Michael Duca on Cal basketball

by Michael Duca

BERKELEY–What you want to do is construct a schedule that challenges your team and give it the opportunity to give it different kinds of looks. What a way for Cal (8-3) to rack up a win over the Fresno State Bull Dogs (6-5) an 11 point victory on Saturday night at Haas with a 67-56 victory. It’s silly the way you can beat non-conference teams like this but this is the way you get into the NCAA Tournament.

 

Getting there you need to play North Carolina, Duke, Michigan in the pre season and it really doesn’t matter who else you play you can play 11, 12, 13 non conference games and you want to make sure you win most of them and you want to be sure your team is challenged a little bit in the process. 8-0 at home is good, they lost three away from home not so good but that’s how Cal constructs their pre conference schedule so that their almost entirely at home.

 

The interesting thing is a lot people are wondering how Cal would be this year without Allen Crabbe, without a two time Pac 12 player, who was a good shooter, a good scorer who left early for the NBA and is intimately acquainted with the bench up in Portland now. The answer is their doing just fine the Bears are not relying on just one guy to score for them now their spreading that scoring all around.

 

The Bears had six players in double figures earlier this week against Nevada and three of those players came off the bench. You like to have an eight man rotation that has eight guys that can score in double figures and so Saturday night against the Bull Dogs the Bears spread the scoring around quite as thickly but you did have two guys with double figures in rebounds from Richard Solomon and David Kravish both.

 

One night Justin Cobbs comes and gets you 25 points and the next night he gets eight or nine assists so Cobb can find different ways to adjust his game to what needs to be done on the floor. The conference games will be starting soon enough and there are a lot of very good teams in the Pac 12 this year. Washington is always a tough team for Cal, Oregon is a nationally ranked team, UCLA is a nationally ranked team Arizona is a top ranked team.

 

You have just a variety of squads in the Pac 12 that could give anybody fits on any given night and Cal is always going to struggle when they go to places like Utah or Colorado because of the altitude. It’s going to be a very competitive conference, it will not surprise me Cal in the top second tier after Arizona and UCLA who will be right up there with Oregon.

 

The Cal Bears Tyrone Wallace you look at him on the floor and you think he’s a tweener and it’s the same position that former Bear Patrick Christopher used to play he has the scoring ability to rebound like a power forward with Kravish and Solomon and with that many rebounds to be gathered in right around the bucket and paint he is one of those guys like Kravish was a couple of years ago who has a nose for the ball. I don’t know if Wallace studies and scouts down the other team but he’s got a playbook in his mind where to go on the floor.

 

Michael Duca covers the Cal Bears for Sportstalk Radio each week

Cal runs past Nevada in a high-scoring shootout

By Morris Phillips

Nevada and Cal engaged in an old-fashioned shootout Tuesday with a pair of former prep adversaries turned NBA hopefuls at the center of the action.

For a crowd of nearly 8,000, the Bears’ 92-84 win was satisfying entertainment.  For coaches David Carter and Mike Montgomery, not as much; they immediately harped on the lack of defense.

“I think we’ve got to do a better job of putting pressure on guys and just having that toughness defensively, collectively, and then if they make shots there really isn’t much we can do about it,” Carter said of his Wolf Pack’s defensive effort.

“I thought we made a lot of mistakes defensively,” Montgomery said.  “I think there’s still things we’re learning about how to play defense.  Some of the things that we didn’t do, we tried to talk about.”

Nevada forged an early seven-point lead, 17-10 then watched the floodgates open for Cal.  The Bears went on a huge run, finished the first half with 49 points and shot 55 percent for the game.  The Wolf Pack clearly missed three injured players in their frontcourt, and suffered even more when forward Ronnie Stevens, Jr. was saddled with foul problems.  Senior guard Justin Cobbs had no problem navigating on the offensive end as he racked up 15 points and eight assists, and did a great job of getting his freshman teammates involved offensively.

The Wolf Pack’s Deonte Burton stood as the counterpoint to Cal’s big scoring night as he put up 26 points and led a brief, Nevada second-half run.   Burton, the 6’3” senior, battled Cobbs many times as a prep in Los Angeles, and did so again on Tuesday.   When Burton got inside for a couple of big dunks and drew fouls, it didn’t sit well with Cobbs, eventhough he termed himself and Burton as friends.

“I wouldn’t say he got under my skin,” Cobbs said.  “It’s just frustrating sometimes when the calls were going the other way and myself being so competitive.  He was doing a great job of getting body contact and getting some calls, but it’s just the game of basketball.”

