Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE
The guys over at our sister SBN blog California Golden Blogs were nice enough to trade questions with us, their fellow UC brothers, about the upcoming game.
1. Bruins Nation: How did Cal fans react initially when an ex-Stanford coach was hired? I don't think UCLA could hire an U$C coach but of course Stanford does not cheat like U$C.
1. VincentS: Cal fans were excited. Montgomery was about a good a hire as we had hoped for. By the time the 2008-2009 season rolled around, Montgomery had already been relatiely far removed from Stanford, having coached in the NBA for the Golden State Warriors. On some level, many of us were also satisfied; we remembered the many times Montgomery's teams had murdered us at Maples Pavilion and were looking to return the favor.
[LeonPowe] I'm gonna have to go back and disagree with VincentS on that one. First, I hated Montgomery when he was at Furd. I hated his goon filled teams. I hated the way he always berated the officials. I hated that he was a terrible failure at Golden State. It felt to me like we were hiring a retread - and a non-successful one at that. I was completely unexcited about the hire.
[LEastCoastBears] Unlike LeonPowe, I was actually pretty excited about the hiring of Mike Montgomery. Any time that you can add a potential future Hall of Famer as a coach, it is a great move even with Montgomery's history with Stanfurd. I believe the first Pac-10 conference championship in 50 years obviously has cemented both my initial happiness with the hire and also Montgomery's Hall of Fame credential.
2. BN: Montgomery badly out game-planned UCLA last year in one of the wins. We can understand being beat by Crabbe but one of the games Robert Thurman killed us going 5-5. Does Montgomery have more tricks up his sleeve?
VincentS: Montgomery has been universally praised as being one of the best coaches in the game. It seems every single coach or personality ever interviewed only has great things to say. I wouldn't be surprised if he's forgotten more coaching knowledge than many Division-I coaches know. I fully expect Montgomery to have 2-3 different schemes that would destroy UCLA; whether our players are up to the task of executing (or, as BN posters are well aware, allowed to execute by the Pac-12 referees) will play a large part in determining the result of the game.
[LeonPowe] If Montgomery could figure out how to get consistent production from any of the bigs - Richard Solomon especially - that would be the biggest magic trick of all time. Or at least a pretty good coaching trick. We were feeling ok after barely losing to Creighton and UNLV, but then losing to Harvard when they didn't start anyone over 6'5" was disheartening.
[LEastCoastBears] Sadly for the Bears, Robert Thurman is our big with the best post moves. Montgomery had developed a whole bunch of quality bigs at Stanfurd, but that has not translated to Cal. Richard Solomon and David Kravish are our bigs with the most talent, but I wouldn't be surprised if Thurman is again the most effective when the Bears choose to attack the small Bruins lineup inside.
3. BN:While we think Montgomery is a great coach who hasn't missed the post season since 1992-3 he barely made the Tourney last year and the NIT the year before. This season is starting to look rough, are Cal fans happy with him or has he lost a step? (Can you tell coaching is on our mind?)
VincentS: The 2010-2011 season can be easily explained - when you graduate basically your entire starting line-up (well, actually 4 starters and 1 energy bench player), you're going to have problems. Given the youth on that team, I think Montgomery deserves a pass for that year - he's been working to balance out the class load ever since. Last year was clearly a step forward.
The problem with Montgomery's teams has been depth. This year is no different. In a game against Prairie View A&M, we lost Christian Behrens (our 3rd or 4th big man, depending on who you ask) for the season, Brandon Smith (Sixth Man or starter, depending on the game) to a concussion, and Ricky Kreklow (clear starter material and a great wing when healthy) to a lingering foot problem. Montgomery has had to press freshman (Khalil Johnson) and walk-ons (Thurman and Jeff Powers) into large chunks of minutes just to have bodies on the floor. While I don't think too many Cal fans blame Montgomery for depth problems due to injury yet, it does seem to be a recurring problem.
[LeonPowe] I think there's a lot of concern about his inability to recruit any bigs of significance, nor to recruit a deeper roster. We have never had any depth under Monty - each year playing 6 or 7 deep only - which really hurts come tournament time as players such as Markhuri Sanders-Frison, Harper Kamp, Jorge Guitteriez and Alan Crabbe have been completely worn down at the end of the season.
