Lately, it seems as if there are only three certainties in life: death, taxes and a Cal men’s basketball loss.
As the Bears went south to face UCSD, they did so in every sense of the word. Opening the game in their usual blue and gold fashion, the Bears were forced to play a familiar game of catch-up in the second half — an attempt, seemingly to no one’s surprise, that eventually fell short.
Cal men’s basketball program in the past few years has been less than satisfactory — for the donors and the fans alike, both of who might be suspecting the program to be approaching dissolution. But what they’ve likely failed to realize, was that dissolution was already upon them.
The Bears have now started their 2022-23 campaign 0-3. Aside from an 0-4 season opening in 1997 (where its first opponent was No. 4 UNC), this marks the first 0-3 start in blue and gold history since 1949. Regardless of whatever political and economic state Jaden Smith claims the present world to be in, it can hardly be comparable to the aftermath of World War II. Thus, fans are left wondering just what the problem is.
The ever-present finger of blame can be pointed at nobody but the Bears themselves. Two consecutive hard-fought second halves have shown blue and gold fans that Cal is more than capable of playing coherent basketball. Nevertheless, the problem remains the consistency at which the Bears do so.
If Cal continues to open games in a lackluster manner, no amount of second-half intensity can save it from futile comebacks and disappointing defeats. The blue and gold suffer at their very own hands when they consistently create unnecessary late game rallies that are ultimately Augean tasks.
The Bears’ current offensive efforts have truly been travesties. The few trysts Cal was able to sporadically make with the hoop were uninspired and inefficient; with every passing game, Cal is seemingly inching closer to basket case status in the Pac-12 instead of the actual basket itself.
In a modern game that has established itself beyond the three-point line (all thanks to the revolutionary in Stephen Curry), the Bears simply cannot expect to win a game shooting 12.5% from downtown. There are bad shooting nights, and then there’s just a general unadulterated incompetence to score from beyond the arc — from what the Bears have demonstrated so far, it’s no question that they fall into the latter category.
Even if the Bears do continue to reject modernity and embrace tradition, their offensive execution and dribble penetration are hardly sufficient enough to atone for their three-point numbers.
The man of the hour nevertheless remains junior guard and scoring leader Devin Askew, who is averaging 16.3 points per game, following a 13-point performance in San Diego. Askew has so far proved himself to be a scorer, but not yet a playmaker.
The best player on the court has not just the license to shoot but more importantly, the license to make the right read and play when necessary. Until Askew can demonstrate his playmaking abilities and enhance those around him, he alone will not be enough to carry Cal out of its current losing slump.
Cal men’s basketball finds its next opponent in Southern University as it officially inaugurates conference play. Amassing a 12-6 conference record last season, Southern University has limited its opponents to a mere 19.6% perimeter field goal percentage, further sabotaging Cal’s chances of scoring from beyond the arc.
As it enters conference play, Cal will be facing one formidable opponent after another. If it is true that adversity doesn’t just build character, it reveals it, then fans will be waiting with bated breath to see just what character will remain when the dust settles — whether Cal’s start to the season is the mere rain before rainbows or a precursor to its destiny to wallow in continuous mediocrity.