Cal played its best half of basketball this season - the Bears showed they can compete with anyone in the conference and should be a post-season team.. The Bears played along with Oregon's tempo, but they were far more efficient in the 1st half.
Oregon's run to start the 2nd half showed why they can beat anyone in the country. They are as explosive as any team in recent conference history, and they remind us of some of the better guard-led Arizona teams.
Omar Wilkes has come out of his shell (7-9, 3-4 from three), which bodes very well for the rest of the season. Cal desperately needs a third reliable scorer to take pressure of AU and Mr. Anderson.
Theo has recently looked much more aggressive in all phases of his game - nice to see him back.
Has Cal played in any games recently where both teams shot so well? Cal was 53.4% from the field, 47.6 from three, and 100% from the line. Oregon went for 56.6%/54.5%/90.9%. There were only 50 rebounds in a game that featured 176 points - remarkable.
To nitpick, it doesn't look like Patrick Christopher is making much progress on the offensive end. He only played 17 minutes despite getting the start.
Unsurprisingly, we have 2nd half issues with only nine scholarship players available for duty. The fatigue is palpable, and prevents the Bears from getting out on shooters. Hopefully, this problem will not increase exponentially as the conference season drags on.
Today we will watch a game that should remind us of exactly what we're missing with DeVon Hardin out of action. But wait, you say, Oregon's only got one legitimate post player. This isn't Washington, after all - and Cal beat the Huskies!
It's true that outside of Maarty Leunen, the Ducks don't have a reliable inside presence. But the Ducks boast great guard play - Aaron Brooks is finally playing up to his potential in this, his fourth year at Eugene. He averages 18.2 ppg and 4.6 apg and has become the money player for Oregon at the end of games. Freshman Tajuan Porter plays alongside Brooks and contributes 12.9 ppg. Malik Hairston plays a wing and is an explosive slasher to the basket. All three guys are adept at breaking down a defense on dribble-drive, and it's unlikely that Cal can stop penetration consistently. And without Hardin, Cal has little recourse once the Duck guards do get into the paint. DeVon would ordinarily be the great equalizer in a game like this, altering shots and creating chaos in the middle.
OK, should Cal zone the Ducks? Maybe, but their five starters shoot 38% or better from three and their sixth man, Chamberlain Oguchi, shot 36% last year (he's struggling a bit thus far in 07). Oh, and we forgot Bryce Taylor, another scorer with range (averaging 16 ppg) who's playing very well after a disappointing sophomore season.
Cal will play a deliberate pace to keep the score down, but even then it's hard to see how the Bears can stop Oregon's offense often enough to notch the upset. Oh, and to add to our worries Oregon has become a good defensive team, ranking 34th in the nation in defensive efficiency (Cal is 77th). You can see where we're going with this; the bright spot is that Cal's won two of the last three games where we picked against them. Let's hope they can make it three of four today.
I was sitting with friends at Staples last year watching Oregon lose to our sturdy Golden Bears in double OT. The discussion topic at halftime was what would happen if Oregon ever got its act together - played defense, shared the basketball, and stopped fighting amongst themselves (and with their opponents).
Now we know the answer to that question. To get a better handle on a team that perhaps is the biggest surprise in all of college basketball, we exchanged Q's and A's with fellow blogger Addicted to Quack. Our answers to David's Q's will be up at his site at some point.
Tightwad Hill: Oregon didn't add that much (outside of Tajuan Porter) and Hairston's been in and out of the lineup. So why are the Ducks leading the conference?
Addicted to Quack: Teamwork and poise. I think the biggest problems with the Ducks last year were that they didn't play as a team, and they lost a lot of close games (I believe 13 games by seven points or less). This year, they are playing as a team and winning those games.
One big thing that this team did was went to the Bahamas in September for a preseason tournament, and apparently really got a chance to bond and come together as a team, which they really didn't do last year. They trust each other more, so you don't see any issues as far a sharing the ball. It doesn't matter who gets the points, so long as the Ducks get the W. Finally, the experience of all the close losses last year has made them poised in the clutch. They don't panic, they know that they are going to get a good shot. The talent was always there, it was just about playing smart team basketball.
Tightwad Hill: Ernie Kent seems to have gone from dead man walking to the toast of Eugene. Is there any scenario where he wouldn't be back next year - or has this incredible start secured his return?
Addicted to Quack: Unless he decided to bolt for a better job, unlikely seeing as he is a Duck alum, there is no way he is not back next year. But an issue to look out for in the future is that the Ducks need Phil Knight to fund a new basketball arena, and, reportedly, he doesn't like Kent. With Oregon looking for a new AD (that will supposedly canoodle with Knight more than Bill Moos did), Kent's long term future is unknown at this point. But he deserves a lot of credit for this year.
Tightwad Hill: How far can the Ducks go? We picked them fourth to start the season, but they look like a realistic Sweet 16 or even Elite 8 team.
Addicted to Quack: Why can't Oregon go all the way? I mean, the year to compare this to is 2001-02. The Ducks came out of nowhere to win the conference and go to the elite eight. This is a similar team. Look at the parallels of the careers of Freddie Jones and Aaron Brooks. That team came out of nowhere to make a deep tourney run. No reason to think that this team can't as well.
Tightwad Hill: Any match-ups with Cal that make you nervous as a Duck fan? Conversely, which matchups do you like?
