Bulls and Bears: Getting to know Cal
Now that it's finally sinking in that USF in back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 20 years, we offer up a quick cram session on the Bulls' first-round opponent in Dayton on Wednesday night: the California Golden Bears.
Cal is 24-9 and finished 13-5 in the Pac-12, but lost three of its last four, twice to Pac-12 tournament champion Colorado and once to Stanford. The Golden Bears have an RPI of 37, a full 15 spots ahead of USF -- it's in the same area as several teams the Bulls played this season, like Connecticut (32), VCU (38), Notre Dame (39) and Cincinnati (42). Much like USF, Cal dominated in home games, with a 17-1 home record, but went 7-8 away from home.
-- Cal has four players averaging more points per game than USF's leading scorer. It starts with 6-6 sophomore guard Allen Crabbe, who averages 15.3 points per game; 6-3 senior guard Jorge Gutierrez is next at 13.1, followed by 6-2 sophomore guard Justin Cobbs (12.9) and 6-8 senior forward Harper Kamp (11.3). Like USF, they're arguably stronger on defense, ranking second in the Pac-12 in points allowed at 61.8 points per game; their scoring is at 71.7, which ranks fourth in the league.
-- Cal is a strong shooting team, leading the Pac-12 in both field-goal percentage (47.9 percent) and free-throw percentage (74.6 percent). They led the league with 16.1 assists per game, but oddly, were the lowest in the conference with 4.7 steals per game. They don't rely heavily on 3-point shooting, connecting on just 4.6 per game, second-lowest in the Pac-12. They're a balanced rebounding team, with five players averaging at least 5.0 rebounds per game.
-- You should know Cal coach Mike Montgomery from his Stanford days at least -- to put the 65-year-old coach's career in perspective, he has a career record of 635-290 as a head coach; USF as a basketball program has a career record of 561-621. At the same time, USF faced two coaches with more career wins this season in Syracuse's Jim Boeheim and West Virginia's Bob Huggins. UConn's Jim Calhoun also has more wins, but did not travel with the Huskies for their game against USF this season.
-- The two teams have actually met twice before, splitting a home-and-home series in 2000 and 2001. USF lost 79-69 at Cal in 2000, then came back and won 59-56 in Tampa a year later. USF has a 2-4 all-time mark against Pac-12 schools -- the other win came against USC in 1993-94, with losses against Arizona (1989-90), UCLA (1999-00) and Oregon State (2005-06). Stan Heath knows what it's like to face a Pac-12 team in the NCAA Tournament -- his last appearance, at Arkansas in 2007, ended with a 77-60 loss to USC.
-- USF sophomore guard Victor Rudd actually has experience playing against Cal -- he did so twice as a freshman at Arizona State in 2009-10, though he played sparingly off the bench in two Sun Devils losses. He was opportunistic in those two games, scoring 7 points in 8 minutes.
-- Cal has a bit more postseason experience than USF -- the Golden Bears went 18-15 and made the Postseason NIT. In 2010, they went 24-11, beating Louisville 77-62 in the opening round before losing to Duke in the second round. In 2009, Cal went 22-11 and lost to Maryland in the opening round of the tournament. Of Cal's key players, Gutierrez played in all three NCAA games, while Kamp only played in the Maryland game as a freshman.