Can California’s Balance Earn Them A Pac-12 Championship?
The California Golden Bears have had some success recently on the basketball court, and this season looks like it could be the best one in recent memory. In the 1959-60 season, head coach Pete Newell led California to the National Championship game after winning his fourth consecutive Pacific Coast Conference Championship. Between then and the 2008-09 season when current coach Mike Montgomery was hired, the team had some success but none consistently.
Montgomery has won one Pac-12 Conference Championship and the team has made the NCAA Tournament in four of his five seasons. The team has not finished below fourth in the regular season standings, and this year’s team may be the best he has had yet.
The thing that makes the 2013-14 Golden Bears dangerous is their balance; they have five different players who can beat you. These five guys all average more than ten points per game this season, led by 6-foot-4 senior point guard Justin Cobbs who is averaging 14.9 points and 6.4 assists per game. Cobbs is not a streaky scorer by any means as he has less than ten points in only two games so far this season.
Senior forward Richard Solomon owns the low post with his 12.1 points and 10.3 rebounds per game; he is ranked No. 12 in the nation in rebounding. He may have a difficult time in Wednesday’s game in the Galen Center against the University of Southern California who boasts two 7-foot seniors in D.J. Haley who stands 7-foot and weighs 250-pounds as well as 7-foot-2, 270-pound Omar Oraby. Solomon has missed two games so far this season both of them being losses in the Maui Invitational to Syracuse and Dayton.
California fans are also getting a glimpse of what their future looks like in 6-foot-6 true freshman guard Jabari Bird who is chipping in 10.1 points per game. Bird has missed four games due to injury this season and had been hit or miss when he has been on the court. He has six games where he has scored ten or more points including a 17-point effort in Maui against Syracuse. Conversely, he has scored less than ten in the other eight games including six games with six points or fewer. Bird does have the talent to be a great player in California history; he just needs to find his consistency.
California is currently sitting at 5-0 in Pac-12 play with an overall record of 14-4. That Pac-12 mark is slightly skewed since they have yet to play Arizona, UCLA or Colorado. Their only four losses have not been bad by any means; they have losses to Dayton, Syracuse, UC Santa Barbara and Creighton who boast a combined record of 58-13. They will get their first crack at one of the other Top 4 schools when they visit UCLA on Saturday afternoon at Pauley Pavilion.
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