Six Bears finished in double figures, and Montgomery’s tweaking of his starting lineup in the wake of Cal’s disappointing loss at Santa Barbara seemed to work just fine.  Freshman Jordan Mathews and Ricky Kreklow got starts, while Tyrone Wallace and Jabari Bird came off the bench.  Mathews, Wallace and Bird all scored in double figures along with Cobbs, Richard Solomon and David Kravish.

“We just wanted to change,” Montgomery said of the lineup switch.  “If we can keep it competitive, we want to.  We want to keep guys motivated.  We don’t want guys to get stale or take anything for granted.”

The win allowed Montgomery to move up the all-time victories chart with 664 wins, tied for 27th with UCLA legend John Wooden.  When asked about Wooden, Montgomery took the route of humility.

“The number of wins doesn’t mean much to anybody, but when they say that’s John Wooden, all of a sudden everybody perks up.  I have a little work to do.  I’m 10 national championships short (of Wooden).   There’s nothing to compare other than the fact that I’ve got the same number of wins.  That’s the only comparison there is,” Montgomery said.

The Bears face Fresno State on Saturday at 3:00pm at Haas Pavilion.

Michael Duca on Cal basketball

by Michael Duca

BERKELEY–There were a couple of performances from last Monday night’s game at Haas Pavilion against the UC Irvine Anteaters that Cal put on that really didn’t even jump out at you from the stat sheet. That were critically important Tyrone Wallace had a career high 11 rebounds from the lane position last night and he had Justin Cobbs as Cal’s point guard. When they lost in the consolation round to Dayton in Maui David Kravish was just about worn out by them and Richard Solomon was missing his second straight game with a cornea operation.

The Bears had no real post presence they couldn’t go inside outside so all they could do is shoot outside the zone and Cobb put up 31 points and they lost by two or three handful of points about 18. Cal’s Sam Singer had three points but he had three rebounds and Cal assisted on all three quarters of their baskets and things just looked a whole lot better than they did in the game versus Dayton in Maui.

The offense looked pretty good and the defense looked even better in the first half, Irvine missed ten straight and then they hit two out of three and missed eight more and rode in the half so the end of the half shooting hitting two of their last 21 shots and your probably not going to win a lot of basketball games doing that. Solomon is now sporting goggles from getting his eye scratched in the Dayton game and has decided to wear goggles for the rest of the year.

Solomon was not instructed to by doctors he didn’t need to it’s his own choice he doesn’t want to go through that again he doesn’t want to get someone’s finger in his eye. That was a pretty nasty abrasion, Solomon’s eye was swollen shut for two days he could not see and he could not open it. Getting back out on the floor he was rusty and you could tell a week without game action and his timing was not fully there but he set the tone literally from the get go.

Solomon lacked ten inches on Irvine’s center from Senagal, Mamadou Ndiaye who is 7’7 and one of the three or four tallest players ever to play college basketball and Solomon won the opening tip and he did it with climbing athleticism and that is basically how he got Ndiaye to get into foul trouble early in the first half and he picked up his second foul just about 3:50 into the game and sat the rest of the first half. Ndiaye got five and half minutes play in the second half.

Solomon challenged Ndiaye going straight at him early in the game and scored the first five points of the game for Cal and in the second half David Kravish hit Cal’s first ten points and had 12 of the first 16 and he hit six shots in a row and five of them were Ndiaye who was in the game in the second half. So instead of lurking in the backs of too many peoples minds and he is huge and he does have a wing span.

Most big men can get up close to Ndiaye and use their athletic ability and quickness to create some space while he’s trying to back away and make shots and they did. They hit a lot of mid range jumpers.

Michael Duca does commentary on Cal basketball each week for Sportstalk radio

Cal passes big test against 7’6″ Ndiaye and UC Irvine

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By Morris Phillips

The 7’6” sensation known as Mamadou Ndiaye came to Haas Pavilion on Monday night and the Cal Bears needed to quickly determine whether the Senegalese freshman would be an oddity or a menace like he was three weeks ago in UC Irvine’s wire-to-wire victory over Washington in which he had 18 points, eight rebounds and an eye-popping nine blocks.

And what was the answer to the Ndiaye conundrum?  Incomplete.

In Cal’s 73-56 victory, Ndiaye played just 10 minutes due to foul trouble and he and the Anteaters couldn’t shoot a lick early, trailing by double digits for the final 34 minutes of the game.   Consequently, Ndiaye managed to dominate only the post-game quote sheet.

