Cal looked like a “bomb squad” at times last season en route to 23 victories and possessed the type of talent that rivaled nearly any roster in college basketball.
But don’t be surprised if Cuonzo Martin’s squad has better cohesion and overall team chemistry next season.
Cal loses a lottery pick in Jaylen Brown as well as a do-everything player in veteran guard Tyrone Wallace, but the departures of those two guys could allow the Bears to move the ball significantly better on the offensive side of the floor.
Ivan Rabb’s (12.5 points, 8.6 rebounds) decision to return to school for his sophomore season ensures that he’ll be the focal point of this team and unlike last season he’ll be the featured with regularity instead of merely just picking up leftovers around the rim.
Cal also returns a pair of double-figure scorers on the wings in Jordan Mathews and Jabari Bird who each shot better than 40.0 percent from 3-point range last season as well as crafty floor general Sam Singer, who was pressed into extended duty when Wallace missed time due to a hand injury.
The addition of Columbia grad transfer Grant Mullins (13.3 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists) gives the Bears another starting quality guard with experience who can play either backcourt spot and Martin also has three guys returning in the front court -- Stephen Domingo, Kinsley Okoroh, and Kameron Rooks -- who all logged minutes as key reserves last season.
There won’t be the same sizzle that we saw surrounding Cal last season following the departures of both Brown and Wallace, but those players both needed significant space to operate and often took too much time off the shot clock to initiate offense with the ball in their hands.
Next year’s team will have a guy who could have been a lottery pick in Rabb as well as several other key contributors who have been through the gamut and know their place in line.
With the addition of Mullins, the Bears should be in position to earn an NCAA bid for the second consecutive year in 2017.
Jarrett Allen’s recruitment has turned into a bit of a saga
And that saga could make or break some of the programs that are recruiting him in regards to their prospects for next season.
Then Shaka Smart made a move on the chess board that would have made Bobby Fischer envious.
The 39-year old coach decided to promote Jai Lucas -- the son of John Lucas -- who personally works out Allen, to assistant coach on Friday just one day after it was rumored that Jai Lucas was going to join Jamie Dixon’s staff at TCU as an assistant.
This staff move doesn’t assure Texas of landing Allen, but it definitely puts the Longhorns in a better position than they were prior.
Smart knows that his team doesn’t have an impact big man on its roster for next season and needs Allen to have a chance at the NCAA Tournament in 2017.
But the same can be said of Houston.
Kelvin Sampson also has assembled a quality first five for next season and returns three perimeter starters -- Galen Robinson Jr., Rob Gray, and Damyean Dotson -- while JUCO big man Devin Davis is set to anchor the power forward spot.
Much like Texas, the Cougars can offer Allen the opportunity to come in and play major minutes from day one.
A major thing to remember about Houston in this situation: Allen and Robinson played together for two years in AAU basketball.
Kansas isn’t receiving as much as attention as the other two schools in this process because of the surplus of big men that already exists on the Jayhawks’ roster, but Bill Self’s program is notorious for doing its best work late during the spring recruiting period.
Allen is expected to make a decision within the next two weeks, multiple sources told CBS Sports.
The transfer epidemic is directly related to the rise of social media
One of the biggest issues in college basketball right now is the amount of kids who are leaving schools on an annual basis and that’s directly related to the rise of Twitter over the last 5-7 years.
Like everyone in this world, college athletes have an ego and part of the reason why they’re so prone to make a change in where they’re playing college basketball is due to the enjoyment they receive when their name is constantly posted across a social media platform.
Fighting through adversity and building calluses through life experience is something that’s a thing of the past and that’s reiterated by the way players change programs at the grassroots level prior to ever stepping foot on a college campus.
But there’s also no doubt that the attention that comes with being a transfer at the Division I level augments the desire of a kid to make a change -- especially if he’s going to be immediately eligible for next season.
The rules don’t make much sense, but they are what they are.
And the fact that programs can add players without them having to sit out because they’re a college graduate makes the players who fit that criteria part of a special fraternity that is starting to feel like a watered down version of NBA free agency.
Assistant coaches from all over the country put lists together all season of guys who can potentially be eligible for the next year without sitting out and those players -- who normally boast marginal statistics -- become a viral name on social media for a month to six weeks before they make a decision.
Part of it is because they can help a team.
Part of it is because they’re part of a select circle who can actually play immediately without sitting out.
But most of it is due to the fact that they enjoy the attention that comes with being re-recruited after spending the last few seasons as an ancillary piece to the puzzle at a program that might have been off-the-radar in terms of the national landscape.
This and That
- Duke will play four games in the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut next season: Champions Classic at MSG (Kansas), Jimmy V Classic at MSG (Florida), and two more at the Hall-of-Fame Classic at Mohegan Sun. The Blue Devils will open that event against Penn State while Cincinnati faces Rhode Island in the other first-round matchup with the winners and losers playing the very next day.
- Colorado State transfer John Gillon committed to Syracuse this past weekend during an official visit. The 6-foot guard is immediately eligible for next season and averaged 13.2 points this past year for the Rams. Gillon gives the Orange another veteran perimeter and could be an important insurance policy if Malachi Richardson stays in the NBA Draft.
- Duke transfer Derryck Thornton visited USC this past weekend and will visit both Kansas and Washington this week, sources told CBS Sports. Thornton will also visit Miami on May 15. The 6-2 point guard averaged 7.1 points and 2.6 assists this past season.
- Georgetown will play La Salle on Dec. 10 at American Airlines Arena in Miami as part of a doubleheader, sources told CBS Sports. The other game of the doubleheader is TBD.
- Cal and Gonzaga will begin a home-and-home series next season in Spokane, Wash. sources told CBS Sports. There will be a return game in Berkeley in 2017-18.