If to err is human, the display of pure humanity in Haas Pavilion on Monday night was truly extraordinary. In a home opener with 3,000 in attendance, the Bears’ loss to the Aggies was humiliating indeed — but it was also a reality check.
The days leading up to the inauguration of any sporting season are apprehensively enthusiastic: With a new year on the horizon, the sky was the limit for the blue and gold. And with anticipation also comes the greatest joy, but now the former has ended in not-the-greatest fashion — and so has the latter.
Cal men’s basketball failed to establish rhythm in its home opener against UC Davis, playing a desperate game of catch-up the entire game and lacking any sort of meaning in the precious minutes it possessed the ball. To top it all off, the Bears — though boasting the tallest player on the court in senior center Lars Thiemann — could not buy a rebound.
However, there is no need in wasting more ink to further dwell on the mistakes of the past and detail the events of Monday night. The Bears now face a quick turnaround to host Kansas State on Friday, a team with considerably more depth and experience than both the Bears and the Aggies.
“Kansas State is going to be a team with great athleticism and speed, and obviously play in one of the best leagues in the country,” said head coach Mark Fox. “We’re going to have to grow up fast.”
The league in question is the Big 12, a conference that ranked No. 1 in the NCAA College Basketball RPI rankings last season. Two blowout victories initiated a much more successful season opening for the Wildcats — and, if the numbers are right, they’ll walk out of Haas Pavilion with another one come Friday night.
Some argue that the most important part of any season is the offseason. Although the home opener has not been an indication of the blue and gold’s work during the summer, the sample size remains small and Friday afternoon could serve as an opportunity for redemption for the Bears.
If Cal hopes to grace the floors of Haas Pavilion with any semblance of a team worthy of a matchup against Kansas State, the first step has to start in the paint. Of course, past all the nuances and intricacies of basketball, getting the ball in the basket is all that matters at the end of the day. However, in order to place the ball in said basket, one has to first acquire the ball.
“(We have) got to be better on (getting rebounds), gotta be better 100%,” Thiemann said.
Physicality down low is paramount for securing boards, but one thing is even more important in ensuring the existence of them in the first place: defense. The Wildcats already present a significant offensive dominance — to perform a repeat of Monday night and allow a plethora of fast break opportunities and easy layups would be to sell the game from the opening tip.
On the other end of the floor, the Bears need offensive execution. It doesn’t have to be flawless, it just has to exist. The Davis matchup saw the Cal offense run straight into the teeth of the defense time and time again, failing to execute neither a clean dribble penetration nor enough ball movement to secure a favorable jumpshot.
The Bears will host the Wildcats Friday afternoon, hoping to snag one victory on the home floor before they hit the road to face UC San Diego. As the Bears hope to put a historic loss to the Aggies behind them, fans hope that one game does not a season make.