Only in 2020 would Cal be opening its non-conference basketball season against a Pac-12 rival.
The Golden Bears find themselves in Corvallis, Ore., on Wednesday afternoon, when they will take on Oregon State.
The Beavers stepped in to replace Colorado State, which was forced to withdraw from the two-day, four-team event because of COVID-19 issues. Tipoff is 4 p.m. Wednesday and the game will be televised on the Pac-12 Network.
For second-year coach Mark Fox, who had barely a day to prepare for Oregon State, the bigger mission is starting to find out what kind of team he has a year after going 14-18. Cal’s offseason and training camp were disrupted by the pandemic, so there are still more questions than answers.
Here are five questions we have as the Bears get under way:
— What’s the next step for Matt Bradley?
Cal’s best player, the junior guard and preseason All-Pac-12 pick is one of the league’s top returning scorers. The Bears still need Bradley to put up points, but they also hope he gets much-needed support from a more balanced lineup.
Bradley might score actually slightly less and the Bears could be better.
He needs to be the player the offense runs through, a willing and capable passer who can help the Bears exploit opponents’ efforts to gang on him. If others emerge as dependable second options, life will become easier for Bradley.
— Is sophomore Joel Brown ready to shoulder a heavy load as the Bears’ only true point guard?
Brown had a competent freshman season, but he was the backup to senior Paris Austin. He was rarely on the floor in the key moments and he wasn’t required to score.
But the Canadian is a good ball handler, showed toughness in the home win over Utah and he has the look of a floor leader concerned primarily with putting his teammates in position to score.
Without another real point guard on the roster, Brown has a big responsibility.
— How much help will grad transfer guards Ryan Betley (Penn) and Makale Foreman (Stony Brook) provide?
Fox brought them to Berkeley for their perimeter shooting and their experience, but both must make the transition to a higher level of Division I basketball and both must adapt to Fox’s defensive expectations.
One of them figures to start, the other will come off the bench. If the Bears want to go small, both could be on the floor together. Foreman will also take on the role of backup to Brown at the point now that the NCAA has denied Jarred Hyder’s appeal for eligibility as a transfer.
Cal needs one of both of them to be difference-makers, even if in just complementary roles.
— Will the Bears have an improved offensive presence in the paint?
This was an issue for Cal last season. Forward Grant Anticevich, now a senior, is more of a face-up, mid-range scorer. Lars Thiemann seemed to have a good sense of the game but not great hands.
The Bears’ best bet for a dependable low-post threat may be Andre Kelly, a 6-8 junior. He scored 26 points against Saint Mary’s last season and had four double-digit scoring games in Pac-12 play.
— Beyond Brown, which of Cal’s sophomores may show the biggest leap from their freshman season?
Fox notes in the video above that Thiemann and guard Dimitrios Klonaras had the most productive summers because they were home in Europe and able to get more time on the court. The Bears would like to get more from forward D.J. Thorpe.
But their most intriguing second-year player may be Kuany Kuany, an athletic 6-9 forward who provided a late-season tease by scoring 20 points in late-season road games against the Oregon schools.
Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo
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