Addicted to Quack: Well, I'm just happy that we don't have to play DeVon Hardin. Ryan Anderson is a very good player, but seems to be the only big, and that is good for the Ducks. Wilkes and Ubaka are good players that are potent threats, but I don't see any individual matchups that I don't think the Ducks have the edge in. Whether its (Maarty) Leunen vs. Anderson, Wilkes vs. (Aaron) Brooks (left), etc., I just think the Ducks are better. If Porter guards Ubaka, that could be interesting, as I think Ubaka could post him up a bit. Cal is a decent team, but Oregon just has more talent.
Tightwad Hill: Your prediction for the game
Addicted to Quack: I predict a Duck win, of course. Stanford was our largest margin in a conference game, and we won by seven. I see no reason why this one won't be close, either. Ducks by six.
Our thanks to David, who is justifiably loving this season, and our best wishes for a good, injury-free game. Our prediction will be up tomorrow.
In our last installment, we brought you the lamest of the lame - the eight most scorn-worthy 2007 OOC slates in one blog's opinion. Now it's time to celebrate those programs that have made gutsy choices to fill out their twelve-game slates. Again, these are not necessarily the highest ranked schedules according to Sagarin - we find it hard to congratulate programs for "lucking" into the fact that Navy or Rutgers is suddenly good. Similarly, it's difficult to penalize schools who scheduled teams like Colorado before they became train wrecks (such as Georgia, by the by).
#8. Georgia (Oklahoma State, Western Carolina, Troy, @ Georgia Tech) OK, we're having a little fun here but we're also trying to make a point. Georgia got stood up by Oregon State and had an opening on 9/1 - the first week of the season. They could have put any number of directional schools on the calendar as a tuneup, but instead decided to get a BCS conference opponent - and a bowl team, no less. That deserves some respect. And yes, Kyle, we'd love a home-and-home with the Dawgs, if for no other reason than we've never been to Athens (and chances are, you've never been to Berkeley). All we know of Athens we've learned from two sources: watching Georgia football on TV, and grainy footage of REM and Pylon at the 40-Watt Club.
The insurgency began, and you missed it
#7. Stanford (@ TCU, SJSU, @ Notre Dame) Two very tough road games are almost certain losses for the woeful Cardinal. San Jose State is an historical game which is now much more difficult to win since Dick Tomey breathed life into that program.
#6. Miami (Marshall, @ Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Florida International) It pains us to rank a team that schedules the uber-chippie FIU, but a roadie to Norman is thankless, and A&M makes it two big boys on the OOC schedule. Marshall stinks right now, but it wasn't long ago that they were a trendy mid-major.
#5. Nebraska (Nevada, @ Wake Forest, USC, Ball State) In fairness, the Wake and Nevada games probably didn't seem too tough when they came on the schedule (we confess to not knowing when the games were inked). But this slate looks pretty tough, with the exception of the Fighting Cardinals of Ball U. Nevada should give the Huskers a game in Lincoln, and USC promises to be monstrous again.
Gratuitous Song Girl Shot
#4. Colorado (Colorado State @ Denver, @ ASU, Florida State, Miami OH) The Buffs are one team that has nutted up consistently in recent years, making the roadie to Athens last season, tripping to Miami in 2005, and playing USC, UCLA and Washington State from 2002-2003. Shame the team is such a basket case right now.
#3. UCLA (BYU, @ Utah, Notre Dame) As loyal reader Pete Morris points out, one of the reasons that Pac-10 OOC scheduling looks so good is that the Mountain West - our go-to conference for games - is filled with dangerous teams. Cal can attest that a trip to SLC to take on the Utes is no fun. Notre Dame visits Pasadena for the first time since the Four Horsemen pasted Stanford 27-10 in the 1925 Rose Bowl.
#2. Washington (@ Syracuse, Boise State, Ohio State) Former coach Rick Neuheisel said he wanted U-Dub to be known as the Florida State of the west coast. We're guessing he's at least partly responsible for this murderers' row schedule, of which the Huskies will be lucky to win one game.
#1. Florida State (@ Colorado, Alabama @ Jacksonville, UAB, @ Florida) Big-boy scheduling, made even more impressive once you consider the rapid decline of the Buffaloes program. Only one game at Doak Campbell. It take cojones to go put Alabama on the schedule when you're already dealing with a roadie to Gainesville. Good show, old man.
Welcome to the Bowden Retirement Tour - first stop, Boulder
#14 - SHAREEF ABDUR-RAHIM - FORWARD (1996) Lots of people would probably disqualify Shareef from this list since he played only one year at Cal before entering the NBA draft. We'd suggest those people a) consider the long and not-always-storied history of Cal basketball, and b) try to remember what Shareef's freshman season was really like.
He was a prized recruit, to be sure - a two-time Georgia Mr. Basketball at Joseph Wheeler HS in Marietta, he chose Cal in large part because of the large Muslim community in the Bay Area. Abdur-Rahim's father trained to be an Imam in Atlanta, and raised Shareef in a devout environment - to this day, his son remains deeply committed to his faith.
In 1994-5, Todd Bozeman's third team at Cal limped to the finish line, losing nine of their last eleven games. And then Shareef Abdur-Rahim took the floor at Harmon Gymnasium. In his first college game against Northern Arizona, Shareef scored 33 points and dominated the contest on both ends. He would go on to score more than thirty points three more times, and average 21.1 ppg for the season. He had tremendous range on his jumper for a 6'10" player, and was also unstoppable in the paint with quickness that has never been matched before or since at Berkeley. As proof of his all-around game, he led Cal with 52 steals.
