The Path Forward Without Matt Bradley


Late Friday afternoon, Matt Bradley entered the transfer portal, striking a massive blow to Cal’s roster moving forward. Bradley had been the top scorer for the Bears, the player most relied on to take late-game shots, and an all-around playmaker for the Bears.

Without Bradley, the Bears’ uphill climb to get out of the Pac-12 basement got a little steeper, though they have players capable of contributing, as they did when Bradley went down with two ankle sprains respectively.

Scholarship Distribution for 2021-22

Both Grant Anticevich and Makale Foreman are coming back for ‘super-senior’ seasons (Ryan Betley hasn’t announced one way or another), so they won’t count against the 13 scholarship allotment the Bears are allowed to have.

With Bradley out, the Bears have one more slot to work with, and with the transfer portal becoming an even bigger piece of the puzzle for college basketball, there’s plenty of talent that can be pulled out.

Scholarship Distribution for 21-22

Bradley’s departure leaves Andre Kelly as the only player remaining from Cal’s 2018 class, which included Bradley, Connor Vanover and Jacobi Gordon.

The new adage in college basketball is to ‘get old and stay old’ when you’re building a program, and Cal does have at least nine players in their third year or older, but the Bears will need more consistent contributions out of their 2019 group entering their third year. That group was robbed of key development time last summer, the freshman to sophomore transition that head coach Mark Fox believes is key. They’ll have a second shot at that, but Joel Brown has been the only player from that group (that started out at Cal, Jarred Hyder transferred from Fresno State last year) to have consistently started for the Bears.

What some of the younger players add, especially the first and second year players (with the class of 2020 and 2021), is length. Monty Bowser, Jalen Celestine, Sam Alajiki, Obinna Anyanwu and Marsalis Roberson are all around 6’4″ to 6’7″, and can add more length from the 2-4 spots than what the Bears have had over the past two seasons.

The Games Without Bradley

Cal did have seven games during the 2020-21 season where they didn’t have Matt Bradley. They went 4-3 during those seven. They didn’t play their toughest opponents over those seven games, but they did it without Bradley and without Grant Anticevich for a couple of games.

The Bears didn’t have a consistent top scorer in the wake of Bradley being out, but they found multiple options in the wins and had some struggles scoring in the losses

December 19th – 87-56 win over Cal State Northridge

A start to finish win where the Bears at one point held a 40 point lead. Joel Brown finished with a 10-6-8 statline on 5-5 shooting, while Ryan Betley and Makale Foreman combined for 42 points, and 9-14 shooting from beyond the arc. This was also the first game where Jarred Hyder was eligible to play

December 22nd – 70-65 win over Seattle

A closer win, with Betley’s 20 points (3-5 shooting from beyond the arc) and both Joel Brown (12 points) and Kuany Kuany (11 points) contributing in the win

January 7th – 71-60 loss to Washington State

Cal shooting 5-21 from beyond the arc and not doing all that much better inside the arc (40.5%) doomed them in a game where Isaac Bonton went for 22. Bears also allowed 11 offensive rebounds in the loss.

January 9th – 84-78 win over Washington

A game where Washington’s Erik Stevenson went nuts from beyond the arc (27 points on 6-9 shooting from deep), but one the Bears pulled out thanks to 22 points from Andre Kelly (11-13 from the field), 18 from Ryan Betley, and 19 assists on the game (one of their top outputs on the season).

January 14th – 89-60 loss to Colorado

A resounding defeat, Colorado shot 12-21 from 3, with freshman Jabari Walker putting up a 23-10 game for the Buffaloes. Bears could not guard the 3 in this game, a consistent issue throughout the season, with or without Bradley.

January 16th – 72-63 win over a Utah

After being down 15 in the first half and down 12 at the half, Cal came back thanks to a bevy of Utah turnovers, Grant Anticevich scoring 10 points in the second half, and the Bears having four players in double figures (Anticevich, Kelly, Foreman, and Hyder).

January 21st – 61-57 loss to UCLA

The final game Cal played on the season without Bradley, and arguably a game the Bears should have won. Anticevich had his best game in a Cal uniform, going 5-5 from beyond the arc with 21 points. No other Bear made it to double figures, and the rest of the team combined for 5-17 shooting beyond the arc.

The OSU & Wazzu Studies

Oregon State and Washington State did have somewhat similar situations a year ago, losing their best player (Tres Tinkle and CJ Elleby) respectively to graduation and the NBA draft. Both teams improved from year to year (Wazzu from 127 to a pre-Pac 12 rank of 107 on Kenpom, Oregon State from 87 to 43 on Kenpom from year to year) in spite of those departures for a handful of reasons.

1. Added length

Oregon State added a couple key players in Warith Alatishe and Maurice Calloo who improved the Beavers length defensively. Alatishe especially gave Oregon State a dogged rebounder on the offensive and defensive glass, while Calloo became a stretch big whose shooting helped the Beavers in the NCAA tournament (7 3s over the four tournament games)

Washington State added Efe Abogidi, Dishon Jackson and Andrej Jakimovski, with Abogidi making the biggest contribution as a rebounder and shot blocker. Jakimovski started strong as a long wing with a three point shot, dealing with injuries, but proved to be a solid passer, while Jackson added more shotblocking and size on the interior.

Both teams added length in different ways, Alatishe and Calloo came through the transfer portal, and all of Washington State’s group came in as true freshman. None of those guys were sure-thing prospects, though Jackson was a borderline four-star.

2. Three Point Defense

Both Washington State and Oregon State played the three point line extremely well, with teams shooting 31.3 and 30.6 respectively from beyond the arc. Cal sat at 37.6%, a mark that’s among the 20 worst teams in the country. The improved length helped both OSU and Wazzu to a certain extent, but both teams had a couple of tenured wing players (Ethan Thompson and Zach Reichle for the Beavers, Bonton and Noah Williams for the Cougars) with plenty of experience.

3. A Couple More Scorers

Both Bonton and Thompson had shown their scoring ability before this season, but a couple other players started to break out for these two teams. Noah Williams had 72 points over a two game stretch against Cal and Stanford, while Jarod Lucas had a run of double-digit scoring from February 25th against Cal to the Sweet Sixteen win over Loyola-Chicago last week.

The consistent scoring will be what Cal has to find moving forward. Aside from Bradley, the Bears didn’t have a consistent second option, though Bradley did take a vast majority of the shots. The Bears have an offseason to try and figure it out.