Home » Columns »Your Phil of Hoops » Currently Reading:

A year later, Cal has a different team and something to prove

October 7, 2016 Columns, Your Phil of Hoops No Comments

Twelve months ago, the anticipation was building. There was plenty of buzz. Plenty of people wondered if the Pac-12 was going to have a new team at the top and carrying the flag. The questions that followed were only natural.

Could California upend teams like Arizona, Utah and Oregon that had been carrying the flag for the conference of late and even be a team to make a deep run in March? Were the Golden Bears at the beginning of something early in Cuonzo Martin’s tenure after getting two McDonald’s All-Americans to come there, including one whom virtually no one thought they had a shot at landing?

It’s almost hard to believe that now, really. And that’s part of the challenge this program faces as 2016-17 beckons.

The Golden Bears at times looked the part of Pac-12 contender in 2015-16. They were a terrific defensive team and were in the mix in a loaded, well-balanced Pac-12. At other times, they looked like a pretender, like when they whiffed on their best chances for quality wins in non-conference as well as on the road. Cal didn’t win a road game until February 18 at Washington State, but turned a corner as they won three of their final four road games.

But the season did not end well. An assistant coach was fired before the NCAA Tournament amid allegations of sexual harassment, then leading scorer and assist man Tyrone Wallace broke his wrist in practice. As if that wasn’t enough, Jabari Bird got back spasms just as their opener against Hawaii was to tip. With all of that adversity, as well as the effects of being without two starting guards, the Golden Bears became one of a number of big upset victims and the season ended just like that.

Cal knew they would lose Wallace, a senior last season. It wasn’t a shock that Jaylen Brown left for the NBA Draft, as most figured that would happen given his physical gifts and the potential he showed before and during his lone year of college ball. But Jordan Mathews opting to transfer for his final year seemingly came out of nowhere. Then they at least got a pleasant surprise: Ivan Rabb opted to come back for his sophomore year instead of following Brown to the NBA.

It’s against that backdrop that we now look at this year’s team quite differently than a year ago. There are no grand expectations, no questions about whether this team will contend, or even if they are trending upward towards regularly contending in the Pac-12. Besides that, Oregon is basically the overwhelming favorite and seen as a national title contender. In other words, this Golden Bear team is a bit under the radar, and that may be all right.

The cupboard isn’t bare. While the top three scorers are gone from last season’s team, this was a team built on defense, plus the next six leading scorers all return. And you can do a lot worse than a core of Rabb, who could be a double-double guy this season after averaging 12.5 points and 8.6 rebounds per game a year ago, flanked by Bird and senior point guard Sam Singer, who started nine games last season. Bird has had a solid career as a complementary player and shot 41 percent from long range a year ago, but now he doesn’t have Mathews to draw the attention of opposing defenses. Holdover seven-footers Kingsley Okoroh and Kameron Rooks will need to do more this season, and they will get challenged often in practice by Kentucky transfer Marcus Lee, who will sit out before playing his final year of eligibility next season.

While this year’s recruiting class doesn’t have the star power last year’s had, it isn’t lacking talent that can help them. On the perimeter, Singer will be pushed by Charlie Moore, a highly-touted addition at who could snag the starting job somewhere along the way, while junior college transfer Don Coleman can score and graduate transfer Grant Mullins (Columbia) lends experienced help.

The schedule is also kind to the Golden Bears – as in, very home-heavy. If they can repeat their success at Haas Pavilion from a year ago – they won all 18 games there – they will be in a great place as Pac-12 play begins. They don’t play a single true road game, with visits from Summit League contender South Dakota State, Louisiana Tech and the finale against Virginia highlighting them. They do play three neutral site games, heading to Sacramento to take on San Diego State and Honolulu to take on Ivy League contender Princeton as well as Seton Hall in the Pearl Harbor Invitational.

While they aren’t being talked about the way they were last season, this year’s team still has some talent and even more overall experience. They also have something to prove after the way last season ended, especially given the expectations before the season. There will be a lot of adjusting to new roles, as scorers need to emerge in place of Wallace and Brown, while Bird now has to be the key guy on the perimeter and Rabb has to carry the frontcourt.

This team can still reach the NCAA Tournament once again. This time, it would happen not with more grand pronouncements or expectations. It will just happen.

Comment on this Article:

Subscribe to Hoopville

Enter your email address to subscribe to Hoopville


Your Phil of Hoops

For the Big 12, coming out on top again will be a challenge in 2016-17

October 21, 2016 by

The Big 12 has been on a great run to be the top conference in recent years, including last year. This year will be a challenge due to a big loss of experience throughout the conference.

A year later, Cal has a different team and something to prove

October 7, 2016 by


With some big-time additions, much was expected of Cal a year ago, and the season did not end well. This time around, expectations may be reduced, but the Golden Bears have a chance to end the season better.

Gbinije’s long journey may still have the ending many expected at one time

May 31, 2016 by


Michael Gbinije seemingly fulfilled the potential many thought he had, though he traveled a circuitous route to get there. Will it end up in the NBA Draft, or will he have to fight harder to make a roster?

Hoopville Archives

Everybody Needs a Head Coach

Former college basketball coach Mike Jarvis has a new book out, Everybody Needs a Head Coach.

"As you read this book, I hope that Coach Jarvis' experiences inspire you to find your purpose in life."
-Patrick Ewing, NBA Hall of Fame center

"Mike Jarvis' is one of my special friends. I am so pleased that he has taken the time to write this fabulous book."
-Mike Krzyzewski, Five-time NCAA championship head coach, Duke Blue Devils

"In reading this book, I can see that Mike hasn't lost his edge or his purpose. Readers should take a look at what he has to say."
-Jim Calhoun, Three-time NCAA champion, UConn Men's basketball

Review on Hoopville coming soon!

Coaching Changes and NBA Draft Early Entrants

The coaching carousel is moving. Keep track of the latest coaching changes right here on Hoopville.

Also, keep track of players who have declared early for the NBA Draft.

College Basketball Tonight

We hope you enjoyed COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT during the 2016 NCAA Tournament. COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT is a comprehensive look at the NCAA Tournament hosted by veteran college basketball broadcaster Ted Sarandis, along with co-hosts Mike Jarvis and Terry O'Connor, both former Division I coaches. It also included many great guests, including Hoopville's own Phil Kasiecki.

Here are links to the shows:

March 13, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

March 20, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

March 27, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

April 3, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

Phil Kasiecki on Twitter

Recruiting Coverage

2016 Boston Back to School Showcase notes

September 12, 2016 by


We look back at the 2016 Boston Back to School Showcase, where a couple of Boston City League teams were among the most impressive on the day.

2016 Hoopville Spring Finale championship recap

June 28, 2016 by


We look back at the championship games of the 2016 Hoopville Spring Finale, which had a big local flavor as one might have expected.

2016 Hoopville Spring Finale preview

June 24, 2016 by


We look ahead to the 2016 Hoopville Spring Finale, held at a familiar location in Boston.

At the 2016 Boston Shootout, host BABC has a big day

June 8, 2016 by


Sunday was a big day for the host program at the 44th Boston Shootout

2015 Boston Back to School Showcase recap

September 18, 2015 by


The Boston Back to School Showcase gave high school teams from three states and north of the border a chance for a couple of early games. We take a look back at the day and a few who stood out.