The rest of the country seemed to agree. Abdur-Rahim was the first freshman to be named Pac-10 Player of the Year, and was a near-unanimous choice as National Freshman of the Year. He was a 2nd team All-America choice by Basketball Weekly and College Sports magazines, and a 3rd team AP and NABC choice.
Of course, it all ended too quickly. Iowa State smothered Shareef and his teammates in the first round of the NCAA tournament, and then Cal's phenom was gone to the NBA. The turmoil surrounding Cal's program didn't help, but let's face it - Shareef was ready, and he's proved it over a ten year career with mostly miserable teams (he's never played in the post-season).
How's this for a what-if: If the current rules governing college entry to the NBA were in force in 1996, Shareef would have returned to Berkeley (ed - this is a mistake; we were confusing the CFB rules with CBB) and our starting five would have been him, Tony Gonzalez/Al Grigsby, Yogi Stewart, Ed Gray and Prentice McGruder. And we might have won the whole damn thing, Ed Gray's broken foot notwithstanding.
Terry Mixon committed to Washington State earlier this week. Good luck to him there; that's a nice get for the Cougars at a need position - they lose their best safety in Eric Frampton. Mixon is a good bet to start in '07.
Scott Smith committed to California. He's a DE variously reported as 6'5" and 6'7", so we'll just say he's tall. He also plays basketball, which we always think is a good sign for linemen. Smith was a high school teammate of Tyson Alualu at perennial Hawaiian power St. Louis (Honolulu). He will be joined at Berkeley by teammate Solomona Aigamaua - who is an undersized late-bloomer type guy at DE.
So in one day, Cal is halfway toward its reported goal of bringing in four D-linemen in this class. Still out there - Matthew Masifilo, the Hawaiian DT-cum-engineer, Kenny Rowe, a DE from Long Beach Poly, Christian Tupou, a combo lineman from Sacramento Grant Union, and maybe Ernest Owusu, a DE from the Hun School in New Jersey. As we've said all along, we don't care so much about stars; we care about balance. Looks like our earlier concerns about this class' balance are being addressed by JT and Ken Delgado.
Cal escapes Corvallis with a 77-74 win, getting the one victory they needed on this Oregon road trip to stay in the post-season hunt. The Bears won this one at the line, going 17-20 compared with OSU's 12-22 performance. As we feared, Marcel Jones was a monster, scoring 29 points. The Bears countered with 22 from Ubaka and Anderson, and 13 from Eric Vierneisel. Any road win is a good win, so we'll book this one and start looking forward to the Ducks on Saturday. GO BEARS!
The first number that jumps out to us with respect to the Beavers is 18.8. That's OSU's rating on the Pomeroy Free Throw Rate statistic, which measures how often teams get to the foul line. Teams that attack the basket tend to have high FTRs; teams that settle for the perimeter game tend to be low (BTW, Cal's not very good at 22.6, which ranks 238th in the nation). OSU ranks 311th, because too often they settle for jump shots from players like Sasa Cuic, who's 6'10" but plays a lot on the perimeter. Marcel Jones also gets to the line infrequently for a scorer.
FTR is a pretty important statistic in any event, but it's particularly relevant when you're playing a depleted team with only two reliable scorers like California. Teams that are efficient offensively (i.e., shoot a high % from three-point range) can get past a low FTR. OSU's perimeter game has dropped off from last season, though. Thus, we believe the Beaver's best hope tonight is to get Cal's front line in foul trouble - and their recent history suggests that this isn't likely.
The other number is 47. That's how many rebounds Cal hauled down against Washington, and it perhaps signals the type of improvement on the glass that Bear fans have been calling for since DeVon Hardin's injury.
Put those together with the fact that OSU plays a deliberate style, and Cal looks to be in good position to win the all-important first game of this road trip. The downside risk? OSU's shooters - especially Cuic and Jones - could get hot and Cal might be forced to go to the bench because of foul trouble more than they'd like. Not enough risk for us to change our minds.
After solving some technical glitches on our end, we finally got a blog exchange with Jake at Building the Dam, a fine Oregon State blog that covers both football and hoops. After a ten-win football season, Beaver fans are settling in for what could be a rough conference season in basketball. We asked Jake some questions about the team and his outlook for tonight's game. Our answers to his questions are here. Enjoy:
Tightwad Hill: Sasa Cuic (right) seems to be struggling a bit compared with last season, when he shot nearly 50% from three. What's going on with his game? Building the Dam: Well, if you haven't seen him play, nearly all the shots he takes are fade aways. He's scoring about the same number of points as he was last year, but he's taking a lot more shots. Last year we had a lot better shooting year as a team- 8 players shot 40% or better. As of right now, we have seven guys above 40%, but four of those guys regularly come off the bench, and haven't taken the same amount of shots as our starters. Cuic just isn't as consistent as he was last year.
Tightwad Hill: We picked OSU to finish 7th in the Pac - what are your expectations (realistic and stretch) for the Beavers' finish?
