California Basketball: Keys to Golden Bears' 2012 NCAA Tournament Run

Richard Langford@@noontide34Correspondent IMarch 12, 2012

California Basketball: Keys to Golden Bears' 2012 NCAA Tournament Run

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    The California Bears are ready to take their balanced attack into the NCAA tournament as a participant in the First Four. If they win, they will be a No. 12 seed, and will advance to play Temple.  

    Cal had a very solid regular season at 23-8, and capped that off with a  1-1 record in the Pac-12 Tournament. .

    The Bears come out of a Pac-12 conference that is getting very little respect heading into the Big Dance, but that doesn't mean this team can be taken lightly. 

    This team can shoot, and they can move it around to get it to open shooters. 

Superstars Who Must Shine

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    Cal has a well balanced attack. They have four players averaging double digits in points. That said, they are certainly not without their stars. 

    Allen Crabbe 

    This sophomore guard is silk-smooth and a great shooter. He was Cal's leading scorer, averaging 15.4 points per game, and he got those points by hitting 43.9 percent from the floor and 41.4 percent from three.

    If Cal wants to make some noise in this tournament, than Crabbe has to have that stroke going.

    Jorge Gutierrez 

    Senior guard Gutierrez is the kind of player that can do a little of everything. He is second on the team in scoring at 12.9 points per game, and he also pitches in four assists and 5.3 rebounds per game. 

    He is also a beast on defense. 

    Gutierrez is effective when he gets into the lane, and that is going to be key in the tournament. This not only creates chances for him, but his teammates as well. 

Role Player Who Must Emerge

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    You probably caught on that both superstars mentioned were guards. That is because Cal is a guard dominated team. 

    They are going to need someone to step up down low in this tournament. 

    David Kravish 

    When Richard Solomon was lost for the season, a much bigger burden was placed on freshman forward Kravish. 

    He responded well. He ended the regular season averaging 7.0 points and 5.7 rebounds per game, and his play picked up as the season went along. 

    He is going to have to take his game to the next level if Cal wants to make a deep run in this tournament. 

Offensive Strategy to Watch

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    Cal knows how to move the ball on offense. That is a staple of a Mike Montgomery team. They run a zone offense that usually starts with four players on the perimeter. 

    They try to pull the defense out, and then run players underneath for easy looks. They love to use the screen and seal to accomplish this. 

    What makes them especially effective is that they can shoot the rock. Defenders have to respect their man when they are on the perimeter, or else they are going to drain the three. 

Defensive Strategy to Watch

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    Cal tends to favor a zone defense. This usually places Gutierrez in position to pressure the ball. And that is something he is well equipped to do. 

    The Bears want to make it hard for teams to get the rock inside because once it is there they struggle to stop it. 

    They have quick defenders, and they know how to close out. They make it hard for teams to hit their outside shots with any regularity. 

Biggest NCAA Tournament Hurdle

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    California's tournament run is full of hurdles. That is what happens when a team is thrust into a First Four game. 

    Still, the early going is actually pretty favorable for Cal. If they are on their game they can beat South Florida, Vanderbilt and Michigan. 

    That is where their tournament will come to an end though as they'd be staring at a matchup with North Carolina, and the Bears do not have the front court to hang with the Tar Heels. 

Last-Second NCAA Tournament Prediction

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    Cal is going to make some waves in this tournament. The matchups suit them well, and their strong backcourt will lead them to a nice run. 

    They will advance to the Sweet 16, before their Cinderella dreams hit midnight against North Carolina.