Happy Super Bowl Monday hangover everybody! Condolences to the many 49er fans reading, and congratulations to the many Mitchell Schwartz fans reading.
You may have noticed a decline in the number of articles appearing on this here website. I can’t say a ton at the moment, other than to say that there are reasons for that, and that the time we usually spend writing is being spent in other, Cal-productive ways. Stay tuned!
Cal Men’s Basketball living right at home
As noted below re: Pac-12 game margin of victory numbers, the Bears have been notably fortunate this year: pic.twitter.com/oYbLcrul50— Nicolas Kranz (@NorCalNickCGB) February 2, 2020
There are many different ways to illustrate the point. There are the Kenpom ‘Luck’ rankings, as clipped above. There’s the fact that Cal has been outscored by precisely 100 points in their 21 games, yet have a record of 10-21. There’s record in games decided by single digits, where Cal sits at 8-3.
The bottom line? The Bears are a tad fortunate to be sitting at 9-10 (4-4) with 10 games left in the regular season. Saturday’s game was a great illustration - the Bears managed to escape with a win against Oregon State in part because the Beavers missed a game tying free throw and in part because a 50/50 block/charge call went in Cal’s favor.
No, I’m not trying to argue that Cal didn’t deserve the win - Andre Kelly going 2nd half supernova and Matt Bradley playing a great game from start to finish had more than a little to do with it. It’s just worth remembering that Cal now has four home conference wins, and they all needed certain swing plays to go our way down the stretch.
For a young team that might reasonably struggle with confidence and belief, getting a few of those bounces does a world of good, and the Bears suddenly find themselves right in the middle of the conference standings, just a game back of a first round conference tournament bye. Perhaps more importantly, winning all these close games will hopefully make it easier for Mark Fox to convince potential recruits that he has the Bears on an upswing, and that coming to Cal means an on-court experience less like the previous two seasons and more like . . . well, we all remember the before time.
That position may not last much longer - Cal’s early conference schedule gave the Bears 5 out of 8 at home, and the back end is road heavy. While winnable home games against Arizona State and Utah still remain, for Cal to keep up their current pace (or to avoid a 3rd straight last place finish) the Bears will either need to pull off major home upsets (Arizona/Colorado) or steal a few road wins. As you’re likely well aware, the Bears are 0-8 away from Haas Pavilion . . . with an average margin of defeat of eighteen.
So, the battle for a road win picks up next week on the always difficult Mountain trip. Colorado and Utah are, unsurprisingly, a combined 18-3 playing at home at altitude this year.
Cal Football lands a huge recruit to start the Class of 2021
It’s obviously early days in the 2021 recruiting cycle, but landing the commitment of athlete/WR Mavin Anderson may well turn out to mark a shift in recruiting under Justin Wilcox.
To start with, by some measures Anderson may well be the highest rated player that Wilcox has recruited during his entire tenure (DJ Rogers, Kuony Deng, Will Craig, and Nikko Remigio are in the same ballpark if early scouting on Anderson is accurate). For another, Anderson is a highly sought after California recruit with offers from half the Pac-12, including schools like Oregon and ASU that have been pillaging top talent from California. And finally, it’s an early commit of an elite talent.
None of these things have happened with a ton of regularity over the last few years, and it’s certainly possible that when signing day rolls around Anderon’s commitment will be more of a one-off than a trend. But there are strong signs that Wilcox’s slow and steady recruiting ramp up is continuing apace. Each year, Cal’s recruiting classes have been marginally but meaningfully better than the prior year, and between Anderson’s commitment along with some of the other high end recruits Cal appears to be in for, 2021 appears likely to continue that trend.
Cal Women’s Basketball and Charmin Smith break their Pac-12 duck
After Cal started their season with an 8-3 non-conference performance highlighted by a win over a still-on-the-fringes-of-the-top-25 Arkansas and a near upset of still-top-15 Kentucky, worries about going winless in conference play never crossed my mind.
But the Bears started Pac-12 play with a couple of rough performances at home against the Washington schools, games that most Cal fans probably pegged as solid win opportunities. That weekend was followed by four games against top 10 competition that went about how most expected, and the Bears were thrown into a tailspin that resulted in an 0-9 start to conference play. Cal’s chances certainly weren’t helped by various injuries that led to CJ West coming in and out of the lineup.
Jaelyn Brown is Cal’s best player, but CJ is perhaps the most irreplaceable because Cal just doesn’t have any depth at the post. Without CJ Cal only really had two true post players left on the roster - senior Chen Yue and freshman Evelien Schipholt . . . and then Chen picked up a concussion of her own that prevented her from travelling this weekend.
Thankfully, CJ was back but looked plenty rusty on Friday in another rough loss to Washington State. Thankfully, she was back to her usual self on Sunday, contributing 22 essential points and 9 rebounds in 33 minutes. In a game that went to overtime, it’s pretty easy to argue that Cal would still be without a Pac-12 win if CJ hadn’t been ready to go.
That Cal gave up a 16 point lead in the final 5:45 of the game was certainly frightening, though it was gratifying to see the Bears put that nightmarish final few minutes out of their heads in time to dominate the overtime period, 14-7. When you’re winless in conference play, you take the W any way you can get it.
Hopefully Cal can take this win and try to build some positive feelings and good memories for the departing seniors before the 2020-21 cavalry arrives.