“That guy, when he posts up he has got his hands right at your face,” Cal’s 6’9” David Kravish said.  “You are looking right into his chest.”

“I was staring at his chest the whole game,” 6’11” Richard Solomon said.

“He’s a big dude,” Coach Mike Montgomery said.  “He got into our heads a little bit… just because guys had to figure out what they could do.  We knew that he doesn’t like to come away from the basket very much.”

What could have been a long night and a close game wasn’t in great part due to Kravish, who stepped away from the basket and hit a number of shots on his way to 19 points and 10 rebounds, and Justin Cobbs, who’s never shy about taking his game into the paint, which he did frequently Monday in compiling a game-best nine assists.

Now that the affable Ndiaye–who just last year was tooling around Huntington Beach on his oversized bicycle—has played nine games in his collegiate career, there’s telling tape for opposing coaches to dissect.  Montgomery’s among the best of the practitioners and his Bears took heed, only twice getting too close to Ndiaye and his ridiculous wingspan to have their shots blocked.  Instead, Cal’s ball movement for the most part was crisp and leading to numerous, high-percentage shots.

Meanwhile, Ndiaye had trouble getting out of his own way.

“He didn’t make the adjustments he needed to make,” UC Irvine Coach Russell Turner said.  “He got an offensive foul early, got two rebound fouls.  He needs to avoid those mistakes.”

Cal got a major lift from Solomon’s return from missing the final two games in Maui due to a corneal abrasion.  Solomon wore protective glasses, something he says he will do for the remainder of the season, not wanting to revisit the painful and scary eye injury that took place when an opponent inadvertently caught his eye.  Again it was apparent that Cal’s much better at both ends, but especially defensively, when both Kravish and Solomon are in the game together.

In Solomon’s absence, Syracuse and Dayton both had big shooting nights in handing the Bears their first two losses of the season.

The Bears travel to Santa Barbara Friday night where they will meet the Gauchos before returning home next Tuesday to face Nevada.

Cal plays well, but blinks late in loss to No. 8 Syracuse

By Morris Phillips

Catching the vaunted Syracuse Orangemen a hemisphere away from the Carrier Dome seemed like a good idea for the Cal Bears.

But that’s only if you haven’t checked the numbers: after Syracuse’s 92-81 win over Cal on Tuesday, the Orangemen are a perfect 8-0 at the Lahaina Civic Center, winning Maui Invitational titles in 1990 and 1998.

After beating Cal, No. 8 Syracuse is poised to win a third title, facing Baylor on Wednesday in the tournament’s championship game.  Cal will face Dayton–narrow 67-66 losers to Baylor–on Wednesday in the EA Sports Maui Invitational third place game.

“I thought we played really, really hard, really pleased with the effort,” Coach Mike Montgomery said.  “We had some lapses of things and I don’t think in that level of game you’re going to be able to win if you have lapses.”

In comparison to the Bears loss to Syracuse in last season’s NCAA second round at San Jose, this was a huge improvement for Cal.  Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs played tentatively, and the Bears struggled to figure out the Syracuse zone in a six-point loss that seemed much bigger.  This time, Cal played well in transition, and gave the ‘Cuse a battle, shooting 51 percent and scoring 81 points.

“I thought watching Cal yesterday that their team this year is much better than last year’s team,” Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim said.  “I just think (Jabari) Bird is one of the better freshman composure-wise that I’ve seen.”

The Bears played without center Richard Solomon, who had played 22 consecutive games, but missed Tuesday’s game with an eye injury.  Without their big man, the Bears didn’t back down, getting poised performance by five freshman in their nine-man rotation, and trailing 62-59 with 8:54 remaining when Syracuse pulled away.

“I think the problem was we had some lapses in terms of defense,” Montgomery said.  I think as much as anything, the in-line out of bounds hurt as much as anything.  They probably scored 15 points on in-line out of bounds in the zone.”

Cal was led by Cobbs with 18 points and eight assists.  Bird had 17 points and seven rebounds, David Kravish had 15, and Jordan Mathews 12.  Tyler Ennis led Syracuse with 28 points, and Trevor Cooney added 23.

The Bears outrebounded the Orangemen 30-26, but saw Syracuse shoot 53 percent from the field, and 95 percent from the line, missing just one free throw on the night.

“I like the way we fought without our big guy, Richard Solomon,” Cobbs said.  “I think we played hard and gave them everything we wanted.  Just couldn’t pull it out at the end.”

