Cuonzo Martin

Guard Harris-Dyson becomes Cal’s third 2017 commit

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On the heels of the first open evaluation period of the month of July, California received some good news regarding its 2017 recruiting class. Monday it was reported by that 6-foot-4 guard Juhwan Harris-Dyson verbally committed to Cal, becoming the third member of the the Golden Bears’ 2017 recruiting class.

Harris-Dyson, who attends Heritage Christian School in Northridge, California and plays his grassroots basketball for the Earl Watson Elite program, joins grassroots teammate Jemarl Baker and Alec Hickman in the 2017 recruiting class for Cal. Also playing with Harris-Dyson and Baker on that Earl Watson Elite team is highly regarded power forward Ira Lee, who is another of Cal’s recruiting targets in the 2017 class.

With Cal due to lose multiple key contributors on the perimeter at the end of the 2016-17 campaign, including Jabari Bird and Sam Singer, adding options was a point of emphasis for Cuonzo Martin and his staff when it came to the 2017 recruiting class.

Harris-Dyson, who has the ability to play either wing position, will help in that regard. This past weekend Harris-Dyson received high praise for his play at the Elite 100 Camp in Claremont, California, with Martin and associate head coach Tracy Webster both in attendance for his games. California still has room for more additions, especially in the front court with their pursuit of Ira Lee, and they’ll also have Kentucky transfer Marcus Lee available for the 2017-18 campaign.

California, Martin finally sign official contract

Cuonzo Martin and Tyrone Wallace at media day, AP Photo
AP Photo/Jeff Chiu
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Back in April 2014 California hired Cuonzo Martin to be lead its men’s basketball program following the retirement of Mike Montgomery. While the two sides clearly had an agreement, Martin never signed an official contract and they simply worked off of the terms of the offer sheet. That “technicality” gained more attention this spring with the investigation into former assistant Yann Hufnagel (who’s now at Nevada) due to allegations of sexual harassment made by a female reporter.

As part of the investigation the school looked into Martin’s actions to ensure that he acted properly once made aware of the allegations. And with a contract having yet to be signed, there were questions as to whether or not the investigation could lead to Martin losing his job.

In the end Martin was found to have acted properly, and shortly after releasing its findings on the investigation the school announced that its head coach has finally signed an official contract.

While it’s understandable why there would be a delay in Martin’s signing a contract this spring given the ongoing investigation, what’s the reason for it taking more than two years?

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the reason given by current athletic director Mike Williams was the lack of a full-time athletic director. Sandy Barbour, who’s now at Penn State, hired Martin before being relieved of her duties two months later. Williams would serve as interim AD for ten months before having the tag removed.

With this all cleared up, it should help Martin and his staff on the recruiting front as they look to not only build on last season’s NCAA tournament appearance but stick around a bit longer than they did (first round loss to Hawai’i).

California forward Brown enters NBA Draft

California's Jaylen Brown lays up a shot against Oregon State in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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With two highly regarded freshmen on the roster, California head coach Cuonzo Martin had to prepare for the possibility that at least one of them would be leaving Berkeley after one season. That came to fruition Thursday afternoon, as Jaylen Brown announced at a press conference on campus that he will forego his final three seasons of eligibility and enter the 2016 NBA Draft.

Projected to be a lottery pick in this summer’s Draft by, it comes as no surprise that the Georgia native would decide to move on.

Brown averaged 14.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game this season, shooting 43.1 percent from the field and 29.4 percent from beyond the arc. The perimeter shot is the area where Brown will need to show improvement during pre-Draft workouts, as he’s a physically gifted talent who managed to hurt opponents via dribble penetration on many occasions playing either the three or as an undersized four.

With Brown moving on Cal is still awaiting a decision from power forward Ivan Rabb, who some believe may be more likely to remain on campus for another season. But with just one player in their 2016 recruiting class (junior college transfer Don Coleman; UNLV transfer Jordan Cornish will have to sit out next season), Martin and his staff have some work to do even if Rabb were to return.

Jordan Mathews and Jabari Bird are both expected to return for their senior seasons, as is reserve Roger Moute a Bidias.

Utah beats California in OT, advances to first-ever Pac-12 title game

Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak motions to his players during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against California in the semifinals of the Pac-12 men's tournament Friday, March 11, 2016, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
AP Photo/John Locher
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When hired as Utah head coach in 2011, Larry Krystkowiak took on what at the time was a monumental task. The program, which finished below .500 in each of the two seasons prior to Krystkowiak’s arrival, was making the move from the Mountain West to the Pac-12 and a lot of work needed to be done to ensure that the program would not only be competitive in its new home but successful as well.

That first team won just six games, but Krystkowiak and his staff steadily rebuilt the Utah program, and last season the Runnin’ Utes made their first Sweet 16 appearance since 2005. Late Friday night Utah took another step forward, as they advanced to the Pac-12 tournament title game for the first time in program’s brief history in the conference with an 82-78 overtime win over No. 3 seed California.

Lorenzo Bonam’s coast to coast drive for a layup that left his hand just before time expired pushed the game into overtime, and in the extra session the Runnin’ Utes were able to grab control of the game and hold off the Golden Bears in the end.

Last year’s team had a first round draft pick in Delon Wright, and this year’s group is anchored by a projected lottery pick in sophomore center Jakob Poeltl. Poeltl’s ability to not only score from 15 feet and in but also find open teammates makes him a tough matchup. And with this being the case, Cal made the decision to defend him straight up as opposed to sending double teams on the catch or first dribble.

