– California Golden Bears

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by: Griffin Bennett

California was a young and scrappy team last season. After losing almost their entire starting line up the year before, head coach Mike Montgomery had a huge task in front of him. His team ended up finishing 10-8 in Pac-12 play which was good for fifth in the conference. It was a finish for a team whose best players were a previously oft injured Harper Kamp and defensively specialist Jorge Gutierrez.

This year’s version of the Cal Golden Bears is building off of their success while only losing one player of their squad from lat season. They have a great combination of young skill and old experience. With all of that said they are by no means a perfect team. Let’s break ‘em down.

Key Losses:

Markhuri Sanders-Frison (10.9 ppg, 7.4 rpg) – Graduation

Gary Franklin (8.2 ppg, 2.0 rpg) – Transfer to Baylor

Best of the Rest:

Obviously they have a lot of players coming back. The first player to be mentioned has to be Jorge Gutierrez. He lead his team in points (14.6), assists (4.5), and steals (1.6) last year. While he may not be a flashy scorer, he is very good in almost every single category you would want. Bottom line, he helps win games. He will definitely be in the Pac-12 POTY conversation.

Next up is Harper Kamp who is another one of my favorite underrated players in the Pac-12. After suffering a brutal season ending surgery two years ago, Kamp came back and played all 33 games last year and showed that he hasn’t slowed down. Now a red shirt senior, Kamp will be their number one presence in the post while only being 6-8. He will need to increase his rebounding numbers if Cal is to be successful.

Cal was forced to play a lot of freshmen last season and they didn’t self-destruct while doing it. That experience will look to pay off this year. Allen Crabbe was a sensation during his freshman campaign with 13.4 ppg and 5.3 rpg. He will look to be their explosive scorer this season and is my guess to lead this team in points. Richard Solomon is another to-be-sophomore who will look to be a the starting center this season.

Their point guard will probably be Brandon Smith who is just an average player but could always take a step forward. Gutierrez handles the ball at the top often so Smith isn’t needed to be the greatest distributor. The other post options for the Bears are Jeff Powers, and Bak Bak. I love writing and saying Bak Bak.

A guy to keep your eye on is 6-2 G Justin Cobbs. He’s a red shirt sophomore who transferred in from Minnesota. I’m not too sure what his impact will be if any. He may be able to sneak into mix sooner rather than later.

Incoming Freshmen:

With only one player leaving, it makes sense that Coach Montgomery would have a small class. However, his 2011 recruiting class is as small as Romar’s 2012 class is shaping up to look like; small and dull.

A name that some might recognize, Christian Behrens from Tohoma High School in Maple Valley. He was a player that I really enjoyed watching in high school and it is a very nice signing. He is a 6-8 SF (two stars from Scout.com) who can do a little bit of everything but nothing incredibly well. He shouldn’t be a key player this season but will be a solid role player down the road.

David Kravish is 6-9 PF (two stars from Scout.com) who needs a lot of time to develop. He’s very small and won’t be a major impact for a few years.

Projected Starting Lineup:

G: Brandon Smith (Jr, 5-11)

G: Jorge Gutierrez (Sr, 6-3)

G/F: Allen Crabbe (So, 6-4)

F: Harper Kamp (Sr, 6-8)

F: Richard Solomon (So, 6-10)

Outlook:

Cal is a popular pick in the preseason to be a Pac-12 title contender. Honestly, I don’t see it. They have little-to-no depth and are severely undersized in a year when Pac-12 teams seem to be getting larger. Guti-Kamp-Crabbe are definitely one of the best trios in the league but the rest of the team is below average. I just don’t see it. Arizona, UCLA, and UW are all equally talented with far greater depth. If Cal is to really succeed this year they will need to stay healthy and use their experience to sneak out some wins.