The Bears fell to 5-1 on the season, and their meeting today with the Flyers provides another opportunity for an significant win as Dayton upset No. 11 Gonzaga on Monday.

Michael Duca on the NCAA

by Michael Duca

LAHAINA, Hawaii–The Golden Bears came out a little edgey in their win over Arkansas 85-77 on Monday night at the Maui Invitational, maybe they were just nervous. The combined records of these two teams in that tournament on before Monday night 30-0. So it’s hard to decide who your favoring. They had a scuffle early on in the game in the sense the Bears were not hitting shots and not making the plays that they wanted to make and it had been rehearsed all week in practice.

It was rehearsed in practice which was a long week of practice and Cal head coach Mike Montgomery said that the team pretty much forget everything they practiced for all week in the first five minutes of the game. A couple of things happened first of all they did start playing the way they were coached to play and the other one that made a huge difference in the past forward Richard Solomon had managed to collect two fouls early in the game and then sit down here Solomon collected a third foul early in the second half.

Montgomery sat Solomon down and in came Roger Moute a Bidias at forward and said to the freshman “you know how to do this I have to trust you and get out there and play” and play he did he played with three fouls for much of the rest of the game and Moute a Bidas fouled out in the final 1:10 of the game collected 11 points and had more than a dozen and half rebounds after that point and began and basically to took over the floor.

The Bears faced Syracuse on Tuesday and their best known for their two-three zone defense and they play that two-three defense better than anyone else in the country. Cal faced them in the NCAA Tournament and did not do well at all and Monty is hoping that those players can carry over because one of the reasons they did not do well is they didn’t really attack the weaknesses of that two three zone.

There aren’t that many of them because the Orange have guys that are 6’8 and 6’9 out on the wings and they make it difficult but their are seams in a two three zone. There are places where you can take the outside it’s going to be up to Cal’s front court to really take advantage penetrating that zone and hit some higher percentage shots.

This was a closer game than the tournament was last year even though they don’t have Alan Crabbe and Crabbe was probably their best outside shooter threat they’re a more veteran club despite Crabbe’s departure and with the inside presence of both Crabbe had a tremendous game and Solomon had a terrific first half on Monday night that indicates that they could play competitive against this Syracuse team.

Michael Duca covers Cal basketball for Sportstalk each week

Step up in competition? Cal’s prepared in win over Arkansas

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By Morris Phillips

Ricky Kreklow has suited up and managed to play just 14 times since he transferred from Missouri to Berkley three seasons ago.  Forced to sit and watch in his transfer year, then frustrated by his nagging injuries and frustrating to the coaches who knew how his scoring ability could positively affect the team, the redshirt junior had been the missing  ingredient needed to transform the Cal Bears into one of the nation’s better offensive teams.

On Monday afternoon in Maui, Kreklow may have officially added his talents to the mix.

Kreklow boosted the Bears with a career-best 17 points as Cal pulled away in the second half in their 85-77 win over Arkansas in the Maui Invitational tournament opener.

The Bears shot 53 percent in the second half, enjoyed a healthy edge 48-32 on the glass, and trailed only twice all afternoon.  Arkansas’ final lead was 35-34 and the Bears responded with a 13-4 run in the ensuing three minutes.   The Razorbacks forced 18 turnovers but couldn’t shoot well enough—35 percent in the first half, and 37 percent for the game–to threaten Cal in the final 15 minutes.

The Bears will face No. 8 Syracuse on Tuesday in the Maui semifinals at 4pm.  No. 18 Baylor and Dayton will face off in the nightcap.  The Flyers rallied to upset No. 11 Gonzaga, 84-79.

Cal moved to 5-0 on the young season and passed their most significant test to date after wins in four matchups with teams in the bottom third of Division I.  The Razorbacks of the SEC fell to 3-1 after notable wins over SMU and Louisiana-Lafayette.

Five Bears scored in double figures led by David Kravish with 19.  Jabari Bird and Justin Cobbs added 15 points each.  Richard Solomon had 11 points, seven rebounds and two blocks in just 20 minutes of action due to foul trouble.

Michael Qualls led Arkansas with 21 points off the bench, and Bobby Portis scored five points to lead the Razorbacks’ starters.   Qualls and Anthlon Bell—who added 16 points—started Arkansas’ first three games, but came off the bench against California in a team-mandated disciplinary move.

