California Golden Bears
Last NCAA Appearance: 2006, First Round loss to North Carolina State
Coach: Mike Montgomery (16-12 in 12 NCAA appearances)
Why They Can Surprise:
California, under first year coach Mike Montgomery, has played solid basketball all season long. The team takes smart shots, keeps the turnovers to a minimum and simply plays smarter than their opponents. Players who are not good shooters do not shoot outside shots and it seems everybody plays to their strengths. Coach Montgomery deserves a lot of credit, but he needed some players to make his system work.
His best players are in the backcourt where Jerome Randle, Patrick Christopher and Theo Robertson combine to average over 44 points per game. Randle does not just shoot 46 percent from long range and average 18.3 points; he is also the point guard. The 5-10 junior is the heart and soul of the team and the much needed coach on the floor. Like Randle, Christopher is another talented guard who can score inside and out. Robertson is one of the most underappreciated and talented shooters in the nation. He has hit an amazing 56.2 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc.
Why They Can Disappoint:
The Golden Bears defense is much, much better than it was last year, but there is still room for improvement. The opposition shoots over 43 percent from the floor and 33.4 percent from beyond the arc. Coach Montgomery has instilled a more intense defense this year, but that does not make up for the fact that Cal has no intimidating shot blocking presence under the basket outside of little used 7-3 freshman Max Zhang, who leads the team with 13 blocks despite averaging just 4.5 minutes per game.
Who To Watch:
Jamal Boykin and Jordan Wilkes both bring something to the table; they are just not shot blockers. Boykin, who spent some time playing at Duke, emerged as a decent scoring threat both inside and out. Meanwhile, Wilkes, a seven-footer, does a lot of the dirty work in the paint. While the production is lacking, those two are experienced players who know how to help their team. It is Harper Kamp and Omondi Amoke who come in off the bench. They do not add any size to the frontcourt or any scoring prowess, but at least Cal has a few options if things get really bad in the frontcourt.
Jermone Randle, Junior, Guard
Patrick Christopher, Junior, Guard
Theo Robertson, Junior, Forward
Jamal Boykin, Junior, Forward
Jordan Wilkes, Junior, Center
Omondi Amoke, Freshman, Forward
Jorge Gutierrez, Freshman, Guard
Harper Kamp, Freshman, Forward
+ Following final Bracket announcement, more team info will be added, including final RPI, final team statistical rankings, Joel's prediction, and more!