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More Cal Notes

BBR has written up the preview for tomorrow night's game against the scrappy Bears:

At the start of the season, California appeared to have all the pieces to make a strong run for a Pac-10 title and an NCAA tournament bid; however, injuries to post men Devon Hardin and Jordan Wilkes have changed their expectations for the season and have made them more of a perimeter-dominated offense.

The Bears lead the Pac-10 in three-point field goals made with 9.57 per game and are shooting 36.2% from three-point distance.  On the boards, the Bears have rebounded better of late but opponents still out-board them by a margin of -2.9 a game.

Defensively, California plays primarily man-to-man defense but will also zone up at times.  Against UCLA, the Bears will no doubt test them with their zone defense.  Last week, the Bruins had success against Arizona's zone when they went to a quicker four-guard line-up, and it will be interesting how the new alignment will work against other teams in upcoming games.

Last season, California Head Coach Ben Braun's team did a good job on transition defense against UCLA, stifling the Bruin fast break by sending three defenders after every offensive shot attempt and forcing the Bruins into a half-court game.  No doubt, the Bears will try to slow the Bruins the same way in this game.

With the loss of their two post players, California has gone to a four-guard line-up with forward Ryan Anderson as the only player taller than 6'7 in the rotation.
That write up (which includes details on individual match-ups) also has an interesting point on who will Howland use to guard Cal's 6-4 200 senior pg Ayinde Ubaka. DC can put a lot pressure on defense with his quickness, however he did get off to a slow start against Oregon's Brooks. Considering the job AA did against Williams, I think it could be interesting if Howland assigns him to lock up Ubaka. It seems like the Cal offense starts with Ubaka. If our guys can put intense pressure on him and get their big guy - Anderson - in trouble, we will have a good chance to win tomorrow night's game.

There is another interesting factor to consider for tomorrow night's game. Dohn mentioned in his write up today that while UCLA has been starting slow, it has been finishing strong (outscoring opp. by 49 points in second half). Lot of it can be attributed to the conditioning of our players and also the depth of our bunch as we are getting solid/meaningful contributions from Roll, Westbrook and Keefe (and Aboya when Luc is not starting). In contrast though second half conditioning has been an issue for Cal. From the excellent Cal blogger Tightwad Hill:
[Is clear that Cal has a second-half issue. Since Hardin went down, the Bears have been outscored in the second half of every game except Washington. (Oddly, the Bears have smoked both overtime opponents - UW and ASU - in the extra period). The DePaul and Oregon games looked very similar, as Cal's sluggish reactions left shooter after shooter open on the perimeter. People focus on Hardin, but we could also really use Knezevic right about now.
Knezevic is a sophomore guard who has been sidelined with a knee injury this season.

Cal may have second half issues. But Bruins can count on that. Mostly this Cal team will be emotionally fired up. UCLA basketball game is a huge deal for Cal fans (just like it is for rest of college basketball world). Beating us will probably make their season or at the very least set them up for a possible run to the Big dance. So they are going to come out in an all out attack mode. The challenge for the Bruins will be to play with the same purpose, intensity, and focus they have shown through the second halves of the current season.

To our guys credit they have remained composed when facing big early deficits (like they did against Oregon, Southern Cal, and Arizona), and battled back never letting the game out of hand. But they need to be little more focused and mentally prepared for the expected initial outburst from their opponents.  In other words they simply cannot have the same first half showing against the Ducks from two weeks ago.

They just have to wither the Bear's initial attacks, play their game, make smart decisions on offense (not chucking up three points unless coming within the flow of their offensive sets), and hold down the fort on defense. Should be a great tough game tomorrow.