdom is that Webb will win the job without a ton of fuss, but the depth chart as of now doesn't agree.
  • True freshmen who are on alert to have their redshirt season burned, based purely on depth chart position: Demetris Robertson, Melquise Stovall, Greyson Bankhead, Jordan Duncan, Evan Weaver, Tevin Paul, Traveon Beck, Nygel Edmonds, Camryn Bynum, Josh Drayden.

Cuonzo Martin: Risk Averse

Kenpom is in the middle of a summer series analyzing how foul trouble impacts substitution patterns used by head coaches. The most recent installment looks at the substitution profile of every head coach in the country. Perhaps not shockingly, Cuonzo falls a bit on the conservative side of the ledger. Here's where Pac-12 coaches ranked, pulled out of the larger national rankings:

Rank Name School Min. 2 fouls Min. on %Min. on
22 Lorenzo Romar Washington 2464 952 38.6
32 Sean Miller Arizona 2168
49 Ernie Kent Washington St. 860
109 Steve Alford UCLA 2033
119 Andy Enfield USC 1250
269 21.5
125 Dana Altman Oregon 1887
400 21.2
133 Bobby Hurley Arizona St. 830
171 20.6
178 Wayne Tinkle Oregon State 2220
200 Jerod Hass Stanford 904
232 Cuonzo Martin California 1995
269 Tad Boyle Colorado 2074
284 Larry Krystkowiak Utah 1028 100 9.7

There are lots of numbers above, but what you really need to know is that, when a player had 2 fouls in the first half, Cuonzo Martin elected to play that player in 12.5% of minutes available, which makes him more risk averse than average both nationally and in the Pac-12.

Having that data is one thing. Determining what it means is another. If you look at Kenpom's full list, you'll notice excellent coaches at both ends of the spectrum. 4th on the list is Jim Boeheim and his notorious zone defense. 312 is Gregg Marshall, who has had a top 25 adjusted defense for four straight years at Wichita State. Even in the Pac-12 - you've got a great defensive coach like Sean Miller sandwiched between . . . less good defensive coaches like Ernie Kent and Lorenzo Romar. Clearly you can succeed at either extreme.

The variable left out is foul rate. Jim Boeheim can afford to play somebody with foul trouble because his defensive system historically is very foul averse. If your defensive system tends to result in lots of fouls, you might be more cautious. Cuonzo's teams tend to not be great at avoiding fouls, so it's perhaps understandable that he's less willing to risk a 3rd foul in the first half.

Based on this data and my own personal observations of two years of Cuonzo-ball, I'd say that Martin could stand to give certain players more leeway - the only players I can recall Cuonzo playing with early game foul trouble It's worth noting that, most of the time this is pretty academic. But there are occasions, in critical games and specific match-ups, when Cal will need certain players (cough Ivan cough) on the court or risk falling so far behind that foul trouble becomes irrelevant. I haven't seen enough evidence yet to know for sure if Martin is willing to bend his usual strategy in high leverage games.

Around the Pac-12

  • Jon Wilner sat down with Larry Scott to discuss various aspects of the Pac-12's media deals and their success (or lack thereof), and here's the biggest takeaway:

The current Tier 1 deal with ESPN and FOX expires in the summer of 2024. When that happens, the conference will take everything it owns to the market. In Scott's view, the confluence of rising demand for live sports (good insight here) ... and changes in media landscape ... and demand for Pac-12 content ... will work to create a bonanza for the conference at the negotiating table with fill-in-the-blank (ESPN, FOX, Hulu, Facebook, Google, etc).

If Larry Scott and the Pac-12 are betting on the value of conference media rights rising, they're taking a big risk. True, advertisers are desperate for actual content that people watch live. It's just as true that a la cart TV services and internet TV might decimate the buying power of the companies that would typically be bidding on content. We had all better hope that Pac-12 leadership have a strong grasp of where the market is going and what the future will bring.