Monday Grab Bag: Hey, we have a finalized roster to speculate about!

Plus the latest tone-deaf comment from a rich person who really really wants unpaid athletes to keep creating profit.

Photo source: calmbball instagram

Makale Foreman commits, Cal’s 2020-21 roster appears finalized

A month after the spring signing period opened, it looks like Cal has finalized their roster for next season with the commitment of Stony Brook transfer Makale Foreman. So, roster changes can be summarized thusly:

Departing: Paris Austin, Kareem South, Juhwan Harris-Dyson , Jacobi Gordon
Arriving: Jalen Celestine, Monty Bowser, Ryan Betley, Jared Hyder, Makale Foreman

That’s four guards leaving, and four guards and a wing arriving to fill the four departing scholarship players and filling a vacant scholarship slot. With a complete roster, what are the biggest questions heading into next year?

Still: who plays point behind Joel Brown?

Cal’s sophomore-to-be still might be the only eligible true point guard on the roster. Jared Hyder would be the logical candidate to split time with Brown, but he might have to sit out the season after the NCAA declined to allow (yet) one time transfers without a year on the bench. If Hyder is granted a waiver or the NCAA changes their mind, then this is a moot question, but if not what are the possible solutions?

The most likely answer is probably some kind of point guard by committee approach. Hopefully Brown takes a sophomore leap and can play more minutes. Makale Foreman played some point at Stony Brook, though his statistical profile very much suggests he’s more of a shooting guard who can initiate the offense, rather than a creator. Matt Bradley can handle the ball well enough, and Cal can run isolation plays through him. And if Cal gets desperate? Who knows, maybe Jalen Celestine can pick up the offense quick enough and has enough handles to deputize.

The main thing? Sorry Joel, you’re not allowed to get hurt. Completely out of the question.

Will Mark Fox let this team rip it from behind the 3 point line?

Last year, all NCAA players shot 33.3 from behind the arc, down from 34.4 the year prior after moving the line back 16.75 inches prior to the season. Next year, Mark Fox will have at least four players on the roster who shoot better than the NCAA average from deep:

Consider that Cal could easily put out the following lineup on the floor:

PG Makale Foreman
G Ryan Betley
G Matt Bradley
F Grant Anticevich
F Andre Kelly

That’s four average-or-better shooters surrounding an efficient interior scorer and rebounder. This lineup may have some turnover issues and would probably be susceptible to ball pressure, but it should work defensively. Heck, even if you have Joel Brown at point that’s still three solid shooters. And I’m not even including the potential shooing of other unproven players on the roster like Kuany Kuany and Jalen Celestine.

But! I’m sure you’re all well and truly tired of me bringing this up: Mark Fox teams don’t shoot 3s. But two of the players Mark Fox added to the roster via grad transfer are players who specialize in shooting 3s:

  • Makale Foreman: career 37% 3 point shooter, career 40% 2 point shooter, 68% of shots from 3

  • Ryan Betley: career 38% 3 point shooter, career 51% 2 point shooter, 61% of shots from 3

And when players are transferring to a tougher conference, their shooting is much more likely to transfer as compared to their ability to score at the basket.

I’m hoping that bringing in these players is an indication that Fox is going to change up the focus of the offense and start shooting more from deep. If the ratio of shots on this team doesn’t change it’s hard to see how the offense takes a step forward.

This Week in NCAA incompetence/obsolescence

On Friday the NCAA announced that ‘voluntary’ athletics activities will be allowed starting June 1st. That decision, on its face, is probably fine. However, the announcement didn’t include any additional steps programs are supposed to take to minimize virus spread or otherwise protect athlete welfare, instead leaving that question to individual conferences and/or schools, who are probably equally at a loss as to what they should do.

Over the last few weeks we’ve seen a slow drip of two types of news stories. One type were increasingly optimistic takes from administrators about the prospect of sporting events happening in the fall (leading up to Friday’s announcement), even if in a changed capacity. The second type were descriptions of financial ruin that will befall every athletic department if sports DON’T happen. It’s hard to see the former type as not driven by the latter. Which leads to quotes like this, from our very favorite conference commish:

. . . in most cases, we feel that student-athletes will be in a safer position and a healthier position if they can have access to the world-class medical care, supervision, and support that they can get on their campuses, and if there are issues with the virus, to have access to these world-class medical centers that we have.

This is more than a little bit paternalistic, though there’s probably some amount of truth to the idea that athletes have access to support on campus that they might not have at home. But this strikes is as a transparently self-serving argument - medical care from virus transmission is only necessary if you get the virus, which is more likely if you have a football team of ~100 players plus coaches and support staff in relatively close proximity travelling to play another football program.

Maybe I missed something and now basic medical wisdom holds that an ounce of prevention is no longer better than a pound of cure. I’d be happier if they just said that they are willing to accept the possibility (inevitability?) of some level of virus transmission if it means having a football season.

It is worth noting that college football players very much want to play if it’s reasonable possible. I hardly blame them - they’ve been putting in work for years to play games, and their personal risk of death is minuscule.

Either way, there’s one gigantic question that nobody I’ve seen that has presented a good answer for: What happens when players on a team test positive for COVID-19? I’d bet that ultra fit 18-22 year old athletes are excellent candidates to be asymptomatic spreaders, and there’s pretty strong evidence that indoor activity during high intensity training is just about the perfect recipe for virus transmission.

Until that question has some kind of answer, most everything else can be dismissed as magical thinking.

Pointless Ranking of the Week

We’re branching out. Rather than a pointless ranking, instead you get pointless analogies!

This is a challenging question for a few reasons. For one, there are sadly just eight extant species of ursids left on planet earth, while Cal runs more than three times that many sports. Also, I don’t watch enough of each sport to necessarily match them to their appropriate bear anyway. So I’ll just stick to what I know:

Giant Panda - Brought to the brink of extinction due to their reliance on bamboo, much like Cal WBB and their reliance on Kristine Anigwe. Both pandas and Cal WBB are bouncing back thanks to dedicated efforts from conservationists/Charmin Smith.

Spectacled Bear - I could go the lazy route and say that the nerdy, glasses wearing bear represents all the various programs that just posted a perfect APR, but not all spectacled bears even have glasses looking fur coloring. No, any bear that can do this has what it takes to make the Cal gymnastics team.

Sun Bear - These bears sport water repellent fur that helps their excellent swimming skills. Sun Bears represent Cal aquatics in all forms.

Sloth Bear - An unfair name for a whip smart bear that appears slow and lazy but can in fact run faster than humans and climb gracefully. Makes the most of a fractured habitat. In other words, deceptively good, just like Cal men’s and women’s soccer.

Black Bear - Resourceful, eats anything. Small by bear standards but will still run you the hell over. Requires you to create elaborate devices to deny them victory, and you’ll still lose in the long run when they destroy your possessions. Black Bears are Cal rugby.

Brown Bear - In theory represents all Cal programs, since the Golden Bears are subspecies of brown bear. Nevertheless, we can’t get around the fact that this is the quintessential bear and is therefore Cal football, which consumes all oxygen from Cal fans. Has suffered hard times and will occasionally suffer a 1-11 season/lose a subspecies or two, but still the hulking mass of power that keeps the fans coming back. In good years, a fearsome Kodiak Bear. Leaner years are spent wandering the Gobi desert.

Polar Bear - A bear with a unique look with a habitat in desperate need of preservation and improvement? Polar Bears are clearly Cal baseball.

Random Reader Question of the Week

. . . will be its own seperate column later this week because I got more good question submissions than can be answered in this already overlong column.