Fifty years can make a person dream. That’s how long it has been since the California Golden Bears have won the PAC 10 conference championship.
After last year’s promising 22-11 season, and a return to the NCAA tournament, the Bears have their sights on much greater things this year. Not everything has to go right for them either. The PAC 10 is noticeably “down” this year with only two teams (Washington being the other) being considered at the head of the class by many pundits. Factor in the return of top players Jerome Randle and Patrick Christopher, who are among four incumbent starters, and the return of 95% of their scoring overall and there is good reason for optimism.
California has essentially been an also-ran in this conference for a number of years as former coach Ben Braun tried desperately to put another left coast team on the map. UCLA, and more recently USC, seemed to get the recruits, get the ink, and most importantly, get the results. UCLA has a very young team this season and will play defense. Coach Ben Howland will get this at some point from this group. The scoring remains to be seen. USC - well, yikes is about all I can think of to describe that situation. Former Raptors coach Kevin O’Neill has taken over a program that is, in diplomatic terms, “in transition”.
So the door is open for Mike Montgomery’s Bears. They were given respect in most polls (anywhere from 10-13 generally), the highest ranking for this team since some guy named Kidd played here, and were picked atop the league. The games start now though. A big lead in their opener against Murray State almost disappeared as Cal held on for a 75-70 win. Not a perfect way to start, but one of those “we’ll take it” wins. The Bears will be going to the dance in March - it’s up to them now to try and figure out how long they want to stay.