Cal won’t see the same Orangemen that ended in their season in the NCAA tournament second round last spring.  Of Syracuse’s top scorers, only C.J. Fair remains.  Fair had 16 points and 10 rebounds in the Orangemen’s 85-77 win over Minnesota.

Cal tops Southern Utah, improves to 4-0

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By Morris Phillips

Soon after the opening tip on Monday at Haas Pavilion, things went south for the Southern Utah Thunderbirds.

The Cal Bears scored the first six baskets of the game and established an early 14-0 lead.  From there, the Bears cruised to a 75-47 victory to improve to 4-0 on the young season.

“It was 12-0 before we knew it, and we had a hard time coming back from that,” SUU Coach Nick Robinson said.  “We got some good shots, but they weren’t falling for us.”

Robinson was a role player on Cal coach Mike Montgomery’s best and final teams at Stanford, graduating there in 2005.  In a short time since, Robinson has elevated himself to a Division I head coach after several stints as an assistant at various programs.

While Robinson’s rapid ascent is quite impressive, his team’s performance on Monday wasn’t.  The Thunderbirds struggled with the bigger, quicker Bears from the jump.

“We substituted a lot early,” Montgomery said.  “It seemed pretty obvious that they were outmatched.”

“They were flat-out better than we were,” Robinson said.  “(Cal) was more disciplined defensively, they did a great job on the boards, and hit open shots that we weren’t capable of hitting.”

All 13 Bears that suited up got action in the first half on Monday.  And although the frequent substitutions didn’t do much for continuity, it didn’t affect progress on the scoreboard.  The Bears led 33-10 after 15 minutes with the Thunderbirds shooting 22 percent in the first half.

Richard Solomon contributed 14 points, seven rebounds and three blocks in the win.  Tyrone Wallace had 15, and the trio of Ricky Kreklow, Jordan Mathews and David Kravish had nine each.

A.J. Hess led Southern Utah with 15 points.  The Thunderbirds shot 29 percent for the game and committed 15 turnovers.

Cal sees a jump in competition on Monday when they travel to Maui and open the Invitational against Arkansas.

Bears squeeze past Oakland, 64-60 behind freshman Bird

By Morris Phillips

Friday night at Haas Pavilion, Oakland was a lot closer to Berkeley than anyone in a blue-and-gold uniform could bear.

The Grizzlies from suburban Detroit are known for their challenging non-conference schedule and armed with prolific three-point shooter Travis Bader, they gave Cal all they could handle in the Bears’ come-from-behind 64-60 victory.

“There was no question that Oakland played harder than we did,” Cal coach Mike Montgomery said.  “We were late to loose balls, we weren’t attentive to details.”

Oakland led by as many as nine points in the first half, and the game was tied with 2:10 remaining as the Grizzlies’ zone defense, hustle and the shooting of Bader, who finished with 21 points, kept Cal on its heels.

Cal managed to keep pace in the second half as freshman Jabari Bird heated up, finishing with a career-best 24 points, including six made three pointers.  Bird’s three with 1:59 remaining broke a 56-all tie and gave the Bears the lead for good.

“Basically, I caught it and was open and had been hitting three’s all night, so if we were going to lose this game, I wanted to lose the game with that… but it went in and we won,” Bird said with all the carefree wisdom of an 18-year old.

Justin Cobbs contributed 13 points and five assists, and Richard Solomon had 11 points and 17 rebounds to aid Cal’s cause.   Bader had assistance from Kahlil Felder and Tommy McCune who had 13 and 11 points respectively for Oakland.

Oakland fell to 0-3 with earlier losses to No. 12 North Carolina and No. 24 UCLA.  The Grizzlies played without second-leading scorer Duke Mondy and forward Dante Williams, who were accused of sexual assault in Southern California earlier this week.  The pair were cleared in an initial police investigation but suspended by the university pending further fact finding.

Cal improved to 3-0 on the season with a matchup with Southern Utah up next at Haas on Monday night.   The Bears improved to 36-6 in non-conference matchups during Montgomery’s five plus years as coach.

The Bears shot just 33 percent in the opening half as Oakland’s zone made Cal’s cumbersome mix of veterans and freshman a bit tentative.  At halftime and then early in the second half, an animated Montgomery did all he could to wake his guys up.

“We had five minutes alone, just sitting there silent, and then he came in and talked to us like it was a regular game,” Bird said of Montgomery’s halftime prodding.  “And then right before we walked out he said get the energy up and play like we know we can.”