Building the Dam: Realistically, I'm looking at the schedule and only see four maybe five wins left. A 7th or 8th place finish in the Pac-10 also seams realistic. Stretch? We win out, go 22-9, win the Pac-10 tourney, make it to the final four, become the George Mason of this year. No, just kidding. Stretch, we probably win six or seven more games, maybe pull an upset or two (the Ducks, please?) and finish a solid 6th or 7th in the Pac-10. Still not very good.
Tightwad Hill: I know John signed an extension not too long ago, but how soon does he need to get OSU back to the Tourney to keep alums off his back?
Building the Dam: Well, good question. I think we're just looking for some progress at this point. We signed transfer C.J. Giles last week from Kansas, and he'll be able to play next year. That should help us out immensely, so I guess we'll just have to wait to see what Jay John can do with the talent he has next year. If nothing improves in the next year or two, expect the alums on his back. I have a poll going right now if you want to check it out.
Tightwad Hill: Do you expect Seth Tarver to get into the starting lineup this year? What's his game like?
Building the Dam: He's improving. He's actually started quite a few games already... about 10 or so, probably. He's been trading in and out of the starting lineup with Wesley Washington... a player that doesn't score a lot of points but spreads the ball around and gets it done on defense. Both of the Tarvers are going to be great players. Give them a few years, they're both freshmen. With C.J. Gable in his senior year, and the Tarver brothers as juniors, we could do some damage.
Tightwad Hill: Your prediction for the game.
Building the Dam: This is a tough one. You always want to be optimistic and hope for a win, but it's hard to do with the inconsistent team we have now. We played with the Ducks (only lost by 3) yet lose to USC by 45. I'm thinking Cal 74, Oregon State 68. But I'm still optimistic.
Our thanks to Jake and our best wishes for a good, injury-free game tonight. We'll have our prediction up later today.
As a follow-on to our good-natured exchange with Kyle at DawgSports about non-conference scheduling, we've gone back to the slide rule and analyzed the 2007 slates for each of the BCS teams.
Say it! Say I love soft Pac-10 defense!
We'll roll out the conference comparison in a few days (probably after the Oregon hoops trip), but we wanted to provide you with a little teaser.
Before we get going, we have a confession to make on the Hill. All this scheduling jazz doesn't change the price of tea in Gainesville, or the fact that in most seasons SEC schools have a tougher in-conference slate than schools from other conferences. While we dispute the contentions of some southern fans (like the brave anonymous guy who posted here) that there is a large disparity between conferences, we do watch enough football to notice that the SEC is usually tougher top-to-middle (if not bottom) than other leagues. (We do, however, have a theory about why it's harder than most people think to run the table in the Pac-10, which we'll trot out at a later date)
OK, that's done. Without further ado, here is a slightly subjective Hall of Shame - the eight worst non-conference slates in America for 2007. Note - these aren't the eight worst average slates (by Sagarin rating), but the eight most shame-worthy in our opinion - programs that are clearly punching below their weight in 2007. Since we're not just haters here on the Hill, we'll have an equally subjective list of the very best non-conference schedules out sometime soon.
#8.Auburn (New Mexico State, South Florida, Tulane, TBD) Auburn's a great and storied program. Their fans deserve better than this (USF's recent improvement notwithstanding). Maybe Tubs can get the suits to re-jigger the BCS formula to make strength of schedule even less important, so he won't have to cry in his coffee if he comes up short by a point or two next year. Otherwise, he'll have to defer his NC dreams until 2008, when the Tigers start a two-gamer with West Virginia. Now that's good scheduling (especially considering that Auburn also plays Southern Miss). Kyle has a great point about Oregon State and Auburn both having open dates in '07 - let's get them together! No, on the other hand you better go play Citadel, Tubby.
#6.Minnesota (TBD, Miami OH, @ Florida Atlantic, N. Dakota St) The worst thing about this sorry slate is that Minnesota might go .500, depending on which MAC school they bring in to fill the fourth slot. Actually, they could go 1-3, since North Dakota State is pretty darn good for a 1-AA program and only lost to the Gophers by a point this year. Things don't get much better in 2008, when the Gophers bring in Montana State. Cal visits in 2009, and then they do a home-and-home with Washington State.
#5.Indiana (Indiana State, @ Akron, Central Michigan, TBD) Great coach, wonderful story, awful schedule. Fun fact: Towson Freaking State is on the docket in 2010.
#4.Penn State (Florida International, Notre Dame, Buffalo, @ Temple) Wait - how can a team that schedules Notre Dame be on this list? Look at the other three games. Just look at them. One of the greatest programs in CFB history is playing FIU, Buffalo and Temple. Even with the Domers, their opponents' Sagarin average is below 60 (Notre Dame's at 83, FWIW) Should we give them credit for the 200-mile roadie to Philly? No, didn't think so. (BTW, hope we're not giving away the big surprise of which conference has the weakest non-conference slate) In the future: a fun home-and-home with Bama, full of cool slo-mo flashbacks of Barry Krauss and Mike Guman:
#3.Clemson (Furman, La-Monroe, Temple, @ South Carolina) Yuck. Constitutionally-mandated rivalry game aside, this is the worst three game slate this side of Fayetteville. And even with the Gamecocks, Tiger opponents barely break 60 in the Sagarin ratings. They don't play a real non-con game (Carolina excepted) until 2010, when they travel to Pittsburgh.
