...Everything New is Old Again?: California

And you probably though I was going to post the Marcus Johnson Dunk again huh? (via calathletics)

An absurdly early look at the 2009-10 Pac 10 Basketball season. Each team will be scrutinized in a ruthlessly clinical fashion, and a final post will wrap up the predicted final standings at the end of the season. For no particular reason I decided to go in alphabetical order, so third out of the gates was surprisingly strong Cal, the only Pac 10 team to finish in the top half of the conference that returns its top five players by minutes.

Key Returners: Jerome Randle (18.3 PPG, 60.9 eFG%, 5.0 APG), Jamal Boykin (9.6 PPG, 53.5 eFG%, 6.4 RPG)

Key Departures: maybe Jordan Wilkes... maybe?

Key Recruits: none

Projected Starting Lineup:

PG           Jerome Randle
SG           Patrick Christopher
SF           Theo Robertson
SF/PF     Harper Kamp
PF           Jamal Boykin
6th Man  Jorge Gutierrez

The Lowdown: Last years California team is an excellent example of the limits of predictability. No one expected them to come out and contend for a Pac 10 title and absolutely nobody thought that Jerome Randle would end up being one of the nation's elite poing guards. Seriously the Cal team of last year is like some kind of Mandelbroatian fractal randomness nonsense that is almost impossible to predict outside of simply knowing that sometimes teams get hugely better for no readily apparent reason despite losing two players to the NBA. But here we are sitting in the present which at one time in the not so distant past was the incomprehensible future where the Golden Bears may actually be the favorite to win the Pac 10 in 2009-10. To be sure the merest notion would have been seen as the fevered dream of a madman, but as my goofy out of touch dad likes to say, "we are living in real reality". Are you following me? Ok good, because I promise I'll put the clamps down on the wild prose a little bit from here on out for the sake of readability, just bear with me...

So it may be a bit of a stretch to say that last year's team emerged out of some highly improbable soup to take the Pac 10 by storm. After all, Randle had a solid if unspectacular sophomore campaign, Boykin was a former Dukie who showed flashes of great potential, and Patrick Christopher had already established himself as a strong (albeit somewhat streaker) shooter. Add in the brilliant hire of semi-mythical college coach Mike Mintgomery and its easy to see (in hindsight) that all the pieces were there for a potentially great team despite some very key weaknesses. But now the team must face the burden of expectations along with the equally toilsome and ongoing burden of the lack of depth in the front court. Not that th're aren't options, 7+ footer Max Zhang has been riding the pine the past couple of seasons and a couple of JUCO players may help shore up the paint (Bak Bak anyone?). But I can't really say for sure how much effect a rag tag group of inexperienced big men will fare even in a somewhat depleted Pac 10.

So let's examine what there is to work with. Just by the sight test it seems like there is room to improve for all of Cal's players. It seemed like for much of the season that Randle could take over or alter games, but it always seemed as though he did so as a reaction to adversity on the court and not simply because he was a great player. Learning to assert himself for entire games could really elevate the Bears to another level. In a less philosophical way, Boykin is also capable of huge improvement over the off season and must live up to his potential if they want to talk seriously about a Pac 10 title. Finally, Patrick Christopher needs to be more consistent. To be frank I was shocked that Christopher was thinking about the draft because right now he is a scorer and not much else. If he really wants to make it to the association he needs to become a consistent volume scorer, and even then that Berkeley degree is worth more than the rookie minimum often thrown to 2nd round draft picks. 

So Cal may be maddeningly incomplete, but the essential incompleteness will not prevent them from improving and getting more wins next season. If anything basketball has been moving away from the platonic mold of pure 1 2 3 4 5, if it ever even existed, and a teams ability to emphasize its strengths and talent level is the only true limiting factor. Mike Montgomery is a coach that knows how to get the most out of the hand he has been dealt, and theres little doubt in my mind that California will be in the fight for the Pac 10 title up until the bitter end... well, as long as they can figure out how to beat Oregon State!

Magic 8 Ball Says: "Will Jerome Randle be recognized as the best PG in the Pac 10 next year?" "As I see it, yes"

 

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