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Pac 10 Basketball Preview: California

Key Returners: Patrick Christopher (15.2 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 2.0 APG), Jerome Randle (11.2 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 3.7 APG), Jamal Boykin (7.8 PPG, 3.8 RPG)

Key Losses: Ryan Anderson (21.1 PPG, 9.9 RPG), Devon Hardin (9.3 PPG, 7.4 RPG)

Key Recruits: D.J. Seeley (Rivals 4/5, #9 SG)

Before leaving Stanford to take the Head Coaching position of the Golden State Warriors, current Cal head coach Mike Montgomery Turned Stanford into a nationally recognized Basketball program. During his time as head coach from 1986 to 2004, Montgomery led the Cardinal to an NIT championship in 1991 and twelve NCAA tournament berths (including ten consecutive appearances from 1995 to 2004) to go along with four Pac 10 championships. So while the Bears may be headed for a bit of a down year, it should not take long for Monty to turn things around from the years of meciocrity spent under former head coach Ben Braun.

In the here and now, though, California faces some serious questions. Ryan Anderson was an all Pac 10 first team selection and led the conference in scoring over the likes of OJ Mayo and Jerryd Bayless. Anderson, who was selected 21st overall, was also third in conference in rebounding and nearly averaged a double-double on the season. Devon Hardin, a second round selection, was the other part of Cal's front court tandem and came in second on the team in rebounding and was the most physical player in the paint. These two players combined make up over 40% of the teams scoring and rebounding. But more importantly, while Cal has some bigs on the bench (namely junior Jordan Wilkes and redshirt freshman Max Zhang), none of these players have seen significant playing time.

All is not lost though, as the team should still have an excellent back court. Veteran guards Jerome Randle and Patrick Christopher will both be entering their third season and each has shown marked improvement year over year. Chritopher in particular may end up being an All Pac 10 second or third team caliber player when all is said and done. Incoming SG DJ Seeley will also be able to play immediately if needed and may be able to provide a nice boost off of the bench. Jamal Boykin and Harper Kamp will also be expected to play a bigger role at the small forward position after posting solid numbers in limited playing time last season. In fact, Boykin is the teams leading returning rebounder at 3.8 rebounds per game.

The key to success for the Bears this season will be adapting to a more small ball style of play and the emergence of at least one big man for the team. There is talent at the guard positions and at small forward, but a lack of a presence on the inside will lead to easy boards on both sides of the court (and any coach will tell you that those offensive rebounds are especially killer). Things are almost certainly headed for a turn around up in Berkeley, but it seems that they are still at least a year away.

Prediction: 7th (Likely the best of the bottom tier)