Record: 23-10 (12-6)
NCAA Tournament Seed: 4 (South)
How they got to the Big Dance
California started the year with a No. 14 pre-season rank, but fell out of the Top-25 after November losses to San Diego State and Richmond. It took overtime for a No. 5 Virginia team to take down the Golden Bears by one point, but then they had a cold streak in the middle of the year where they lost five of seven games. But, the Golden Bears did have quality wins over Utah, Arizona and Oregon. On the other hand, they’ve also lost to those three teams on separate occasions. The Golden Bears’ 12-6 conference record earned them the No. 3 seed in the PAC-12 tournament. They beat Oregon State in the quarterfinals before losing in overtime to No. 12 Utah in the semifinals.
Why they are a legitimate contender
The Golden Bears had their fair share of exposure to some of the best teams in the country. They’ve beaten Utah, Arizona and Oregon, and, even though they lost, it took overtime for a very good Virginia team to beat them. The Golden Bears have found success when they force their opponents to shoot at a low percentage. This season, their opponents have been held to less than 40 percent shooting. Cal is also a good rebounding team. They rank 26th in the country in total rebounds and only allow 5.5 offensive rebounds per game to their opponents, so second chance points are hard to come by against the Golden Bears. If they can continue to limit second chance opportunities and hold their opponents to low shooting percentages, California will be able to stick around in games against higher seeds.
Why they are not a legitimate contender
The Golden Bears have not made it past the Round of 32 since 1997. When they’ve made the tournament, they have had a very hard time getting past the opening weekend. Although they have beaten several quality teams this year, they’ve also lost to those same teams on different occasions. They’re very inconsistent against top competition so even if they win a game or two, they’ll most likely run out of gas. The Bears may not even win their first game due to a lack of turnovers forced. They rank 345th out of 351 teams in turnovers forced per game. They also only force 4.1 steals per game, which is pretty awful. That isn’t going to bode well against quality teams who can score the ball at will.
Player to watch- G Tyrone Wallace
The 6-foot-5 senior guard is the best all-around player for the Golden Bears. He can score, rebound and pass the ball to help his team win. Wallace averages 15.3 points, 5.4 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game, and shoots 44 percent from the field. In the Pac-12 conference tournament, he showed that he doesn’t even need to score to help his team win. In the quarterfinal against Oregon State, Wallace only scored six points, but dished out 10 assists. In the semifinal against Utah, he tried to single-handedly bring his team to the championship game but fell short, scoring 26 points on 10 of 21 shooting. The Golden Bears are going to need Tyrone Wallace’s senior leadership if they want to make a run in this year’s tournament.
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