California Golden Bears (Last Year: 18-15, 10-8 in Pac-10)
2011-12 Projected Depth Chart:
C: Harper Kamp (Sr)/David Kravish (Fr)
PF: Richard Solomon (So)/Bak Bak (Jr)/Christian Beherns (Fr)
G/F: Allen Crabbe (So)/Alex Rossi (Fr)/Jeff Powers (So)
SG: Jorge Gutierrez (Sr)/Emerson Murray (So)
PG: Brandon Smith (Jr)/Justin Cobbs (So)
Gone: C-Makhuri Sanders-Frison, PG-Gary Franklin (transfer-Baylor), SG-Nigel Carter
Even though last season was a year of transition, the California Golden Bears still finished with the fourth best record in the Pac-10. With almost everybody back from a year ago, California should make some noise out west.
The most encouraging piece to carry over from last season was the play of Pac-10 Freshman of the Year, Allen Crabbe. The 6-4 shooting guard broke the program's single-season record for three-pointers but is also dangerous when attacking the basket.
Crabbe will be part of a three-guard backcourt that will feature Jorge Gutierrez and Brandon Smith. Last year, Gutierrez made the step from a role player to leading scorer. He is capable of handling the basketball and is also a terrific defender. Smith stepped into the starting lineup after Gary Franklin's decision to transfer and gives the Golden Bears a pair of guards capable of running the show or playing off the ball.
Minnesota transfer Justin Cobbs becomes eligible after sitting out last season and figures to be the first guard off the bench. Emerson Murray and Jeff Powers played sparingly a year ago and will compete for minutes on the wing with redshirt freshman Alex Rossi. Missouri transfer Ricky Kreklow must sit out a year, but will be a valuable contributor beginning in 2012-13 due to his ability to shoot the rock.
After missing the entire 2009-2010 season due to injury, Harper Kamp became a major contributor for the Golden Bears last season. He is a fundamental big man who is also capable of hitting mid-range jump shots. Richard Solomon will likely step into the other starting frontcourt spot, replacing the physical Makhuri Sanders-Frison. Solomon is a long, athletic power forward who will be a different complement to Kamp.
Bak Bak is the only post reserve with college experience, and he really wasn't much of a factor last season. Freshmen David Kravish and Christian Beherns will try to work themselves into the rotation.
Califronia's starting five is solid and experienced, especially compared to many of their Pac-12 counterparts that boast a lot of youth. With some uncertainty on the bench, the starters will have to carry the load for Mike Montgomery's team. They seem to be a sexy pick to possible finish in the top three of the conference, but I am not sure they are there quite yet.
Player to Watch: Allen Crabbe, SG
Crabbe probably didn't receive his due on a national level last season but with the Golden Bears' expected success in 2011-2012, he won't fly under the radar this season. Crabbe should become the team's leading scorer but won't have to do it all by himself with proven commodities Gutierrez and Kamp sharing the load.