With baseball wrapped up, it’s now time to take a closer look at the year ahead in men’s basketball. With only two players departing (Nigel Carter and Sanders-Frison), it figures to be an incredibly exciting season. There are only so many players that can get on the court at a time, so here’s a look at who you’ll be watching on your TV next year.
If you remember last year, it was painful at times watching the lack of depth. Frequently, the bench was only able to go 6 deep, and rarely able to go deeper than 7 deep. Whenever a player went down to injury, it was almost painful watching the team trying to replace them. This year figures to be much deeper, with development and incoming talent.
The starting lineup, at least at the beginning of the year, figures to be a nearly identical look as we saw in the NIT last year. Brandon Smith, Jorge Gutierrez, Allen Crabbe, Harper Kamp, and Richard Solomon all figure to be starters, or at least receive major playing time. Smith is the only one whose spot faces jeopardy; he and Cobbs will have a big battle to take over that position a year from now.
But the starters weren’t the problem last year; it was the bench, and they lose the sixth man Richard Solomon to a starting position. But that loss figures to be replaced by the addition of Minnesota transfer, Justin Cobbs, who at the very least should provide solid energy and athleticism off the bench. He has the potential to be far more, and it’ll be intriguing to see how he turns out when he steps on the court. Other than that, there’s a lot of question marks. Is Alex Rossi fully healed? Can Bak Bak develop something resembling a post game? Will Kravish or Behrens, the freshman, make an impact on the court? Is Emerson Murray ready to play a major role at the 2? Can walk-on Jeff Powers keep bombing 3’s to make former walk-on pal Carter proud? A lot of questions, and at this point no answers. Bak Bak will get minutes as a third big, and I think Emerson Murray will find his way on the court. Alex Rossi, if healed, is going to play, simply because of his extraordinary shooting ability. The freshman bigs will be available in case of foul trouble or injuries, and if the team needs Allen Crabbe insurance at any point Powers will be the man.
My guess is that the rotation will be a little bit deeper than last year; I’m guessing Montgomery will be able to give 8 guys he trusts consistent playing time. But what’ll warm a Bears fan heart is that if he so desires, Montgomery could probably play 10 guys at varying levels of minutes. Does that mean Cal will have an incredibly deep bench? No. It does mean that the days of Jorge playing every minute of a triple overtime game are (likely) over. That’s great news.
Cal should feature a much deeper team next year. If they don’t, then something very bad has occurred. Hopefully the increased depth will lead to increased victories and a return to the NCAA Tournament. Go Bears!