Cal opens season with surprise matchup against Oregon State

Men's Basketball at Cal
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Cal Men’s basketball was originally scheduled to face Colorado State on Nov. 25 in Corvallis, but a positive test among the Rams forced a cancellation of the game. Now, the Bears will take on the Beavers at their home court to open the season.

“In a year when disruption is likely the norm, we had to adjust with our own COVID-19 shutdown earlier this month, and now with Colorado State’s situation,” said Cal head coach Mark Fox. “It was not possible to replace Colorado State on such short notice, and playing Oregon State proved to be the best solution because it’s most important that we play when we can safely do so.”

Oregon State was previously scheduled to start the season against Northwest University on Nov. 25, but the game has been postponed to Nov. 27, the day after Northwest plays Cal. The Bears and Beavers matchup will keep the original 4 p.m. slot on Pac-12 Networks but will be played as a nonconference game and will not count in the Pac-12 standings.

Cal is projected to be the better team this year, picked to finish 10th in the conference as opposed to Oregon State’s 12th in the Pac-12 preseason media poll; however, last season the teams split the series, and the last time the Bears were in Corvallis, they lost by a whopping 18 points.

That game was a symptom of a much larger problem for the Cal: terrible performances away from Haas Pavilion. Last year in the regular season, the Bears went 1-10 on the road and 0-3 at neutral sites. In Pac-12 games, they showed promise with a 6-3 record at home but fell to 1-8 when visiting. Cal managed to end things on the right note, with its second win away from home last year being the most important win of the season against Stanford in the Pac-12 tournament. If the Bears can emulate that performance this year, they can open the season with a rare victory on the road.

If the Beavers hope to start the season with a win, Ethan Thompson will likely be a key factor in getting it for them. The senior guard averaged nearly 15 points and 4.5 assists last year to make his second appearance on the preseason All-Pac-12 Second Team this season. He was the second-leading scorer last year behind Tres Tinkle, who has since graduated. Thompson joins fellow seniors Alfred Hollins and Zach Reichle as Oregon State’s only returning starters.

Cal will be slightly short-handed since Jarred Hyder, a sophomore transfer from Fresno State, had his eligibility waiver denied by the NCAA. Hyder will redshirt the 2020-2021 season.

The Bears, like the Beavers, will unveil some new talent this week. Graduate transfers Ryan Betley and Makale Foreman will join freshmen Monty Bowser and Jalen Celestine in making their debut as Bears. Also, star shooting guard Matt Bradley will enter his junior year with multiple preseason honors after leading the team in scoring last season.

“I am really proud of this group of young men,” said Fox. “It’s been a long offseason, to say the least. I hope they’ll make you proud too.” 

This won’t be the last time Cal sees Oregon State as the Bears will get two more shots at the Beavers this season, including another trip to Corvallis on Jan. 2.

Trilok Reddy covers men’s basketball. Contact him at [email protected].