#2.Arkansas (Troy, North Texas, UT-Chattanooga, Florida International) In fairness, they might not have enough players left by September to give Troy a game. One ray of hope for the future - Texas is back on the Hogs' schedule for a home-and-home starting in 2008. Our guess is that they'll be accompanied by lots of directional schools.
#1.Kansas (C Michigan, SE Louisiana, Toledo, Florida International) You fat, sorry bastard. This is the best you could do? We know you're at a basketball school, and you want to get bowl eligible, but no one wants to see this slate. Let's see, 1-AA school? Check. At least two directionals? Yup. All at home? You bet! The sick thing is that Kansas can win these four games, pick off three bottom-feeders in the Big XII, and go to a bowl game. There ought to be a law.
Keys to surviving the Oregon Trail - hit your free throws; don't get dysentery
The Oregon roadie has been a (relatively) smooth one for California over the past several years. The Bears have had some recent success at Mac Court, winning last year in a tight 62-60 game behind twenty points from Ayinde Ubaka. Overall, Ben Braun is 4-6 in Eugene, a very respectable figure considering Oregon's recent strength and the difficulties of negotiating Mac Court. His record is much better in Corvallis, where Ben has gone 9-1 over his career.
This year's a different story, of course. This year the Oregon Ducks sit atop the Pac-10 conference, having beaten both UCLA and Arizona, and having suffered only an overtime loss to a very good USC team in Eugene. We're waiting for Ducks to melt down, for the factions to form, for the players-only meeting with only some of the players, for the coach to turn on his starters and reshuffle his lineup every other night. We're waiting for Aaron Brooks to hit someone. We're waiting for Oregon to quit - and they're just not doing it. But they are a problem for a different day - Saturday to be precise.
First Cal must play a team that it must beat - we repeat, must beat - to make the post-season. (Having now officially jinxed the Bears, we must pick them to lose by thirty so the karma evens out). Here's the quick and dirty on the Oregon State Beavers:
Marcel Jones makes the Beavers go - he and PG Josh Tarver are the only players to start each game for Jay John's team. Jones, a 6'8"/220 junior, leads OSU in scoring and rebounding - he takes 32% of OSU's shots, a very high % ranked 42nd in the country. He only shoots 27% from three (and he's put up 69 thus far) so let's hope Cal can push him to the perimeter. Another big guy who thrives outside is 6'10" junior Sasa Cuic, who led the Pac last year by shooting 49% from behind the arc. This year he's down to 36% but he can still change a game if he finds his stroke. 6'9" Kyle Jeffers starts at center, giving the Beavers a significant height advantage over Cal (what else is new).
Josh Tarver starts at point alongside Wesley Washington and a rotation of off guards that includes Josh's little brother Seth. The back court is the weak link for the Beavers; their guards can be turned over and they get relatively little scoring outside of Josh T's 9.3 ppg.
They don't shoot fouls well (63%); nor do they get to the line very often, ranking 308th in the nation in the ratio of free throws made to field goal attempts.
The Beavers held LSU to 60 points in a seven-point loss in December; they lost to Oregon by only three points. But they also lost to USC by 45 points and have an overall losing record at Gill Coliseum. Their recent win in Tempe suggests to some that this inconsistent team may be on the upswing. If so, their size could present problems for a Cal team that continues to struggle with depth in the front court.
Tedford officially gets a four-year extension from the University that would keep him at Berkeley until 2013. A raise of some sort is part of the package, though it's apparently subject to a vote of UC Regents on Thursday. That would jump JT from his current base of $1.5 and further separate him and Pete Carroll from other coaches in the conference in terms of compensation. One interesting and potentially disquieting tidbit: the new deal does not have the concept of a big bonus if JT stays at Cal for the duration of the contract. Instead, he would get smaller payments for every two years of service.
All in all, it's great news, and good quotes from Tedford about the superior quality of life in the Bay Area:
"The quality of life here is important to me," he said by telephone on Tuesday. "I could go places and make more money. But I just love living here and we feel good about the direction of this program."
#15 - PHIL CHENIER - GUARD (1970-1971) The first Golden Bear to take advantage of early entry to the NBA, Chenier played only two seasons in Berkeley. Chenier was sort of like Jason Kidd on a smaller scale - local product chooses Cal, demonstrates ridiculous talent and then leaves. Unlike Kidd, though, Chenier was a scorer from the word go, regularly hitting in the thirties and forties at Berkeley High. This article details a memorable Chenier performance in the Tournament of Champions in high school.
Once a member of the Cal varsity, Chenier stepped into the starting lineup and averaged 10.3 ppg, despite having to work for his shots. As a junior, he dominated games for the Bears, averaging 16.3 ppg (18.3 in conference play). That Cal team had Chenier at off-guard, Ansley Truitt at center, Charlie Johnson at the point and Jackie Ridgle scoring 17 points per game at forward - and they still couldn't get above third in the Pac-8. Everyone who complains about Ben Braun (ourselves included) should be forced to study the Jim Padgett era of California basketball. Chenier was named to the first-team All-Pac 8 squad at guard (alongside Paul Westphal of USC, a pretty good tandem).
Despite his athletic gifts, Chenier was a hard worker who was twice named Cal's most improved player. He was also a team player who involved his teammates in the offense, averaging 3.5 assists per game over his two seasons. These traits, in addition to his smooth jumper and his size (6'4"), made him an attractive pro prospect once Spencer Haywood's attorneys struck down the NBA's restriction on underclassmen.
