It's Senior Day. Ben Ball warriors take on a demoralized UC Berkeley basketball program today, which is on a 4 game losing streak and has lost 6 of its last 7 games. Berkeley fans are so demoralized and apathetic about their men's basketball program that they are now getting worked up over matters related to their women's basketball team and speculating who should be taking over after Ben Braun.
Berkeley's issues of course don't matter to us. They only come up on our radar during game weeks of football and basketball games. We can care less whether Braun stays or go or whoever comes in to replace him. As long as we have the best basketball coach in America, it really doesn't matter who else coaches any other program in this game.
That said we shouldn't be dismissing the Bears and expect an easy win. Because if we do it will result in the letdown we experienced last year at Staples. And also keep in mind this is a program that has beaten us at least once for last 9 years (See Bruin Basketball Report). So if they decided to put it together in one game (like Lavin's team used to do and Lorenzo Romar's team does when they play us in Seattle) it could turn out to be an uncomfortable afternoon at Pauley.
And we cannot let that happen because of LMR. From the LA Times:
It might very well be the final game at Pauley Pavilion for Love as well. Love, a leading candidate to be named Pac-10 player of the year, could leave college for the NBA at the end of this season.
After Thursday's game, Love said there should be no concern over whether the Bruins would have a letdown today. "We're not losing on senior day," Love said. "We all want to win this for Lorenzo."
Mata-Real, who is also on track to get his degree this spring, said he wished for a going-away win today and also that he be able to keep his emotions in check. "I don't want to cry," he said.
"Lorenzo is, No. 1, a great young man," Howland said. "He's a good teammate. It has been difficult for him to go from being a starter on a Final Four team as a junior to coming off the bench as a senior behind Kevin. He's a classy young man. I'm proud of Lorenzo."
"He shows up every day, works really hard and I'm proud of everything he's given to help us be successful," Howland said.
Bruin Basketball Report has the preview for this afternoon's action:
With key returning starters and All-American candidate Ryan Anderson leading the team, Cal was expected to challenge for the Pac-10 title this season, instead it has been disappointing season for the players, coaches and its fans in Berkeley.
The Bears are in ninth place in the conference with a 6-11 record with only winless Oregon State behind them. There are new rumblings that perhaps Head Coach Ben Braun's job is in jeopardy after the season ends.
Now averaging 77.4 points per game, Cal leads the conference in scoring, a rate that also ranks 34th-best in the country. However the problems for the team have been on the defensive end where the Bears are allowing a conference-worst 78.1 points per game Opponents are shooting over 46% against the porous Bears defense.
Cal primarily plays a man-to-man defense and mixes it at times with a zone. Against UCLA, it wouldn't be surprising to find the Bears playing more zone than usual considering the Bruins' recent problems with their perimeter shooting.
Earlier in the season, Cal did a good job of slowing up the UCLA transition game by regularly sending back three defenders to clog up the running lanes. With big DeVon Hardin and Pac-10 standout Ryan Anderson hitting the offensive boards hard, we'll likely see the same strategy employed.
The other matchup to key an eye on would be the one between Patrick Christopher (Berkeley's second leading scorer) and Russell Westbrook. Christopher is capable of having explosive games. So it will be up to Russell to keep him in check. Of course Russell had his moment of the year against these guys when he immortalized Boykin in the tubes. However, I imagine he knows he will have to focus on defense first before worrying about more uploads on the internets.
Elsewhere on today's game Brian Dohn concern trolls in the Daily News writing about who else is going to leave besides LMR, KL, and DC. Dohn's report provides no new information with the same old speculation.
The bottom line for today: this game is for LMR. From the OC Register:
It was against Oregon State in the quarterfinal round, and his first game coming back from a non-displaced plateau fracture in his leg. He was on the floor for all of five minutes, but stepping onto the court is what he remembers.
The rousing and warm ovation, he said, gave him a chill. Goose bumps. Coach Ben Howland said it should be the same for the Bruins' center on Saturday, senior day, in his final game at Pauley Pavilion.
"I really do and deservedly so," he said. "He's been part of four NCAA Tournament teams, three Pac-10 champions, two Final Fours. He was in my original recruiting class when I arrived here, so it's really special to me, too."
Game thread will go up before the game. Meet us there.