Let's start talking about Bears. IMHO Bruins are going to have a very difficult game on their hands Thursday night. Last time Bruins took on Bears up in Berkeley they escaped with an OT win (thanks to AA and JF) avenging an early season loss at Pauley. If you think Bruins are going to get a breather after taking on Arizona playing a Cal team with superstar DeVon Hardin, then think again. The Bears are battling. They have a very respectable record of 12-7 (4-3) with an outside shot of getting in the Big Dance.
They did lose their last game against Oregon Ducks at MacArthur Court, but they gave this year's Ducks all they could handle, leading by a score of 46-38 at the half time. How are the Bears hanging in there without DeVon Harding? Well to get answer to that question and few others, let me refer you to this set of Q&A between Addicted to Quack and Tightwad Hill, which took place over at ADQ right before this past weekend's game:
TH: The loss of Hardin has changed almost everything about this team. Hardin was Cal's one true post presence who could free up Ryan Anderson to run the baseline or look for a mid-range jumper. On defense, he was our shot-blocker and helped control the boards. Without him, Cal has switched to a small lineup - last night they started Ryan Anderson (6'9") Eric Vierneisel (6'7"), Patrick Christopher (6'5"), Omar Wilkes (6'4") and Ayinde Ubaka (6'3"). Cal zones more than it did with Hardin, and it is now almost completely dependent on Anderson and Ubaka scoring 35 points between them to win games. Another issue is that we tire more easily without Hardin, PF Jordan Wilkes (out for the year) and PG Nikola Knezevic.
What's interesting is that Cal has played quite well against the conference's bigger teams (Stanford, UW). Against the big boys we've been a much more efficient offensive team.
Hardin is apparently telling people he'll return by the Pac-10 tournament, but we'll reserve judgment. Foot injuries are tricky for big men.
ATQ: Freshman Ryan Anderson has had some really good games this season. How good can he be?
TH: Really good - his game is unusually polished for a freshman. Against the Beavers last night he hit for 18 in the first half, and then had a hard time finding his shots after that point. He's got very nice range for a big man and good body control in the paint. A great find for Ben Braun, who's come under fire for some recruiting misses in recent years.
ATQ: Who else should Duck fans know on the roster?
TH: Ayinde Ubaka is the team's MVP, Anderson notwithstanding. He's playing like a senior point, and has taken games over offensively (especially against Stanford). We're really looking forward to seeing him match up with Brooks and Porter tomorrow - should be a great test. We have a couple of guys who can be dangerous from the perimeter - Omar Wilkes and Eric Vierneisel. Neither have been big favorites of ours, but EV has played much better of late, scoring 13 last night against OSU. We're still waiting for Wilkes to become a more consistent scorer. Theo Robertson is a hustle guy who came off the bench last night, though he's started quite a bit this year. Two freshmen complete the picture - Patrick Christopher starts at a wing. He's very athletic though he occasionally struggles to find a rhythm offensively. Jerome Randle is Cal's backup point - small and super quick.
ATQ: What is the blueprint for beating the Bears? ...
TH: When Cal plays the full forty with lots of energy on the defensive end, they can compete with anyone in the conference. That was certainly the case against Washington, and in the first half against Stanford. Teams that can throw numbers at Cal stand a good chance of running the Bears a bit ragged. Also, try to get Anderson in foul trouble. ...
Also our bigs - AA2, Mata, Keefe and co. (may be Luc?) will need to bring their A game again and give an intense effort around the boards. Cal despite being not so big (as noted by Sportsline) has been tenacious under the rim, as they have out rebounded opponents in their past three games. Here is Sporsline's key for Thursday night's match-up:
More on this game later. As usual if you have early thoughts on the Bears let us know what you think.