Given Padgett's limitations, and the departures of Ridgle and Johnson, perhaps Chenier made a wise choice to enter the supplemental "hardship" draft (as it was inelegantly known) in 1971. He was picked in the first round by the Baltimore Bullets, who soon moved to Washington and won a world's championship with Chenier in the backcourt. Phil made three All-Star teams over nine years in the NBA, before a back injury forced him to retire. Today Bears in the DC area (or those with the right TV package) can watch him call games for the Washington Wizards.
Crowton's got HC experience and is a true guru of the shotgun spread. Oregon took a small step backward in 2006 in scoring offense, but Crowton is still well regarded and should do pretty well with budding head case Ryan Perrilloux in Baton Rouge.
We're more interested in what this means for Oregon. They have a roster full of spread talent, starting with Dennis Dixon, so we assume they won't scrap that offense entirely. They may feature more of a power run attack with Jonathan Stewart. The bigger issue is what a new coordinator will mean for Oregon's already shaky team chemistry. Coming off a disappointing season and a hideous bowl performance, this is probably not the news Bellotti needs three weeks before Signing Day. (Although some Ducks are pretty happy about the news, so what do we know?)
In another coaching move with implications for Cal, Minnesota hired Broncos TE coach Tim Brewster to replace Glenn Mason. He's known to be a great recruiter (under Mack Brown at Texas) - we'll see whether he can pull Devin Bishop back to Minneapolis.
These Internet petitions are strange things, but I think we can agree this one's for a worthy cause. It's a petition to the UC leadership and the City of Berkeley urging the prompt renovation of Memorial Stadium and the construction of the High Performance athletic center. Check it out and feel free to add your John Hancock. Let's get this project built.
Now that the game's been joined, we're going to go a bit deeper into non-conference scheduling in the next several days. According to the Mayor (who by the way runs a first-rate site that we aspire to in our wildest fantasies), there are several proof points:
19 SEC OOC opponents in 2007 went to bowls last year - a fair point
The Pac-10 scheduled a lot of gimmes last year - which we'll revisit once we get past 2007 and look at some historical data.
He's generally very nice to West Coast teams (we try to reciprocate, unless they pound us in our season opener)
The SEC's gotten much better about scheduling good teams - this would seem to be true, though we're not quite ready to dive through years of stats to prove it (at least until after hoops season). Besides, our initial suspicion was that the SEC would have the softest OOC schedule among BCS conferences, not that they've improved their scheduling. It's worth looking into once we get through the '07 schedules.
In this first installment we'll simply compare the Pac-10 and SEC, and later we'll open the lens to look at other BCS conferences.
Average strength of 2007 OOC schedules We'll take a straight average of the Sagarin ratings for each schools' non-conference opponents - after all, every SEC fan knows that Sagarin's a miserable Pac-10 homer (who lives in the midwest) so this should help Tennessee's strength of schedule. I actually don't think the average ratings is the way to go here, since the presence of one really good opponent and three guaranteed wins can make a team's overall schedule look fairly tough, when in reality it's a guaranteed three wins that will probably qualify you for the Meineke Bowl. But it's a metric, so here goes:
Pac-10: Washington 84.67/UCLA 82/Stanford 78.56/Oregon State 75.69/Oregon 75.293/ USC 72.39/Arizona 70.356/Washington State 67.45/Cal 65.9/ASU 64.26
SEC: Tennessee 69.33/Auburn 67.74/Georgia 64.61/Miss St 63.82/LSU 63.8/Florida 63.4/ Vanderbilt 61.895/Alabama 61.8/S. Carolina 61.59/Kentucky 60.4/Ole Miss 55.84/Arkansas 50.98
Yup, that's what we thought. And mind you - this is before USC kicks Idaho to the curb and replaces them with a superior opponent, and before Oregon State and Auburn add two gimps a piece to round out their schedules. Just for fun we listed the closest team to the Sagarin average - the "typical" OOC opponent for each school:
But wait, you say - isn't this apples and oranges since the SEC plays one more OOC game than the Pac-10? (Why they do is a mystery in itself, but let's run with it) Fair enough, we'll add a automatic win to each of the Pac-10 OOC schedules to bring them up to four games. Just for fun, we thought we'd add Portland State, since Kyle has dubbed them our Western Carolina. (BTW, your Honor, you should read this before pulling that chestnut out again):
Portland State: Average 2006 Sagarin rating of 64.69 Western Carolina: Average 2006 Sagarin rating of 36.43
So we'll add a mythical team that's even worse than poor, miserable PSU - Chippie State, a small liberal arts school in New Mexico known for its visual arts program, who comes in at a clean 60.0. Here's what happens to those Pac-10 averages:
Washington 78.5/UCLA 76.5/Stanford 73.92/Oregon State 67.8/Oregon 71.47/ USC 69.29/Arizona 67.76/Washington State 67.45/Cal 64.37/ASU 63.19
Even with the burden of a fourth gimme against Loser U, the worst Pac-10 schedule would still be in the middle of the SEC.
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OK, enough with the math. Let's look at our three biggest (historical) pet peeves about SEC scheduling.
