Things are looking up for the Golden Bears who are poised to break their three-year NCAA drought thanks to Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb. The star freshmen are touted as potential lottery picks in the 2016 NBA draft.
Scouting report: California.
Game info: 8 p.m. (PT) Thursday at Alaska Airlines Arena (10,000).
TV: Fox Sports 1 (Aaron Goldsmith and Casey Jacobsen).
Radio: KOMO 1000 AM and FM 97.7 (Bob Rondeau and Jason Hamilton).
Coach: Cuonzo Martin is 35-23 (.603) in his second season with the Golden Bears. He has a 159-105 (.602) overall record during an eight-year career. He spent three years (2008-11) at Missouri State where he compiled a 61-41 (.598) record that included two postseason appearances. He spent three years (2011-14) at Tennessee where he compiled a 63-41 (.606) record that included two NIT appearances and a NCAA tournament appearance. In 2013-14 Martin led the Volunteers to a 24-13 finish and the NCAA tourney Sweet Sixteen before leaving and taking the Cal job.
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Prediction: Picked to finish second in the Pac-12 preseason media poll.
Series: California leads 82-78 in a series that began Jan. 14 1916. The Golden Bears have a four-game winning streak and they’ve won five of the past six games. The Huskies have lost the past three home games against Cal. UW coach Lorenzo Romar is 12-16 against the Bears. Martin is 2-0 verus UW.
Last meeting: It was a heartbreaking loss for Washington as Sam Singer buried a three-pointer with four seconds left that gave California a 90-88 victory at Alaska Airlines Arena on Feb. 1, 2015. Nigel Williams-Goss had a remarkable game for UW tallying 31 points, six rebounds and five assists in 40 minutes. He drained a running floater with 22 seconds remaining that put UW ahead 88-87 lead before Singer’s game-winning shot. Four UW players scored in double figures including: Andrew Andrews (17) points, Mike Anderson (12) and Shawn Kemp Jr. (11). The Huskies had eight threes and forced 14 turnovers, but they were outrebounded 38-22 and Cal shot 60 percent from the field.
Previous game: Four Cal players scored in figures and the Bears remained undefeated at Haas Pavilion this season with an 83-71 win over Oregon State last Saturday.
Point spread: No line yet.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
— Jaylen Brown, a 6-7 freshman, is projected to be the first Pac-12 player taken in the 2016 NBA draft. Some mock drafts have him as high as sixth in the first round. Brown leads Cal with a 15.8 scoring average and he ranks sixth on the school’s all-time freshman scoring list with 394 points.
— Ivan Rabb, a 6-11 freshman, is projected to be the third Pac-12 player taken in the NBA draft. Most draft analysts believe he’s a lottery pick. Rabb, a former five-star recruit from Oakland, is averaging 12.1 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. He is shooting 62.2 percent from the floor, which ranks second in the Pac-12. He also leads the Bears with 32 blocks and seven double-doubles.
— Tyrone Wallace, a 6-5 senior guard, was touted as a Pac-12 player of the year candidate before the season. Now he’s the sixth man for the Golden Bears, which is an indication of how much talent is on the team. Wallace, who was voted first team all-Pac-12 last season, started 18 games this season. However, he broke his right wrist during a Jan. 16 practice and missed five games. Cal was 3-2 without their star. He returned last week and tallied 10 points in 28 minutes off the bench at Oregon. During the Bears’ win at Oregon State, Wallace logged 29 minutes off the bench and finished with 17 points. Since his injury, Cal is 5-2 and it doesn’t look as if Wallace will return to the starting lineup any time soon. Most projections forecast Wallace will be taken in the second round of the NBA draft, but a few believe he could land late in the first round. He averages 15.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.1 steals.
— Jabari Bird, a 6-6 junior guard, is added proof that Cal may have the most talent in the Pac-12. He’s the team’s fifth-leading scorer who averages 9.9 points. However, he’s also the reigning Pac-12 player of the week after averaging 23.5 points 6.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists in wins over then-No. 11 Oregon and Oregon State. Streaky doesn’t begin to describe Bird, who has a six-game stretch this season when he scored fewer than 10 points. He was the No. 23 recruit nationally in 2013 according to ESPN and considered UW before choosing Cal.
— The Golden Bears are 16-0 at Haas Pavilion and tied for the most home wins in the country. However, they’re 1-8 away from Berkeley, Calif., which is the sign of a young team with four first-year starters. In their five Pac-12 road losses, the Bears are averaging 66.6 points and they haven’t scored more than 71. All Pac-12 road losses have been by fewer than 10 points.
— The only major conference teams with fewer wins away from home are Missouri and Rutgers with none.
— Four of the Bears’ final six games are on the road where they average more than 3.5 more turnovers per game in conference road games compared to home. They’re 47.0 shooting percentage also falls by more than seven points on the road.
— Martin on the road woes: “The thing for our team is taking care of the basketball, turnovers in critical situations. It’s one thing to have turnovers, but you can’t have those live-ball turnovers and suddenly the game changes and takes the morale out of your team, the energy out of your team.”
— California is riding a three-game winning streak and it has won five of the past seven games.
— This season has been a bit of a disappointment so far for a Cal team saddled with weighty preseason expectations. The Bears hadn’t made the NCAA tournament since 2013, but they were No. 14 in preseason polls due to its phenomenal recruiting class that was ranked No. 2 in the country by Scout.com. There hasn’t been this much excitement about the program since former Cal star Jason Kidd led Cal to the Sweet 16 in 1993.
— Martin is a defensive-minded coach so it makes sense that Cal leads the Pac-12 in both field goal percentage defense (39.2 percent) and scoring defense (66.7 ppg). Nationally, Cal ranks 17th in field goal percentage defense.
— Jordan Matthews, a 6-3 junior guard, often gets overlooked because he comes off the bench. However, he’s one of Cal’s all-time top shooters who ranks third on the team with a 13.2 scoring average. Jordan is third in the Pac-12 with a 45.2 three-point shooting percentage and he finishes many games because he shoots 80.2 percent on free throws. Matthews’ career scoring high is 32 points.
— Sam Singer, a 6-4 junior guard, moved into the starting lineup when Wallace got injured and he’s flourished as a playmaker. With so much talent on the floor, Singer’s responsibility is creating shots for others and he has 38 assists (5.4) in the past seven games and 15 turnovers as a starter.