How do we expect Cal to bounce back after last season’s poor showing?
Benjamin Coleman: The Bears will be hoping to put a nightmarish year behind them which saw them finish last in the Pac-12 with a 3-17 record in conference play. Unfortunately for Cal, that may be easier said than done, especially after losing Matt Bradley, its leading scorer from last season, to the transfer portal. Without any high-impact recruits coming in, the Bears will need their existing core players to take big steps forward. The Bears do boast veteran experience, including 13 returners from last year’s team. Relying on that leadership from players such as Grant Anticevich and Andre Kelly will be key to keeping Cal competitive this season.
Justin Kim: While I hope the “Ewing theory” is true following Matt Bradley’s departure, I don’t count on it happening. Cal’s roster continuity could be an advantage, but it could also be the reason for its downfall. The Bears struggled to get easy and efficient baskets regardless of if Bradley was on the floor or not, and I anticipate the same this year as there is virtually zero help on the way. Moreover, out of the blue and gold’s 29 games, only three out of 20 losses were decided by three points or less, indicating a lack of reliable scorers amongst many other flaws. Here’s to moral victories.
Tina Xue: Though the absence of Matt Bradley is a devastating hit to the Bears, it also means that they can no longer rely on a single player to carry the team to sporadic victories. For the Bears to emerge as an actual contender in the Pac-12 tournament this season, I believe that the biggest improvement they can make is to enhance team chemistry. As of right now, there is no standout Bear player on the roster who carries the trademark of “superstar” and can single-handedly lead the team to a long-awaited successful Pac-12 run. Thus, everyone in a blue and gold jersey will have to chip in if the Bears don’t want to face yet another disappointing season.
How will the Bears fare in Pac-12 play this season? Where will they finish in the conference?
BC: The Bears face an uphill battle against one of the best conferences in college basketball. Relying on the slow-paced, gritty and defensive style they’ve come to be known for under Mark Fox will be key to keeping them in games against the high-flying offenses of the Pac-12, but there will likely be many nights where the talent gap is just too much to overcome. The Bears, on paper, have gotten worse than 2020-21’s last place finishers, so I anticipate another season in the basement of the Pac-12 and Mark Fox’s seat beginning to heat up.
JK: To keep it brief, the Bears won’t fare well against Pac-12 competition. One might believe that it can’t get worse than 3-17, but I’m afraid it can get worse. With the emergence of UCLA, Oregon’s dependability (132-66 in the Dana Altman era), Arizona’s consistency and more, Cal will have very little room for error in many of their matches. I’m willing to bet that the Bears will finish last in the conference but top three in turnovers.
TX: A recent motto I’ve been living by is “no expectation, no disappointment,” and I kindly urge fans to consider it as well. Considering the Bears’ not-so-positive track record in the Pac-12 and the relatively unchanged administration and roster — a breakthrough season is highly unlikely. Unless the returning roster had a Rocky-training-montage-level transformation during the offseason or an underdog emerges from among the new recruits, I don’t see the Bears making a huge Pac-12 run this season. I predict that, unfortunately, they will feel quite at home at the bottom of the conference yet again. However, while we’re on the topic of life mottos, another good one would be “never say never.”
Which matchup are we most looking forward to this season?
BC: The California rivalry games may get all the attention from fans, but I can’t wait for the Feb. 12 matchup against Oregon. The Ducks have been a Pac-12 powerhouse for years and that shouldn’t change this season. The Fort Myers Tip-Off tournament in late November should be an exciting early season measuring stick for the Bears as well, as they’ll be joined by teams with real national championship hopes like Ohio State and Florida.
JK: I’m always looking forward to the classic Cal vs. Stanford matchup, but this year I’m more excited about the Cal vs. UCLA matchup. With UCLA coming off of a final four appearance, but only beating Cal by 4 in its last game, I’d like to see how much it has improved or if we can stay in the game despite the talent disparity.
TX: Following last season’s Stanford upset, I’d say that the dates Jan. 2 and Feb. 26 would have to be circled in red in our calendars. The 11th-seeded Bears defeated the sixth-seeded Cardinal in a blowout 76-58 matchup last season, with Cal shooting lights out from beyond the arc. It’ll be interesting to see the aftermath of this upset between these two classic rivalries.