[LEastCoastBears] The lack of depth and sensational recruit has always been a big knock on Montgomery's Cal tenure so far. When Cal was able to win the Pac-10, Montgomery did it with pretty much Ben Braun's players, with the sole exception of Jorge Gutierrez. While Cal has not really score any big upset win in the Montgomery regime (partly due to the lack of opportunity given the state of Pac-# men's basketball in recent years), prior to this past weekend, you can count on Cal beating teams that they should beat.
Assuming that Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs return for their senior season, I have fairly high hopes for next season given the incoming recruits.
4. BN: Cal has been hit hard by the injury bug, how is that looking for Thursday's game? How many players are out or limited?
[LeonPowe] I'm not sure how Brandon Smith's concussion is - he's our 3rd or 4th guard, but is our only true point on the bench. Christian Behrens is out for the year with an ACL tear - neither are particularly important rotation players, but it keeps us super thin.
[LEastCoastBears] I am hoping that Ricky Kreklow would be back from his ankle injury. Knowing that he can only play 15-20 minutes or so, he's been even more active/aggressive when on the floor. If both Kreklow and Brandon Smith are back, the Bears might have the same size rotation as the Bruins at 7 or 8 deep.
5. BN Allen Crabbe leads the PAC 12 in scoring, is there a weakness in his game? Has any team shut him down?
VincentS: Allen Crabbe with a Michael Jordan-esque killer instinct would destroy opponents. The tools are all there: the smooth and accurate bombs from behind the arc, the ability to drive when that shot gets taken away, the height and length to bother opposing wings. The will to destroy has started to show up in flashes - last year, Crabbe single-handedly dismantled Oregon's will at Matt Court.
Opposing teams have taken to double-teaming Crabbe and hammering him as he attempts to get free. If Crabbe is able to fight through the physicality opponents have thrown at him, watch out.
[LeonPowe] What does Crabbe do well? He's a plus shooter. He can get his shot off curls or driving the ball to mid range from the wing, or even all the way to the rim. He's added a mid-post game that allows him to post up smaller guards (he's 6'6") and get open 10 footers off turn around shots or spins into the lane. He has range out to 3. He's a very good free throw shooter. What isn't he good at? Well, he can be guarded out of the game. He's not super strong with the ball. If a team is physical with him, he can be pushed off the ball. Still, we're awfully glad he's at Cal.
[LEastCoastBears] Crabbe has great offensive tools and he is from LA, so I would definitely expect another big game from him this week. Crabbe has always been a very efficient scorer, definitely not a "chucker". Although he has disappeared due to strong defense in past season, this year he has taken a more aggressive role. Case in point, the 6 for 26 shooting performance against Creighton this season. Despite the lack of result, I think this is a positive development for his game.
6. BN: Besides Crabbe who else should UCLA watch out for?
VincentS: I would normally say Justin Cobbs, but after watching Robert Thurman tear apart UCLA's interior last year, I really don't know. Someone unheralded UCLA fans have never heard of will step up if we are to win this game.
[LeonPowe] I happen to think that while Crabbe is our most talented player, starting point guard Justin Cobbs is our second best player, and more significantly, our most important player. He can shoot from deep, get to the rim and drive and dish. Unlike Crabbe, he's very strong with the ball and he has the ball in his hands 70% of the time. He does have a tendency to try to get away from playing a team game at times, but I am super comfortable with him having the ball. I think he'll be playing at the next level sometime. He's very good.
[LEastCoastBears] Justin Cobbs is basically the only other reliable Bears scorer. After going scoreless in ~35 minutes against Harvard, my pick to click is freshman Tyrone Wallace. Wallace is a bit raw at times, but he has the athletic ability to make things happen.
7.BN: Any predictions?
[LeonPowe] I have no idea what to expect out of this UCLA team. Missouri was the best team we saw last season and killed us but a very large number. I know they lost some players, but to beat them was still pretty impressive. Of course, y'all also lost to Cal Poly. I am more concerned now that due to attritition and transfers, Howland has finally needed to put the ball in the hands of Anderson, Adams and Muhammad - where the ball should've been in the first place.
[LEastCoastBears] Coming off the bad loss at home to Harvard, I expect Cal to be quite focused. Which UCLA team would show up is anyone's guess. My prediction is that UCLA suffers a letdown game (they can't possibly be fired up by some random blogger's opinion on the interweb, right?) and Cal take it 87-82.