Cal, Stanford setting the pace in Pac-12

Everybody loves preseason predictions. They are fun and provide material for robust debates.

Sometimes, they are spot on. Other times, they are terribly wrong. In the case of the media’s prediction for the 2011-12 Pac-12 men’s basketball season, they appear to be completely wrong.

Did you catch that UCLA team that lost to Cal yesterday by 16 in Berkeley? Ya, that’s the team the Pac-12 beat writers predicted would win the conference. Out of the 38 votes, the Bruins received 14 first-place votes, the most of any team. Cal finished 2nd in the voting, collecting 13 first-place votes.

Granted, it’s still very early, but Cal (12-3, 2-0) and Stanford (12-2, 2-0) look like the teams to beat in the Pac-12. Cal looked dominant in their wins over USC and UCLA this week, while Stanford picked up solid wins against the Trojans and Bruins.

Stanford, picked to finished 6th, is the surprise of the conference. Guard Aaron Bright and forward Josh Owens are having great starts to the season. Bright scored 16 against both UCLA and USC, and is averaging 12 points and 2.9 assists per game. Owens is leading the team in scoring (12.4 PPG) and rebounding (5.9 RPG).

Cal coach Mike Montgomery is getting huge seasons from mainstays Jorge Gutierrez, Allen Crabbe, Justin Cobbs and Harper Kamp. All of them scored double-digits in the 16 point win over UCLA on Saturday. As a team, the Bears had a staggering 28 assists against the Bruins, proof of their unselfish play.

As for UCLA, they are 7-7 overall and 0-2 in Pac-12 play, so far, and lack a decent non-conference win.

If these predictions prove anything, you can’t win games on talent alone. You need to build a cohesive team, like Cal and Stanford are doing.