How quickly an early-season outlook can swing.
In a 21-hour span, California went from a 14th-ranked, undefeated team to a 4-2 group destined to fall out of the rankings after watching its defensive principles fall through the floor.
Cal was bested by Richmond on Friday night in the loser’s bracket of the Las Vegas Invitational. If you missed it, Cal was topped late Thursday by San Diego State 72-58 after Cuonzo Martin’s team blew a double-digit lead. It got ugly in a hurry, and then SDSU put the clamps on Cal.
On Friday, the Spiders won out 94-90, taking back the lead late against the Golden Bears in a good game that exposed a lot of flaws for a young but potentially very dangerous team. Cal was undisciplined, sending Richmond to the line for 39 foul shots. The Spiders’ stellar sets and passing all night was a testament to Chris Mooney’s scheme.
And before we go any further with Cal, a big shoutout to Richmond forward Terry Allen, who played one of the best games of anyone this week. Allen went for 34 and 13 against the Bears, killing them down low and checking Cal into foul trouble often. Fellow big Marshall Wood did his part, coming off the bench for 18.
A righful criticism and reputation of Cal’s team from last season was its softness. There wasn’t enough anger in the team’s game. That was supposed to change this season, and right now, you can’t say it has. Not when the team got stuffed down by SDSU and then let Richmond counterpunch four or five times Friday.
This Golden Bears team was one of the chic picks to be a consistent Top 25 team. It boasts a top-10 recruiting class. Clearly the pieces are not in place just yet. It’s a great thing to see Jaylen Brown, a one-and-done type of stud, going for 27. But the Bears still need more of a presence in the paint and can’t have Brown be the one dictating ball movement.
I’ll also note this was a pretty fun game. Any time a college hoops tilt can combine for 184 points in regulation, that’s a good thing for fans. It’s far from panic-button time for Cal. A stumble was probably inevitable. This team can still compete for the Pac-12 title. Best to get games like this out of the way early; that’s what November is for.
Richmond will likely and quietly wind up giving itself a decent résumé heading into Atlantic 10 play in about four weeks. The Spiders are showing they can be top three in that conference if they play the way they did Friday, plus get better shot selection from ShawnDre’ Jones.