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February 13, 2012
ANALYSIS: Bears are ahead of the class
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David Bagga played basketball at Arizona from 2005-09, and was a regular contributing analyst for sister Rivals site GOAZCats.com for a year.
David graduated with a Bachelors degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with an emphasis on Communication, Business and Regional Development, and was also invitations to try out for the NBA Development league as well as various teams overseas.
Bagga collected his journal writings from his four years as a walk-on for the Wildcats, and in the fall of 2009, became a published author with his book, The Walk On. David is currently the play-by-play announcer for Long Beach State's women's basketball team.
For the rest of the season, David will be putting his experience to use analyzing the Cal basketball team and the rest of the Pac-12 as we head into March Madness. Follow David on twitter HERE.
Team(s) of the week: California / Oregon
Analysis: The Ducks came out of the gates hot Thursday night and blitzed Washington from opening tip to the final buzzer and carried their momentum over to Saturday against Washington State. Both Oregon and the Bears swept their opponents in impressive fashion and Cal is looking like it's starting to separate itself from the rest of the league.
I don't think anyone throughout the country has realized it up to this point, but the Bears are a very underrated team. Despite losing several games they probably shouldn't have lost, Cal has a very impressive nucleus in place on their team. They have a dynamic scorer in sophomore forward Allen Crabbe, a steady big man in senior Harper Kamp, some key role players with David Kravish and Robert Thurman and a dynamic duo in the backcourt of Jorge Gutierrez and Justin Cobbs.
If the Bears win the conference title, it's no secret that Gutierrez should be the Pac-12 Player of the Year, and it's rightly deserved. Gutierrez ranks in the top five in the league all the major statistical categories and has displayed the type of leadership that is necessary for the award. But make no mistake, there's still work to be done.
Cal is the clear cut favorite to win the league championship because the Bears have the most favorable schedule for their remaining five games. Cal has the most balance out of any team in the conference and head coach Mike Montgomery is the leading candidate for Coach of the Year.
The Huskies are tied with the Bears at the standings, but they host the Arizona schools next weekend, and with the sudden emergence of Wildcats freshman power forward Angelo Chol, that game could go either way on Saturday.
The two toughest opponents for Cal left on the schedule are Colorado and Oregon. Buffaloes head coach Tad Boyle has his team playing at a high level defensively and up to this point, Colorado is undefeated at home and its crowd is as rowdy as any crowd in the country.
Oregon has been a pleasant surprise this season. What looked like a rebuilding year for the Ducks has turned out to be a job well done by head coach Dana Altman. He won at Creighton and it's starting to carry over to Eugene.
Altman's team plays with passion, and they seem to be rising to the occasion during big games, having beaten the likes of Arizona and Washington. They are third in the current conference standings, I'm sure Montgomery has February 26th circled on his calendar.
If the Bears stay around a projected 11-seed throughout the last part of the regular season and into conference tournament play, they'll be an extremely dangerous 11 seed that nobody will want to play.
The Best ...
It's evident that Arizona is starting to gel at the right time. The Wildcats have won the last four, and are a game out of first place with a sweep of the mountain schools this past weekend.
With guard Kevin Parrom out for the season and sophomore point guard Jordin Mayes re-injuring his surgically repaired foot, the Arizona is vulnerable, but not out of the conference race. The Wildcats could challenge the Bears in the next few weeks but the still have to go up to Eugene and Seattle -- two of the tougher places to play at this season.
If Arizona keeps winning and sneaks into the NCAA Tournament as a double-digit seed, the Wildcats could potentially do some damage, but as of right now, my feeling tells me that the Pac-12 will get two teams in and those two teams will most likely be Cal and Washington.
The Huskies could potentially challenge Cal for the regular season conference title if they don't slip up against any of the teams on their remaining schedule. Washington has by far been the conference's biggest disappointment with all the talent that head coach Lorenzo Romar boasts on his roster.
There's still time left for Washington to make a run and due to the expansion of the conference this season, but they only play the Bears once and won't play them again until the Pac-12 Tournament, if the two teams do meet again.
And the Rest ...
Stanford is an interesting team. The Cardinal were looking like they were primed to make an appearance in the NCAA Tournament at the beginning of league play, but as of late, they have started to teeter through the meat of the conference schedule. Head coach Johnny Dawkins is an exceptional coach and has solid defensive principles, but Stanford has failed to score 70 points in the last six games, going 2-4. The Cardinal should qualify for the National Invitation Tournament, at best, but are still another year away from competing for a conference title.
UCLA, USC, Utah, Arizona State and Oregon State have been disappointments as well. Each school has dealt with a suspension and transfers, and none have lived up to any expectations that were in place for them to start off the season. Out of this list, the biggest disappointment has to be the Bruins. They were picked to win the league back in October and have had no guard play, on top of the suspension of Reeves Nelson, who was also kicked off the professional team he signed with in Lithuania.
It should be another great week in the Pac-12 and around college basketball and it will be exciting to see what happens as we get closer to post-season play.