Welcome to Playboy.com’s 2014 Bracket Challenge

The California Golden Bears are keeping pace in the PAC-12 and could be a bracket buster come the 2014 March Madness Tournament
01/31/2014
 

Team Preview: 2014 California Golden Bears

By: Brian MacIver

2012-2013 Finish: 21-12 (12-6 in PAC-12

Coach: Mike Montgomery, 123-63 at California (667-321 overall)

Strongside: If Cal is going to do any damage in the bracket, it is going to be on the backs of their seniors. Case in point: Richard Solomon, the six-foot-10, 235-pound senior forward. He has been a workhorse for the Golden Bears this season, averaging a double-double per game, and he is currently tied for 10th in the NCAA in rebounds per game with 10.4. Although his size seems to put him at a disadvantage in being boxed out, he has shown a knack for tracking the path of the ball and getting rebounds.

The Golden Bears also have a strong point guard in senior Justin Cobbs. The Los Angeles native is one of the better shooters in the country, sitting pretty with a 46 percent field goal rating. He is also the team leader in points per game with 15.3. But what is most impressive is Cobbs’ vision and how well he moves the ball. He is ranked 12th in the NCAA in assists per game with 6.4, but he can pull up off the crossover just as well as dish it out, making him the most dangerous player on this team and a difficult player to match up against one-on-one.

Apart from the individual talent on this team, Cal has also shown some upset potential. They upended number 17 Oregon a few weeks ago, putting up a season-high 96 points against the conference rival Ducks. Freshman guard Jordan Mathews showed that he could be a force for this team, scoring 32 points in that game. So, in theory, they could bust up a few brackets.

Weakside: As good as this team is as a whole, they have shown a little inconsistency in starting games. All but one of the team’s losses came after poor first half performances, the exception being their last game against USC. They just shat the bed on that one.

Against UCLA, Cal only managed to score 29 points in the first half. Dayton? 27 points. Against Creighton? A season-low 19. This scares us off from picking them to make it any considerable distance in the bracket. One bad start is all it will take for this team to bow out early.

All Told: As a whole, Cal matches up fairly well against most teams, but there is something that is preventing them from making the next step. Their bad loss against bottom-of-the-Pac 12 USC, added to their 29 first half points against UCLA, has left doubts about their ability not to finish, but to start games. However, if they can find what causes their poor starts and fix it, this could be an interesting team come March.

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After a short, lackluster career in sports, Brian MacIver turned to what all bitter, below average high school athletes turn to: sports writing. He’s been at it for the past seven years, met some great people, written some really bad articles, but has been having a blast since day one. You can follow me on Twitter @TheBrianMacIver for some sporadic moments of wittiness or to share vital information to find buried treasure (please, serious leads only…).

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