April 9, 2013
California junior guard Jeff Powers gave fans an inside look at the Golden Bears during their 2012-13 season in his blog "The Bear Necessities" and provided a recap of his junior campaign here. Below is Part I of his take on the Bears' exciting season.
Pre-season workouts are always tough. 6 a.m. cardio sessions, weights, and individual workouts with the coaching staff, pre-season is loaded with basketball, basketball, and more basketball. 2012's pre-season workouts were focused on team building... getting guys to give maximum effort for their teammates. Head strength & conditioning coach, Scott Thom did a great job getting the team ready for the five-month trek ahead. Unfortunately, the Bears couldn't escape pre-season with a complete bill of health. Ricky Kreklow would sustain an injury to his right foot and be forced to wait on the sidelines. This would handicap the Bears for a bit as the season was just getting started and a player was already down. Thankfully Ricky would be able to play on the foot.
The Bears were picked in pre-season polls to finish in the middle of the Pac 12 conference. Nothing provides more fuel to the fire than being underestimated. The Bears were itching to play another opponent when the exhibition game against San Francisco State rolled around. In my experience as a basketball player, pre-season practices are always the toughest. Every day, you are on the floor for 2.5 to 3 hours guarding, boxing out the same guys, and in general just getting beat up. Any player will tell you that the first game of the season is long awaited. But sadly, the Bears didn't approach San Francisco State with that mentality. Although Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs combined for 50 points, the team played with little energy. Not a solid stepping stone to build a season on.
Cal would improve over the coming weeks. Guys would find their niche in Coach Montgomery's system and improvement could be seen. With victories over CSU Bakersfield and Pepperdine, the Bears were playing solid basketball. The first road test came at my old school, University of Denver. It was a bag of mixed emotions for me, but overall glad to be back in Denver. This game would mark the 1,000th point of Allen Crabbe's career, a huge milestone for such a great player. By no means an easy game, Denver provided a tough road test for the Bears and they emerged with a win. It was a solid road win to hang their hat on.
Now the Bears journeyed to Anaheim to participate in the DIRECTV Classic, a solid tournament which the Bears would win. Anaheim provided a great experience for the team especially with tough games ahead in their schedule. A bad loss at Wisconsin would follow, which provided a reality check for the team. After Wisconsin, practices would increase in intensity and the guys would play harder. UNLV and Creighton were both home games the guys felt we could win. UNLV would be lost with a heartbreaker on the last possession and Creighton would outplay the Bears. Up to that point, Cal had avoided any bad losses on their resume. Here is where Harvard steps into the picture. With no Brandon Smith or Ricky Kreklow, Cal would be shorthanded for this game and it showed. With this loss, the Bear's resume looked iffy.
While the Harvard loss was fresh on everyone's mind, Pac-12 play began. In my opinion Pac-12 play was rough up until the Oregon State game at home on January 31st. This game would be the turning point in the season. A come-from-behind victory would bring momentum to the team at a crucial point in the schedule. From this point, the Bears would win nine of their next 10 games. This streak saw some hugely entertaining basketball. The team was clicking on all cylinders and now had put themselves in position to possibly win the conference. Sadly, this goal would end with a home loss to Stanford on Senior Night. But a very successful league stretch had put the Bears in the number 2 seed for the Pac-12 Tournament. Unfortunately, this would end in an early tournament exit at the hands of Utah.
Now came the always anxious Selection Sunday. The Bears had done enough work and had a solid resume but Selection Sunday is always nerve racking. California would receive a 12 seed with a first-round game against UNLV in San Jose. This draw appeared very favorable for the Bears. Many felt the Rebels got away with one early in the season. Revenge would be taken in that first-round game as the Bears emerged victorious. The second round would bring a hard-fought loss to the Syracuse Orange who advanced to the regional final. Congratulations to their program.
Part II to come soon!!!
Thanks for reading and follow me on twitter for more insightful thoughts at @superpowers90.
After a long journey, the Pac-12 season has come to an end. Now the real season starts, tourney time. The time of the year everyone looks forward too. The last week of the Pac-12 season was nothing short of exciting for many teams. California, even after losing to Stanford last week, was still in the hunt for a share of the title. Those chances were slim and Cal's efforts ultimately came up short.
This years Pac-12 tournament has moved to Las Vegas and by no means is it a down grade from the Staples Center. The MGM Grand will be hosting the event this year. Much excitement is around the Pac-12's first year in Las Vegas and I am sure the experience will not disappoint. But lets be honest, when does the Pac-12 tournament not disappoint?
Now that league play has ended, teams are now gearing up for the Pac-12 tournament. This year the field seems more even than ever. UCLA and Cal are your top two seeds while Oregon and Arizona come in at three and four, respectively. After the top four, it's a real shake up of solid teams who all have a shot at the title. UCLA will get the winner of Stanford and Arizona State. Both these teams are very good and have the ability to beat the Bruins. This will be a tough first round game for the Bruins no matter who they play. Arizona is also on the UCLA's side of the bracket and they will get the winner of Colorado and Oregon State. This is another game that should be fun to watch. Oregon State is very talented offensively. They beat Colorado at their place so that warrants some attention. Overall, not an easy bracket for any team that is involved.
The other side of the bracket is a different story. Cal will get the winner of USC and Utah. These two teams should not be underestimated by any means. Both teams have given the Bears a fight this year. Bob Cantu has USC playing at a high level and Utah has a habit of playing close games with everyone, and close games make me nervous. At the three seed, Oregon will get the winner of Washington or Washington State. Another match-up that isn't an easy one. It may appear easy but these two teams' records are not indicative of how well they are playing right now. Washington State beat UCLA last week and Washington also took them down to the wire. So both these teams have shown the ability to beat good teams. Oregon will have their hands full no matter who it is. This bracket will be full of fireworks.
Thanks for reading and don't be afraid to follow me on twitter for more insightful thoughts at @superpowers90.