The California Golden Bears looked so good a month ago and seemed to have an NCAA tournament bid locked up. But then they faded to the finish and bowed out in painful fashion on Wednesday night by getting blown out by South Florida in the First Four. What happened?
Cal had one of the best starting fives in the Pac-12, but their bench was among the worst. With the starters needing to do more than they were used to doing, they had to deal with a lot of added pressure to try and win basketball games. Jorge Gutierrez had to make more plays, Allen Crabbe had to take shots from all over the court (regardless of whether they were the sweet spots or not), and Harper Kamp had to carry a greater load. Justin Cobbs struggled to run the offense in his first year on the job, and David Kravish hit the freshman wall.
All of those came to a head against South Florida, when Cal simply struggled to create while also being overwhelmed on the defensive end. The Bulls knew most of what to do against the Bears, enjoying a much easier time handling and shutting down the offense. Cal is going to have to get deeper and stronger if they plan on enjoying greater success in tournament basketball.