Head Coach: Cuonzo Martin
Overall Record: 23-11
Conference Record: 12-6 (tied for 3rd in the Pac-12)
2015-16 Pomeroy Rating: #28 (3rd in the Pac-12)
2015-16 Sagarin Rating: #30 (4th in the Pac-12)
Overall Off. Adj. Efficiency: #52
Overall Def. Adj. Efficiency: #19
Overall Scoring Average: 74.9 ppg (8th)
Overall Scoring Defense: 67.3 ppg (1st)
Conference Scoring Average: 73.5 ppg (6th)
Conference Scoring Defense: 67.8 ppg (2nd)
For a time last April it was looking like Cuonzo Martin would find his team stripped bare of its core of elite players, staring at the prospect of an 11th place finish in 2017; and then Ivan Rabb threw Martin a lifeline by becoming the only college player projected to go in the 2016 NBA Lottery to return to school.
In the aftermath of Rabb’s decision, the Bears show some signs of life heading into 2016-17, and are even a trendy pick to finish in the upper tier of the Pac-12. The problem is that the Bears will now be forced to rely on players like Jabari Bird, Sam Singer, Stephen Domingo and Kameron Rooks, who have proved fairly unreliable over long stretches in prior seasons.
Rabb very well may be the best college basketball player in the country; and that, along with Martin’s famous stifling defenses, might be enough to get Cal into the NCAA Tournament. It certainly should be enough to beat some good teams at home. But it’s unclear if it’s enough to propel Cal into the upper half of the Pac-12 in a season where the conference looks strong.
The Back Court:
When Jordan Mathews elected to transfer to Gonzaga, compounding the loss of Tyrone Wallace to graduation, the Bears had lost the backbone of their back court for the prior two seasons. One time 5-star prospect Jabari Bird remains; while Bird has never lived up to his 5-star hype, he has steadily improved over three seasons, and should be good for about 13 to 14 points per game this upcoming season.
Sam Singer, who played significantly during Wallace’s injuries this past season, returns at point guard. Singer was often a liability on the offensive end (going without a field goal made over the final five games against conference goes), and, as such, will have to battle Illinois’s jitterbug Mr. Basketball, Charlie Moore, and juco Dontae Coleman, who scored nearly 20 points per game for Lawson State C.C., for minutes.
Jordan Mathew’s spot in the back court will likely go to Columbia graduate transfer Mullins, who shot nearly 44% from 3-point range and dropped 20 points on UC Irvine in the CIT Championship game this past season. And then there is the perennially-disappointing one-time Georgetown Hoya, Stephen Domingo — a one time Top 60 recruit, with long arms and perfect swing man physique, who enters his senior season of college basketball having scored a grand total of 79 points.
The Front Court:
It doesn’t get much better than building a front court around Ivan Rabb, who shot 62% from the field, while scoring 12.5 points and grabbing 8.5 rebounds, in conference games as a freshman. Because Rabb will have to take a much heavier portion of the scoring workload, he probably won’t continue shooting 62% from the field; but he might score upwards of 18 points per game. Rabb is very skilled big man, who is crafty around the rim and can also score from the extended post up to about 15 feet from the basket.
span style=”font-family: ‘times new roman’; font-size: large;”>A one-time Top 150 recruit, redshirt freshman Roman Davis should give Rabb some relief on the court as a combo forward.
The rest of the front court has very nice size, but not much proven skill. Kameron Rooks, who is the biggest guy on the court whenever he’s in the game, makes Rabb look tiny by comparison. Unfortunately, Rooks often appears slow-footed, and has struggled with foul trouble (averaging a foul more than once every six minutes of play).
Another 7-foot giant, English import Kingsley Okoroh heads into his third college season, having averaged about 12 minutes per game over his first two seasons. Okoroh has managed to foul even more frequently than Rooks, while averaging only about 7 rebounds for every 40 minutes played. And then there is senior Roger Moute a Bidias, an import from Cameroon. Despite his own promise, Moute a Bidias has only scored 77 points in three seasons, and shot under 30% from the field last season.[/font]
Cuonzo Martin is known for stifling defense, and will need one of his best defenses to date, if he wants to get Cal safely into the NCAA Tournament. If Jabari Bird and one of the newcomers can step up in a big way on offense, then Cal might be able to compete with top conference teams.
But it is more likely that Cal will take a bit of a step back in 2016-17 to where the Bears were in Martin’s first season, when he finished 7-11 in conference play.
G Sam Singer
G Grant Mullins
G Jabari Bird
F Ivan Rabb
C Kameron Rooks
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