As a result Poeltl finished the game with 29 points and 11 rebounds, outplaying the Golden Bear front line. What helped Cal was the fact that Utah shot just 7-for-21 from three, and fellow forward Kyle Kuzma had a quiet night with just five points. But Bonam added 18 points, and senior Brandon Taylor adding 12 points on 4-for-8 shooting from the field.

Both teams found the going tough at times offensively, with Cal’s Jaylen Brown shooting 3-for-17 from the field and fellow freshman Ivan Rabb being held in check until he made a couple key shots late in regulation. But in the extra session it was Utah that executed well enough to get the shots they needed to pick up the win. That goes hand in hand with the questions some have asked regarding the Golden Bears’ ability to finish close games against quality competition.

Cal’s done a very good job of this at home, where they finished the season undefeated, but that hasn’t carried over into games away from home. There was the loss at Virginia in December, and the collapse at Arizona just last week. Of course there’s no shame in losing to a Virginia, Arizona or Utah, but given the talent and the teams they’ll need to beat in order to make a run deep into the NCAA tournament Cal needs to get better in tight situations.

While Cal will return home to get ready for the NCAA tournament, Utah will look to come up with a strategy that can be successful against an Oregon team that swept the season series. And in Utah’s fifth season as a member of the Pac-12, a win over the Ducks would be a watershed moment for a program that has steadily developed into one capable of sustaining (and building upon) this success for years to come.


No. 18 Arizona uses late rally to beat No. 25 California

Arizona guard Gabe York (1) reacts after Arizona defeated UCLA 81-75 during an NCAA college basketball game, Friday, Feb 12, 2016, in Tucson, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
AP Photo/Rick Scuteri
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While ranked within the top 20 of the national polls, No. 18 Arizona has a résumé that could use another quality victory when it comes to their NCAA tournament seeding. Add in the fact that they were swept on the road last week, and Thursday’s home game against No. 25 California was a critical contest for a team in need of some positive momentum.

It was a struggle for the Wildcats, but thanks to a game-ending 11-0 run sparked by senior guard Gabe York Arizona managed to pull out the 64-61 victory.

York, who didn’t score in the first half, racked up 19 points in the second half and hit three three-pointers during the decisive run. As a team Arizona shot 50 percent from the field in the second half, with York’s improved scoring serving as the spark the team needed offensively. And against a team that even with its recent hot streak remains a bit of a question mark away from Berkeley, that proved to be enough in the end.

However, the rebounding effort (or lack thereof) put forth by Arizona nearly cost them the game.

Arizona’s first-shot defense was very good, as Cal shot just 36.5 percent from the field on the night. But where the Golden Bears, most notably freshman Ivan Rabb, were able to get their points was on the offensive glass. Cal rebounded 47.4 percent of its available missed shots, converting 18 offensive rebounds into 28 second-chance points.

Arizona’s been one of the nation’s best on the defensive glass this season, but that wasn’t the case against a team that entered the game ranked eighth in the Pac-12 in offensive rebounding percentage. Add in stretches in both halves in which the ball seemed to stick and the player movement stalled offensively, and Arizona wasn’t at their best on this night.

Some nights it’s about finding a way to win even when things aren’t working as planned, and Arizona managed to do that Thursday night. But if Arizona is to have a shot at playing deep into the NCAA tournament, they’ll need to be more consistent than they’ve been in recent games.

California tightens Pac-12 race with blowout of No. 11 Oregon

California's Jabari Bird celebrates a score against Oregon in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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With No. 11 Oregon sitting atop the Pac-12 standings, Thursday night represented a great opportunity for California to add a quality win to its NCAA tournament résumé. Sure enough, Cuonzo Martin’s team took full advantage, getting off to a hot start and not looking back in an 83-63 victory.

The beating was a complete one, as the Golden Bears shot 55.7 percent from the field and 9-for-16 from three, playing aggressively on that end of the floor. Cal playing well at home isn’t a shock, as they’re now 15-0 at Haas Pavilion this season. What was shocking was the fact that they made Oregon look powerless to do anything about it. Jabari Bird produced his best game of the season, scoring 24 points, and three other Golden Bears managed to score in double figures as well.

Tyrone Wallace made his return to the lineup after missing nearly four weeks with a hand injury and that helped, but the bigger star at the point was junior Sam Singer. Singer dished out ten of Cal’s 19 assists on the night, at times passing up a quality shot opportunity to get a teammate an even better look. That’s what this team needs from him, especially with Wallace back in the rotation, and he’s more than capable of filling that role.

Cal executed better than Oregon and they also outworked the Ducks, rebounding 40 percent of their missed shots and scoring 27 second-chance points. In many of Oregon’s games in conference play their versatility has won out, as Dana Altman’s team can attack the opposition in a variety of ways from multiple areas. The tables turned Thursday night, giving Oregon a bit of a wake-up call heading into the stretch run.

Cal provided a reminder of what they’re capable of doing when clicking on all cylinders, and they’ve also managed to tighten up a race that appeared to have a clear favorite. As a result of Cal’s win Oregon is now tied with USC in the loss column, and the top seven teams are separated by a total of two games. The Golden Bears are part of that group due to their unblemished home record, and their ability to put it all together at Haas was never in question.

But if the Golden Bears are to play their way into a comfortable position in regards to the NCAA tournament and experience success once there, they have to figure out a way to take this level of play on the road (1-8 away from Berkeley). With four of their final seven games away from Berkeley, whether or not Cal can do so will determine their fate come Selection Sunday.