Thanks to NorCalNick of California Golden Blogs for answering a few questions about Sunday's regular season finale at Maples Pavilion.
1. What player has improved the most for Cal throughout the season? How important will he be to sweeping Stanford?
It has to be either Justin Cobbs or Robert Thurman. Thurman is probably the single player who has improved the most over the course of the season, but his impact is still somewhat limited because he'll only play 15 minutes or so. With Cobbs, it was just a matter of getting back up to speed with D1 ball after sitting out his transfer year. But he also had to grow into his role in the offense. At this point he's pretty much the undisputed point guard and ball handler, and his ability to facilitate has gradually grown over the course of the season to the point where he's leading the Pac-12 in assist/turnover ratio during conference play.
2. If you had to predict now, what seed do you think Cal winds up with in the NCAA Tournament? Do you think they're safely in even if they lose back-to-back games at Maples and Staples?
I think Cal would be very well advised to win at least one more game before selection Sunday. Losing to Stanford on the road wouldn't be a crushing resume loss, but losing to WSU or OSU on a neutral court might be, especially if it capped a 3 game losing streak. As for our likely seed? Probably a 9. I'm 100% sure we'll be in the dreaded 8-9 game, probably with Kentucky looming in the next round. Even with Monty we have to keep the old-school Cal pessimism alive and well somehow!
3. Jorge Guitierrez was held scoreless against Colorado. Cause for alarm, or just a blip in an otherwise successful season?
Both, strangely. I'm not worried about Jorge, and I'm sure he'll contribute positively in every game the rest of the way. But it's alarming because we really, really needed that game. The good news is that Cal's offense has diversified enough that we don't necessarily need Jorge to score 15 a night. But we do need something from him. Maybe Colorado just got in his head, maybe they just have the right personnel to take him off his game, because he's been fine in pretty much every other game this year.
4. You cited depth and athleticism as two of Cal's biggest weaknesses before these teams met at Haas. Does that assessment still hold true?
Pretty much. We'll have to assume on the athleticism part because other than perhaps Arizona and Washington there isn't a team in the Pac-12 that can really punish Cal athleticically. But I think Cal's lack of depth really hurt them in 2nd-game-of-a-road-trip losses to OSU and Colorado. The team just looked tired in both games.
5. Who do you expect to carry the load offensively for Cal on Sunday?
I don't ever really expect one guy or another to have a big game scoring wise - only twice in the last 13 games has Cal had a player go over 20 points, and that's on a team that only goes 6 or 7 deep. But the player I want to carry the load is Allen Crabbe. He's the one guy that I could imagine getting super hot and carrying Cal into the sweet 16 - the type of player who could hit 5 or 6 three pointers and go off for 25+ points on the right day. He had been mired in a shooting slump (by his standards) but had a decent day against Colorado. Every Cal fan is hoping that he goes into the post-season with aggressive, with full confidence in his jump shot.
6. Score prediction?
Cal by 4 in a defensive slugfest.