12. California Golden Bears
We’re just under a month into the season and California still does not appear to have a solidified identity.
Will the Golden Bears be a pest for experienced teams? Can coach Wyking Jones record wins over programs his team shouldn’t beat? Cal had opportunities to answer both questions in the past week and provided mixed answers, to a point where one can only scratch his or her head as a result.
Opening the week in Brooklyn against St. John’s for a ‘neutral-site’ showdown (Queens is 15 miles from the Barclays Center), the trio of sophomores Darius McNeill and Justice Sueing along with junior transfer Paris Austin combined for 57 points in a three-point loss to the Red Storm. Junior guard Shamorie Ponds continued a white-hot start to the year with a game-high 32 points.
Up next were the Temple Owls. Led by coach Fran Dunphy, Temple is 5-1 and looking to get back into the NCAA Tournament after missing out in four of the past five seasons. Against the Owls, the Bears defense looked porous, giving up 54 percent shooting from the floor (including almost 68 percent in the second half) en route to a 76-59 loss.
But the Golden Bears shored up their efforts defensively against Santa Clara for a 78-66 win. Before heading to Moraga to face Saint Mary’s, Jones needs to find a way to managed the rebound margins better and mold Austin into the team’s full-time go-to option offensively.