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Cal Basketball

What Life After Matt Bradley Looks Like for Cal Hoops

April 13, 2021

Some 10 days after entering the NCAA transfer portal, Cal’s leading scorer of the past two seasons announced he’d officially be transferring to San Diego State. Matt Bradley, a rising senior wing, will forgo his final season in Berkeley to join an increasingly stacked Aztec roster. It’s a blow to Cal’s roster next season as Bradley takes his 18 points per game and career 40.4% three-point shooting with him.

So where do the Bears go from here?

Before tackling that, let’s have a bit of appreciation for Matt Bradley. Despite being a prolific scorer (he’s averaged in double digits scoring every season in a Golden Bears uniform), Bradley stuck it out through some down years in Berkeley. When former Cal head coach Wyking Jones was fired after Bradley’s freshman year, he could’ve entered the transfer portal then like his teammates Justice Sueing, Conner Vanover, and others. 

But Bradley stuck it out. And he competed hard during his time in Berkeley. Even towards the end of the seasons when there frankly wasn’t much else to play for. Bradley played some of the best individual games Cal has seen in quite some time. His performance against Colorado in Berkeley this past season was a stroke of genius as Bradley hung a career-high 29 points on the Buffs, leading Cal to its second upset of Colorado in the past two seasons.

You will be missed, Matt.

Scoring aside, Cal is losing one of its highest usage players in recent history. Bradley had a poss% of 31.3% and a shot% of 32.4% this past season. That means when Bradley was on the court, about a third of Cal’s possessions were ending with Bradley doing something and Bradley was taking a third of Cal’s shots. 

To put that in perspective, Bradley ranked 27th in the country in poss% and 25th in shot%. There are thousands of Division 1 players and only around 25 were taking up more of their teams’ possessions than Bradley. The last time Cal had a player with similar usage rates was in 2016 when Jaylen Brown had a poss% of 31.2% and 2015 when Tyronne Wallace had a poss% of 31.3%. No one has come within two percentage points of Bradley’s shot% in the two decades KenPom has been tracking these metrics.

The upshot: Statistically speaking, no one on Cal’s roster has had a higher impact on the outcome of games in the past 20 or so years than Matt Bradley.

Cal played seven complete games without Bradley this season, because of Bradley’s multiple ankle injuries. Two of those were home games against the two worst teams on Cal’s schedule (not including NAIA Northwest). The other five were against conference teams and Cal went 2-3. Overall, the Bears went 4-3 without Bradley this season, but again, two of those wins came against Cal State Northridge (No. 259 in KenPom) and Seattle (No. 213 in KenPom). Those were the only teams ranked in the 200s Cal played this season.

Against Cal State Northridge, grad transfer guard Makale Foreman led the Bears with 23 points. When the Bears squeaked out a win against Seattle, grad transfer guard Ryan Betley led with 17 points (he also had 19 against Cal State Northridge). In the Bears’ five conference games without Bradley, junior forward Andre Kelly led the Bears in scoring three of the games and senior forward Grant Anticevich led the Bears in the other two games. Cal won one game with Kelly as the leading scorer (Washington) and one with Anticevich as the leading scorer (at Utah).

The Bears are likely going to rely heavily on Kelly and Anticevich for production. No other two players on Cal’s have more Pac-12 experience than Kelly, who will be a senior, and Anticevich, who will be a fifth-year senior taking advantage of the NCAA freebie COVID year of eligibility. Those two will form the most experienced, albeit undersized, frontcourt in the conference. Like this past season, the Bears will knock off some teams riding the production of those two.

But the Bears will also need help on the perimeter. Grad transfer will also be in his fifth season of college hoops, like Anticevich. No doubt Foreman’s production waned as the season progressed, but the guard did show some signs of scoring prowess at the beginning of the year. Rising sophomore wings Jalen Celestine and Monty Bowser will also be looked upon to carry some of the load — especially since they would’ve been Bradley’s backups this season. Like Bradley, Celestine had his best game of the season against Colorado in Berkeley, almost single-handily landing the first blow to the Buffs by knocking down three early threes. 

Head Coach Mark Fox is also optimistic about the potential impact of Cal’s incoming three-man freshman class of Obinna Anwanyu, Marsalis Roberson, and Sam Alajiki. Anything any of them could provide would be a bonus. Like the freshmen, any production you could get out of a healthy Kuany Kuany would also be a bonus.

Like most things in sports, you can choose to look at this from a glass-half-empty or glass-half-full perspective. For the glass-half-empty camp, yes, there’s no replacing a Matt Bradley. Few teams have such a consistent and tenacious bucket getter. And the Bears won’t be as good without him as they would’ve been next season with him. But for the glass-half-full camp, the reality was Bradley would eventually move on from Cal, and doing it now might create the softest blow. Minutes for Celestine, Bowser, and others could help the transition to post-Bradley Cal. This next season will most assuredly be worse than it would’ve been with Bradley, but the following season will likely be better than it would’ve been with the Bears losing Bradley, Anticevich, Kelly, and Foreman all at once.

But for now, we can appreciate what Bradley did for Cal hoops and the bright memories he gave us in some dark years. Thanks for that, Matt, and thanks for staying in Berkeley for three seasons.

Discussion from...

What Life After Matt Bradley Looks Like for Cal Hoops

6,061 Views | 2 Replies | Last: 3 yr ago by helltopay1
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All the best Matt Bradley!!! I completely understand your decision to move on.
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Dear Talc. What did Bradley tell you about transferring??
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