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How to explain the inconsistency of Cal basketball?

There are so many strange pieces.

NCAA Basketball: St. Mary's at California Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Cal has this strange habit of playing really well against good teams and godawful against bad teams. It's baffling. How would you explain it?

Editor’s note: These responses came before the results against Seattle and Portland State.

thedozen: I'm not sure if it's a habit, because we tend to remember surprising outcomes rather than expected ones. That said, I thought it was strange when the Bears fared quite a bit better against Saint Mary's than they did in the Central Arkansas game. Then the California Golden Bears pulled one out at San Diego State after leading for much of the game. This year in particular, players are still developing and finding their roles. Good things can happen when they fill those roles well, but the unpredictability can lead to blowout losses.

Rob Hwang: Hey now. I’m pretty sure I asked Avi this question last week and I didn’t get an answer. This team plays to the level of their opponents to the extreme. It’s really interesting. With Pac-12 play around the corner, will the level and consistency of the PAC-12 play to this teams strengths? I guess we won’t know until we play Furd.

dhutto: I think at the post-game the other night Wyking Jones said it best. This is a young team in a Power-5 conference who feels that there are clearly games they should win and should lose. They feel insane amounts of pressure to beat teams like UCA (which they should beat) and in doing so psych themselves out. One of the more paralyzing aspects that we have seen of this is their inability to fight back into those types of games. When they are down to a team they are supposed to beat it seems like that can't shake off the pressure and just play the way we have seen them play. SDSU was a perfect example of this. Huge underdogs and they fought the entire way, even after conceding the lead they never gave up. I think they just need to treat every game as though they are underdogs, especially once we get into conference play.

boomtho: I'd explain it simply by saying we have a young team, in a new system, with a new staff - without a steady lead PG to calm everyone down when games are slipping away. You expect young players to be inconsistent, especially against lesser opposition - compound that with just how many of our guys haven't played together in prior years, plus a shifting defensive scheme leaking points at times... it doesn't surprise me at all.

Kevin Wu: Poor coaching. I'm a believer that effort can be coached-up. It's a mind game to want to play better and up to your potential, especially when things get hard. I believe it's part of the coaches' jobs to pull that something extra out of their players. I'm not a fan of coaches throwing their players under the bus for lack of effort - a sign of a great coach is someone who can tap the right buttons for each of their players to get that little something extra out of them when the lights are shining the brightest.

ragnarok: Usually, wildly inconsistent teams are at least partially the fault of the coaching staff. It seems like there's been a few games this year where the team came out flat, or without a clear plan of attack that they could execute successfully. But extreme youth can also play into inconsistencies, as can particular matchups -- SD State in particular was a good matchup for the Bears, as their poor outside shooting was particularly poorly-suited to attack the Bears' zone.

I didn't watch the Chaminade game, but in nearly two decades of watching Cal Basketball, I've seen more painful losses, and more lopsided ones, but I don't think I've seen a more uninspiring effort than last week against Central Arkansas. That's on the coaching staff. Credit them for turning it around that weekend against the Aztecs, however.