Complaint #1: You never leave Dixie. We've got to give the Mayor his props here - the SEC still isn't where the Pac is and has been historically, but they are better: LSU tripped to the desert to play ASU; Tennessee is coming to Berkeley in September - good stuff. Let's look at the 2007 schedule:
16.6% of SEC OOC games are on the road. These include two trips to Tulane, a trip to Temple, a trip to Memphis, and one to North Carolina. The only difficult road trips are Cal, WVU and Ga Tech (maybe, but don't you drive to the game?).
36% of Pac-10 OOC games are on the road. The worst (easiest) road trip is Cal's to Colorado State. Pac 10 schools visit Notre Dame (twice), Wisconsin, Nebraska, BYU, Utah and TCU.
Eight of ten Pac-10 teams leave their home state to play a road game. Five of twelve SEC teams leave their home state to play a road game.
The SEC would seem to have made some strides here, but we'll have to look at the historical data.
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Complaint #2: Even if the SEC is slowly adding the occasional top-tier opponent, those good games are surrounded by creampuff schools who should probably abandon the sport. Back to the numbers - here's a distribution of the Sagarin scores for each conferences' OOC opponents (divided by 5 % increments):
Pac 10 Opponents
Basically, our gimps are better than yours. If a Sagarin rating below 60 can be considered a guaranteed win for a pretty good team, then 21% of the Pac-10's '07 games are guaranteed wins. 54% - a clear majority - of the SEC's '07 OOC games are guaranteed wins.
Complaint #3: Lastly, and this is just to rub it in - we find it hard to give the SEC lots of credit for even these rankings, since a fair amount of their 'elite' OOC games aren't discretionary. Let's look at the list:
Georgia plays Georgia Tech - rivalry game, could not be discontinued under any scenario
South Carolina plays Clemson - ditto
Kentucky plays Louisville - mandated by the State of Kentucky (as I understand it)
Florida plays Florida State - every year since 1958
Take those four automatics out of the mix with their Sagarin scores of 79.29, 93.89, 80.18 and 78.73 and the SEC's discretionary OOC average is, well, it's even worse. On the Pac-10 side, there's only one automatic OOC game - USC v Notre Dame. Everything else is discretionary - so Pac-10 ADs have to seek out tougher games.
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We hope this doesn't come across as gratuitous (and we also hope our math works out). We're not at all SEC haters - the SEC is what's good about college football, and a trip to Knoxville confirmed that (in every painful way you can imagine). Georgia's always been a secret favorite ever since Lindsay Scott caught that pass - also, I loved the white on silver as a kid.
We'll run the numbers for the rest of the BCS conferences (after some initial discussion), and have something out this week. Our suspicions are that Kyle's right, and the SEC will not claim the Conference Cupcake Crown this year. Though Arkansas ain't helping, fellas. We'll also have a Bottom Ten of the nation's most gutless schedules, which will be highly subjective and lots of fun.
In fairness to the folks at DawgSports, RTT, and everyone else south of the Mason-Dixon, the parting shot we inserted at the tail end of an article about Pac-10 scheduling that was critical of many conference schools was designed to be a bit fresh. We, along with an entire nation, had just watched an SEC team humble the mighty OSU Buckeyes with their Trademark Southern Speed. In this new era of Southern Supremacy, if we can't make quick fun of SEC scheduling, then what's left for us, really? The word "weenie" was injudicious, and its use can be blamed on the deadly combination of scotch, soda and a quick reading of Arkansas' non-conference schedule, which threw us into a bit of a tizzy. Again, all apologies.
Just when you thought it was safe to visit this blog, we roll out yet another list of great Golden Bears - this time Cal's finest on the hardwood. Why 16? Why not? 22 starters in football, 5 in hoops, 50 divided by 4 is about 12 - which doesn't sound nearly as cool as 16. Plus, if we limited it to 12 selections, we wouldn't be able to include this guy:
#16 - ALFRED GRIGSBY - FORWARD (1992-3, 1995, 1997) California has had about thirty players who had more distinguished careers at Berkeley than Alfred Grigsby. Only two of them have a jersey hanging in Haas Pavilion, alongside Grigsby's #4.
What people tend to forget about Grigsby, after five surgeries and countless hours of rehabilitation turned him into the all-time Harmon fan favorite, is that he was a rock solid blue-chip recruit coming out of Yates HS in Houston. I remember that period in Cal hoops well - Grigsby was the monster power forward who was going to take Cal to the Sweet 16 and beyond. That prophecy turned out to be true, but no one could have imagined how difficult the ride would be.
Grigsby started and averaged double figures as a freshman (10.2 ppg/6.2 rpg). By season's end he was one of the better power forwards in the conference, throwing down 19 at Pauley Pavilion in a valiant upset bid of the 2nd-ranked Bruins. The next year he posted similar numbers and led the Pac-10 in field goal percentage. He also supplied the inside muscle that helped the Bears reach the Sweet Sixteen - scoring 11 points with 6 boards against LSU and shutting down Duke's inside game in a memorable second-round upset.
And then Grigsby got hurt. Really hurt. He hyper-extended his knee, tore his hamstring and missed almost all of the '93-'94 season. He looked healthy coming into the '94-'95 season, and was on the Wooden Award watch list, but then a bulging disk in his lower back sidelined him for all but ten games. Cal fans questioned whether Grigsby would ever play again, let alone continue at such a high level. '95-'96 was a wash too when the back flared up after just a few games. What was heartbreaking was watching Grigsby try each year, and then shut it down when he couldn't stand up straight (let alone play). More surgery, more pain, more disappointment. Most Bear fans wrote him off.
