The 15-2 start is the California Golden Bears' best start since the 1959-60 season, when Cal went all the way to the National Championship game.
Playing deep into March might be getting slightly ahead of ourselves, but an eighth place Pac-10 finish (which most pre-season polls predicted) looks to have been a mistaken assessment.
Coach Mike Montgomery in his return to the college sidelines has the Bears in the midst of a nine-game win streak and undefeated thus far at the cozy confines of Haas Pavilion. The last four of those nine have come at the start of conference play, including a dramatic triple overtime win against the Washington Huskies that completed a back-to-back sweep of the Arizona and Washington schools.
Carrying the Bears to this surprising start has been the play of their all junior back court of Jerome Randle and Patrick Christopher. Both have won Pac-10 Player of the Week honors with Christopher receiving the award the past two weeks in a row. Randle leads the Bears in scoring averaging 19.1 points, and a hair under five assists per game.
While these two star players have been the main contributors, they definitely have not done it alone.
The 3-point shooting of Theo Robertson has Cal atop of the NCAA in that category with a 48.3% clip. The defensive intensity and overall hustle of "diaper dandy" freshman Jorge Gutierrez has sparked the rest of the squad into playing the kind of defense it will take to compete in this league.
What was thought to be a weakness going into this season, the rebounding ability and overall talent on the frontline, has shown not to be as of yet. Players like Harper Kamp, Jamal Boykin, and Jordan Wilkes have held their own quite nicely. Their best efforts came holding more highly touted front line players like Chase Budinger from Arizona and Jeff Pendergraph of Arizona State in check.
Even with this amazing start, there are a few things to be concerned about. Injuries have not been a problem so far this season, but if either Randle or Christopher were to go down for any length of time, we would be looking at a very different team. There also have been a few scoring lapses, especially when Jerome Randle is on the bench.
Nevertheless, if the Bears can keep up high percentages from the outside, avoid key injuries and keep up the same intensity on defense they have shown thus far, a trip to the Big Dance in March is a very real possibility.
Next up for Cal is a 5 p.m. battle this Saturday with Stanford down on the Farm.
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