It is hard to win your conference title and still have your season be considered a disappointment, but that is what happened to Cal last year. Yes, they finished atop the Pac-10 standings, but you cannot forget how weak the conference was last season. A 24-10 regular season record and second-round exit from the NCAA Tournament was definitely below the expectations of a team that was ranked in the top 15 in both preseason polls.
Now, the Golden Bears are in a complete reloading year as they lose an extremely talented core of seniors who combined to make up 75 percent of their scoring, 51 percent of their rebounds and 66 percent of their assists last season. Plus, backup post player Omondi Amoke was dismissed from the team while reserve shooting guard D.J. Seeley elected to transfer, leaving an even bigger void on the roster.
You can probably expect to see a different brand of basketball at Berkeley. Cal finished second in the Pac-10 in points per game last season but will not be able to light up the scoreboard like that in 2010. The team's top returning player is Jorge Gutierrez who is known for his defensive abilities and is not a tremendous scorer. Harper Kamp is back after taking a redshirt last year due to a knee injury and while he will add some experience and depth up front, scoring is not his forte either.
That is where the freshmen are going to have to step in. Cal brings in some young talent led by sharp-shooting wing Alan Crabbe and point guard Roger Franklin, but lacks the experience and scoring punch to be a real threat in the conference race unless Mike Montgomery is able to pull a rabbit out of his hat.
Player to Watch: Alan Crabbe, SG
The California Player of the Year is going to need to be an impact scorer for the Golden Bears in his first season. With a team that lost a ton of scoring from last season, Crabbe has the best potential of all newcomers to try and replace some of that offense. He can stroke it from the outside but will also need to more consistent in attacking the basket.
Key Non-Conference Games:
11/20 vs. New Mexico
11/25 vs. Temple (Old Spice Classic)
11/26 vs. Georgia/Notre Dame (Old Spice Classic)
11/28 vs. Wisconsin/Manhattan/Boston College/Texas A&M (Old Spice Classic)
12/4 at Iowa State (Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series)