But when the NCAA, in a rare moment of humanity, granted Grigsby a sixth year, he dragged his body back onto the court at the end of 1996. He had a new coach (somehow it was appropriate that Grigsby was absent for the Bozeman meltdown) who favored deliberate half-court sets and rugged defense. The Harmon faithful held its breath each time Grigsby ran up and down the court or grimaced after tumbling to the floor. But he kept getting up, and before long he was performing like the Grigsby of old (even if he looked like a completely different player).
He scored 11 in a December home win versus Penn State - his first double-digit scoring game in two years. Two weeks later, he poured in 21 points off the bench against #9 Arizona in Tucson. He led the surprising Bears in rebounding at 6.8 rpg in conference games, and seemed to get stronger as the season progressed. When Pac-10 Player of the Year Ed Gray broke his foot against Washington State, Grigsby was the emotional glue that held the team together through the season's final month and gained the Bears a #5 seed in the East regional.
In his last home game - the last game ever played at Harmon Gym - fans were treated to appearances by lots of Old Blues. No one got a bigger cheer than Grigsby, who was called to center court and honored with the retirement of his jersey. As the cheers echoed throughout the old gym, no one cared that Al Grigsby's college career was less than it might have been. No one cared that Grigsby might have become the greatest front court player in school history if only he had two good legs and a healthy back. Bear fans simply appreciated the struggle of Alfred Grigsby.
That magical ceremony wasn't it, of course. Two days later Cal upset Arizona at the Cow Palace 79-77, and then the Bears traveled to Tobacco Road to face Princeton in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Predictably, the game was close. Randy Duck and Tony Gonzalez won headlines by scoring 16 and 13 points respectively, but it was Grigsby who blocked Gabe Lewullis's tying three-point attempt to preserve a 55-52 win. Against Villanova in the round of 32, Gonzalez scored 23 points but it was Grigsby who played 39 minutes, hauled in 13 rebounds and completely shut down heralded Wildcat Tim Thomas. Cal was in the Sweet 16 and Al Grigsby was at the center of the celebration - just like we all thought he'd be.
Al Grigsby is the only Golden Bear to be named the team's Most Inspirational Player four separate times. They should rename the award for him.
This is the most interesting Cal basketball team we've seen since the Ed Gray team without Ed Gray.
The year was 1997, the date was February 23rd, and Cal was 18-7 - a very good team, but not all that interesting. Ed Gray had just scored his 47th and 48th points of the game in Pullman, Washington and was running down court on a fast break. He went up for a dunk and then he went down; two days later he had a screw in his right foot courtesy of the good doctors at Alta Bates Medical Center.
Cal suddenly had to replace 25 points per game, and they turned to a football player (Tony Gonzalez), a hobbled veteran (Al Grigsby) and a streaky wing (Randy Duck). Each game after Gray's injury was an adventure, and you never knew where Cal's points would come from. But they did come - in a 79-77 win over Arizona, and then through two wins in the NCAA tournament (and a narrow loss to North Carolina).
We're not trying to compare this year's club to one of the best in school history, but the parallels are there. The '06-'07 team has lost the guts of its defense - the intimidating, shot-blocking DeVon hardin. Without Hardin, the Bears have only two healthy scholarship players taller than 6'7", and must play small and smart against a suddenly huge Pac-10.
And oddly enough, Cal has excelled against the tallest teams in the conference (UW, Stanford), while it was soundly handled by a highly disciplined team led by its back court (WSU). Before the Stanford game Ben Braun smiled when asked how he would cope with the 7'0" Lopez twins. "They've gotta guard us, too," he said. They couldn't - well at least the ones guarding Ayinde Ubaka couldn't. Against the giant Washington front line, the Bears somehow grabbed 15 offensive boards and limited the Huskies to only six in 45 minutes of play. Theo Robertson had his best game of the season; Ryan Anderson dominated the offensive glass; Cal shot 38% and beat the #24 squad in the nation by eight points. We love this team.
So the operative question is, can Cal make the postseason? Right now the Bears are 11-6 (3-2) with 13 left to play (+ at least one in the Pac 10 tourney). They have both homestands and road trips with the LA schools and the Oregon schools; they host the Arizonas, travel to Washington and host Stanford. Five wins in those 13 games would get the Bears to 16-14 before the Pac-10 tourney. The NIT requires only a .500 record, so 16 wins gets Cal on the brink of an invitation.
This week, the Bears make the Oregon trip - a split (winning Thursday at Corvallis) would live up to expectations, which means you can look for Cal to sweep. Whatever happens, you have got to watch this team. Watch them try to distribute fouls on defense to keep Ryan Anderson in the game. Watch Ayinde Ubaka get that look in his eye and try to take a game over with eight minutes to play. Watch Theo Robertson work hard. Watch Eric Vierneisel struggle (and occasionally succeed) carrying thirty-plus minutes per game. Watch Jerome Randle and Patrick Christopher play like freshmen - very talented freshmen.
But above all, watch this team. We'll keep picking against them, you keep watching, and maybe we'll get to the post-season yet.
An ongoing discussion of California Golden Bears football and basketball...Other college football and basketball news filtered through a west coast bias...Like the actual Tightwad Hill, a bit messy and disorganized, but free!