Pac-12 power resides in Bay Area


Pac-12 power resides in Bay Area

With nearly a month of the non-conference season behind us, it's very possible that the top-two teams in the Pac-12 make their home in the Bay Area. Cal, a preseason favorite by many pundits, is expected, but Stanford is the leagues surprise team to date.

If the Cardinal and Bears do end up at the top of the leagues standings, it may not seem all that newsworthy. Yet looking back the last two decades, it quickly becomes clear how rare it is for the Pac-12 basketball power to reside up north.

Stanford and Cal have never finished 1-2 in the conference basketball standings, and the eras of where both programs have even been "good" at the same time are few and far between.

Only four times in the last 20 years have both programs made the NCAA Tournament in the same year (three of those years coming back-to-back-to back in 2000-2003).

This year appears to be different, partly due to the respective strength of both teams and even moreso by the relative softness of many other programs in the league. Early returns show that Cal and Stanford need only to beat out Arizona and Washington at the top of the league standings, and even those teams have their share of weaknesses. (Not buying into Oregon States early 6-1 record yet).

The Bears are not a complete team, the way many Pac-12 title contenders from most years are, but that might not be needed this year. What the Bears lack in experienced frontcourt depth and overall team athleticism, they make up for with a triangle of effective, balanced scorers in senior guard Jorge Guttierez, sophomore wing Allen Crabbe and senior forward Harper Kamp. Transfer guard Justin Cobbs is quickly emerging as another scoring option for the Bears, and is helping Mike Montgomery's team through the stretch without suspended post player Richard Solomon.

Without Solomon, the Bears went small on the road against a nationally ranked SDSU team, starting four guards. Cal jumped out to a 6-0 lead and stood toe to toe for the duration with the Aztecs on the road, before losing a close contest in a hostile environment. Freshman David Kravish is getting valuable experience for the Bears in this stretch up front. All in all, Cal likely comes out of their non-conference schedule 10-3, and a favorite to win the league.

Down on the Farm, the Cardinal have quietly put together the most impressive non-conference resume to date in the league, doing so with a very balanced scoring attack (five players averaging between seven and 12 ppg). Stanford is deep both on the perimeter and up front, they are quick, and they are much better defensively than they have been the last few years.

At 8-1 with wins over Big 12 member Oklahoma State and ACC member NC State, and their only loss a close defeat in the Garden against Syracuse in a game they led until the final minutes, the Cardinal are in great position. They will likely head into Pac 12 play 11-1, with the best record in the league.

Circle Jan. 29 (at Haas Pavilion) and March 4 (at Maples) on your calendars. These games, conveniently the last game on both rounds of conference play, might have bigger meaning this year than ever before.

BAY AREA TEAM OF THE WEEK: Stanford. The Cardinal (8-1) are rolling heading into their two week-long break for finals. A blowout road win at Seattle last Thursday was nice, but the 12 point second half comeback against NC State Sunday was their best win of the year. Stanford has the best record in the Pac 12, three winnable home games before league play begins, and are in prime position for their first Tournament berth since 2007-2008.

BAY AREA TEAM OF THE WEAK: UC Davis. First year coach Jim Les knew he had his hands full this year, but their home game against Idaho Saturday was their best chance for a Division I win heading into Big West play. They lost by 20. It now gets ugly Davis with four road games to end non-conference play, meaning they will likely be 0-11 in Division I games heading into the New Year.
BAY AREA PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Santa Claras junior guard Kevin Foster wins his first weekly award, with a 20 point, 7 rebound, 6 assist performance in Santa Claras 71-58 win over CSUN. Foster was 4-9 from 3-pt land, bringing his overall career made 3s total to a whopping 272, the most ever for a Bay Area college player (ex-SCU great Steve Nash had the previous high at 263). The win moved the Broncos to 5-2 overall, with some nice wins under their belt, and a winnable game at Washington State Sunday up next.

GAME OF THE WEEK (that was): Cals 64-63 loss to San Diego State was a hard fought contest between two quality teams. The Bears were down two late but failed to get a rebound on a miss from the Aztecs and were forced to foul, so never had a last possession to tie or win the game. No team led by more than five points in the second half, and fellow sophomores Allen Crabbe (23 points) and Justin Cobbs (17 points), had 40 of Cals 63 points.

GAME (s) OF THE WEEK (ahead): Light slate this week with many Bay Area teams being in final exams, so Santa Clara at Washington State Sunday gets the nod as the game of the week. The Broncos will try for their third straight win (and five out of six), and with it give the WCC a fifth win over the Pac 12. Cal plays tonight at home against SJSU, trying for their 19th straight win without a loss versus the Spartans, in Berkeley.

