Denver (0-0) at California (1-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Tuesday, November 12, 11 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Haas Pavilion (11,877) -- Berkeley, California. Television: Pac-12 Network. Home Record: Denver 0-0, California 1-0. Away Record: Denver 0-0, California 0-0. Neutral Record: Denver 0-0, California 0-0. Conference Record: Denver 0-0, California 0-0. Series Record: California leads, 3-0.
GAMES NOTES: California will continue a four-game homestand on Tuesday night when the Golden Bears battle the Denver Pioneers in a non-conference affair at Haas Pavilion.
The last few years have been quite tumultuous for Denver, which is playing in its season opener on Tuesday. The Pioneers are joining their third conference in as many years as they fit into the Summit League. Their lone year in the Western Athletic Conference certainly had a happy ending as the Pioneers grabbed the league's regular-season crown and wound up playing in the NIT. Now that they are in the Summit League the Pioneers are looking to build on the momentum of two-straight 22-win seasons. Helping them do so will be the return of important scorers Chris Udofia and Brett Olson.
California got a head start on Denver. The Golden Bears hosted Coppin State to begin the season on Friday and easily took in an 83-64 victory. The backcourt duo of Justin Cobbs (16 points, six assists) and Tyrone Wallace (20 points, seven assists) powered the Golden Bears, who are moving on after Pac-12 Player of the Year Allen Crabbe was taken in the NBA Draft following last season. California is also in the midst of a strong few seasons as they have been in the NCAA Tournament in each of the last two seasons and four of the last five. The Golden Bears, who went 11-5 at Haas Pavilion last year, will be at home again on Friday against Oakland.
Cobbs scored a game-high 22 points and Crabbe recorded a double-double to lead the Golden Bears to an 80-59 victory over Denver the last time these teams met during the 2011-12 season. The win was the third in as many tries for California against Denver.
Though they were not a prolific scoring team, the Pioneers excelled last year as a unit when it came to offensive efficiency. The Pioneers led the WAC and were among the top 10 teams in the country in both assists (16.1 pg) and field goal percentage (.480). Denver also played stingy defense, ranking among the nation's best in points allowed (55.9 pg). There was a glaring weakness for the Pioneers though as they were one of the worst teams nationally in rebounding (25.1 pg). Udofia (13.2 ppg, 4.5 rpg) had surgery in the offseason but is healthy this year. He was the leading scorer despite injury last season and with improved health, and better efforts on the glass, the Pioneers could have an all-conference player on their hands. Olson (11.4 ppg) is a sharp shooting guard that hits shots at an impressive rate from beyond the arc and at the free-throw line. Denver could also use some improved contributions from players like Jalen Love (7.2 ppg) to make up for the transfer of Royce O'Neale.
It goes without saying that the Golden Bears are not as strong a team without Crabbe. However, they may be able to still compete in the Pac-12 and beyond if Cobbs and Wallace keep up their accelerated pace and strong play in the backcourt. It is unlikely that Wallace will continue to be the primary option for the Golden Bears. After all, Cobbs averaged 15.1 points per game last year while Wallace was at just 7.2. However, Wallace also struggled to consistently hit his shot (.342 FG percentage) so improvement in his shooting touch will obviously be welcome. Richard Solomon (10 points, 10 rebounds) and David Kravish (seven points, 11 rebounds, four blocks) were expected to continue to be a solid duo in the frontcourt and with one game down that looks to be the case. Ricky Kreklow, who played in just nine games last year, was the fifth starter for the Golden Bears in the opener while Jabari Bird (14 points, five assists) provided punch off the bench.
Even without Crabbe the Golden Bears have enough talent up and down the roster to hang with most teams on any given night. Denver may be a team to be reckoned with in the Summit League but against the Golden Bears they will struggle to keep pace.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: California 80, Denver 70
11/12 10:35:41 ET