Cal dusts Denver, moves to 2-0

 

By Morris Phillips

Mike Montgomery’s carefully crafted non-conference schedule led to big doings on the court as the Bears blew past Denver on Monday, 77-50.

Cal improved to 2-0 on the season and they’ve won 35 of 41 non-conference games under Montgomery in the veteran coaches’ five-plus seasons in Berkeley.

The Bears started fast against the smaller, outmanned Pioneers, establishing a 24-5 lead twelve minutes into the first half.  David Kravish ignited the offense early and finished with 15 points.  Tyrone Wallace led with 16 points and Richard Solomon grabbed a career-best 16 rebounds.

Cal’s 40-20 advantage on the glass and the Pioneers 20 percent shooting in the first half jump off the stat sheet, but both appeared to be a byproduct of the Bears’ coaches’ familiarity with Denver’s sneaky backdoor cuts after playing the Pioneers in each of the last two seasons.

“The main thing you have to do against Denver is maintain your concentration,” Montgomery warned.  “They kind of lull you to sleep.”

The Bears beat Denver by 21 at Haas in 20011.  Last year’s game was competitive for a half in Denver then the Bears pulled away in the second half behind the Crabbe-Cobbs duo.  Because of the experience in Denver, Montgomery knew his defense had to disrupt Chris Udofia and Brett Olson, the Pioneers’ leading scorers.  And his Bears adhered, holding the duo to 16 combined after they got 33 in 2012.

“We didn’t get off to a good start, our shooting, obviously was non-existent, I mean for all intents and purposes.  I mean in general obviously it was a very tough assignment right out of the gate, against a veteran older team,” Denver coach Joe Scott said, touching on the fact that Cal had a game under their belt while the Pioneers were playing their opener.

The Bears shot 59 percent in the opening half, led by 17 at the break, and were actually outshot (50 percent to 44 percent) in the second half, but still outscored Denver by 10.  But Scott’s group was more than obliging in their lack of desire to shoot inside the arc—more than half their shot attempts came from three—rebound at either end, or take care of the ball (committing 14 turnovers).

Denver’s lack of aggression or firepower kept Solomon and Kravish on the floor for ample minutes without worry of foul trouble and the pair came up big most often on put backs and feeds from Justin Cobbs who had six assists.  After just two games, it’s apparent that the two starters will be the only real size in Cal’s nine-deep rotation making it imperative that the two not only stay on the floor, but stay on the floor together.

“When we get going we can be pretty good,” Solomon said.  “We’re long athletic, we can jump, we like to rebound, and we like to get the ball too.”

The Bears opening stretch includes Oakland (of suburban Michigan) on Friday and Southern Utah on Monday.  Of the opening quartet, the SUU Jaguars currently rank as the juggernaut of the group, ranking 212 in the current 351-team labyrinth of Division I.  So the Bears won’t garner any much-needed NCAA style points early, but they do seem to be gaining an identity as a typically-unselfish offensive team with some real potential along with depth on the wings.

Accordingly, all eyes are on 6’6” Jabari Byrd, Cal’s highest-ranking recruit.  The Richmond native seems eager to please, but hasn’t really put it together in either of the first two games.

“He’s going to be really good,” Montgomery said of Bird.  “He was probably a little bit nervous.  He wants to be good.  You just have to keep working.  He’ll be fine when he gets his feet under him and more comfortable with the offense and more comfortable with where his shots are going to come from.”

EARLY OBSERVATIONS:  All of the Pac-12 teams have a game or two under their belts and clear vision doesn’t require a prescription.  Arizona is really good, maybe even a Final Four capable team with the addition of San Jose’s Aaron Gordon and others, likely well ahead of Oregon and UCLA.  Cal is either the best of the next group of four–depending on whether you trust AP, USA Today or the conference media pre-season poll—or not in that group at all.   Cal’s lack of size and overall youth suggest they’ll need the smoothest of rides.  But if that happens, it’s possible that one or more of Arizona State, Colorado, Stanford or Washington could falter pushing the Bears into NCAA consideration in what appears to be a robust three-to-five bid league.

Stanford—picked by most to finish ahead of Cal despite the differences in recent pedigree–looked to be a prime candidate to disappoint on Monday when they fell at Maples Pavilion to BYU in a wild shootout 112-103.  The West Coast conference contender shot 53 percent against the Cardinal and incredibly missed 15 free throws while scoring 112 points.  Stanford looked ragged tactically and lacking defensively allowing the starting BYU backcourt to combine for 57 points.