California Golden Bears
Overall Rank: #62
Conference Rank: #8 Pac-10
2006-07: 16-17, 6-12, 8th
2006-07 postseason: none
California will be a better team this year, but moving up a couple spots in the conference standings will be difficult. But the Golden Bears will be in the mix with a handful of other Pac-10 teams fighting for a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
He rarely got the accolades he deserved, but Ayinde Ubaka was a key component for the Cal squad. The point guard averaged 13.7 poitns, 4.3 assists and 3.0 rebounds. He was a quiet leader and a threat to score from anywhere on the floor. Without his leadership and ballhandling, Cal has some questions at the point. The departure of guards Omar Wilkes, Alex Pribble and Patrick Armstrong creates depth concerns on the perimeter. Wilkes, who started 31 games and averaged 9.9 points per contest, was not a great outside shooter, but finding somebody else to stretch the defense from the two guard spot will be a problem.
With a couple of talented freshmen, a transfer from Duke and a returning duo who spent last season injured, Cal has some quality options among the newcomers. Omandi Amoke is an athletic wing whose defensive abilities will get him on the floor as a freshman. He is more of a three than a two, but if his outside shot finds a little consistency, Amoke will see more minutes since the Bears desperately need depth at the shooting guard position. At 6-7, 250 pounds, Harper Kamp is an undersized post player, but has the bulk and the abilities to make an impact against taller competition. Jamal Boykin will be eligible to play at the semester break and is expected to provide depth at the forward positions. Boykin spent some time at Duke where he briefly showed his athleticism in the rebounding and shot blocking categories. Coming in at mid-season will make it difficult, but Boykin could be a key to the Bears team by the time it rolls around to March. Nikola Knezevic was Cal’s backup point guard two years ago. And after a year on the sidelines, Knezevic will take over that role again, and maybe more. He is not a great scorer and will need to use his experience to cut down on the turnovers, but he is a good defender and a decent leader and a more than apt backup point guard. Seven-footer Jordan Wilkes also missed last season due to an injury. Wilkes, a sophomore, can run the floor well for a player his size and has proven to be an effective scorer, at times, in the paint or stepping outside for the short jumper.
Who to Watch:
However, cracking the starting lineup for Wilkes will be nearly impossible with one of the best frontcourts in the nation starting at Cal. Power forward Ryan Anderson showed up in Berkeley and immediately made his presence known. One of only two players to start all 33 games, the freshman averaged a team high 16.3 points and added 8.2 rebounds per contest. It is not everyday that somebody who averages 8.2 rebounds is also the best three point shooter on the team, but Anderson is just that. By his side is 6-11 center DeVon Hardin. Hardin only saw action in 11 games and then came ever so close to going to the NBA, but in the end he has returned for his senior season. He is a great shot blocker and rebounder and an effective scorer under the basket. With a full year of Anderson and Hardin, Cal is in good shape. Along with Wilkes, Taylor Harrison will backup the four and five positions. Theo Robertson has gone mostly unappreciated during his first two years with the team, but the small forward can get to the basket and help on the glass. Eric Vierneisel will likely back him up on the wing. Both Robertson and Vierneisel have the ability to hit the outside shot and will at least see some minutes at the shooting guard position. They are not ideally two guards and that may cause some issues on the defensive end, but Coach Ben Braun will have few other options.
Patrick Christopher will handle the bulk of the minutes at shooting guard, but he is the only true two guard on the team. The 6-5 Compton, California product started 14 games last season, yet still only hit 13 shots from long range. The perimeter desperately needs to find a shooter. It could be point guard Jerome Randle, who has a decent outside shot, but he will be busy taking over the staring point guard duties after being a backup off the bench nearly all of last season. The perimeter is young and lacks depth. With such a dominating group on the inside, there will be plenty of open looks from outside, but somebody has to hit those shots.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Jerome Randle, Sophomore, Guard, 6.5 points per game
Patrick Christopher, Sophomore, Guard, 5.2 points per game
Theo Robertson, Junior, Forward, 8.8 points per game
Ryan Anderson, Sophomore, Forward, 16.3 points per game
DeVon Hardin, Senior, Center, 10.7 points per game