NOTABLE: USF won another close game last week at Montana, 65-62. That is 11 wins by three points or less (or overtime) this year or last, against only two losses. Thats four more wins than anyone in the nation has in the same stretch.

QUOTABLE: USF head coach Rex Walters after his teams 65-62 win at Montana last week: "This is a tough place to win. It's a tough flight coming into here. There was a lot of adversity. We had to fight for everything tonight. The guys were on edge and wanted to come here and get a win."

BY THE NUMBERS: The Mountain West certainly has had the best resume of any conference in the west thus far. Their overall league record is 52-14, and they are 4 in early conference power ratings. Every team in the league is over .500.

Dan Shell has been an assistantcoach at the Division I level at three different institutions includingSaint Mary's College. He currently works for IMG College, whichprovides sports marketing services for Division I universities andconferences. Have questions or comments? Emailhim here.

Pac-12 basketball teams near Barcelona terrorist attack safe


Pac-12 basketball teams near Barcelona terrorist attack safe

Men's basketball teams from Oregon State, Clemson and Arizona were staying at a hotel in Barcelona, Spain, near where a van drove into pedestrians on Thursday, but team officials said everyone was safe.

Spanish police have confirmed they are investigating the bloodshed in Barcelona's historic Las Ramblas district as a terror attack. The area is a popular summer tourist spot.

Tulane also was playing in Barcelona, but it was unclear if they were staying in the same hotel as the other teams.

Oregon State assistant coach Gregg Gottlieb posted to Facebook: "We are all luckily ok. Our hotel/restaurant is located right on Las Ramblas. This tragedy happened right in front of us as our team just sat down for pregame meal. Thoughts and prayers for all those that are were hurt."

The Beavers' game Thursday night was canceled. It was supposed to be the first of a five-game tour.

Clemson was scheduled to play Thursday night against a Spanish All-Star team.

"We've been in contact with our men's basketball program currently in Barcelona and the entire travel party is safe and secure. Their exhibition game for tonight has been cancelled and the team will return to Clemson as previously scheduled tomorrow morning. Our thoughts are with the people of Barcelona," the South Carolina school said in a statement.

Clemson coach Brad Brownell confirmed in a text to The Associated Press that the three teams were staying in the same hotel.

"We are fine. Thankful to be safe and together," Brownell wrote.

Tulane athletic director Troy Tannen confirmed via social media that the Green Wave players and staff were safe.

Replying to a Twitter inquiry from a Portland television about whether the team was OK, Oregon State head coach Wayne Tinkle responded: "Yes we are, happened directly in front of our hotel while we were having a team meal in the restaurant, so senseless and sad! All accounted4."

Oregon State said it has not yet determined the remaining schedule for the team, which was supposed to be on the exhibition tour until Aug. 25.

A spokesman for Arizona said the Wildcats have canceled their third and final exhibition of their tour and "are currently working on travel plans to return home."

The future of Cal athletics, or lack thereof


The future of Cal athletics, or lack thereof

Your education dollars are always at work, so it is with pride and bewilderment that we report that the University of California’s incoming class (2021, for those few who can get out in four years) marched to Memorial Stadium and formed the world’s largest human letter.
It was . . . wait for it . . . a “C.” A 7,196-person-strong “C.”
But the school, as it occasionally does, missed a golden opportunity to seize a golden opportunity. All they needed to do was have a quick whip-round, get $55,586.44 from each and every one of the captives . . . er, students, and they could have wiped out their entire athletics deficit in one night.
You see, while forming gigantic letters is always fun (or as the kids used to say when double negatives didn’t mean voting, never not fun), Cal is staring at quite possibly the bleakest future a major athletic university ever has. The athletic department, whose chief officer, Mike Williams, has just announced his intention to quit, is over $400 million in debt between construction costs, ambition, shrinking allegiance and the absence of a Phil Knight-level sugar daddy to buy the pain away.
And before you blame Williams, he inherited this indigestible planetoid from his predecessor, Sandy Barbour, who grew it from her predecessor, Steve Gladstone, and hastened it from . . . well, you get the drift. 
Cal’s been blowing through money it hasn’t been taking in for years upon years, didn’t realize the deficit-cutting benefits of the Pac-12 Network (because they largely don’t exist), and the day of reckoning looms closer and closer, especially now that new chancellor Carol Christ (no apparent relation) described the deficit as “corrosive” and has insisted that the athletic department have a balanced budget by 2020.
In short, the school may only be able to afford a lower-case “C” before too long. Maybe in comic sans.