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Cal at UCLA: Game Day Q&A with California Golden Blogs

Today, we have the biggest test of the season (I know that has been said often before). California is in first place in the Pac-12 and only 2 games ahead of UCLA. Almost as importantly, California is possibly the only top-50 RPI win that UCLA can get the rest of the season.

TwistNHook at California Golden Blogs (CGB) exchanged interviews with us. The Bruins Nation interview is here. They are scared of us, according to TwistNHook, but unlike say Washington, they have talent and a coach and there is a reason that they are the only Pac-12 team to blow us out this year. Check out CGB for more info on the Bears.

Many thanks to TwistNHook for the interview. Check out his answers to our questions after the jump. Go Bruins!

1. Bruins Nation picked Cal to win the Pac 12 and Cal is in second place but I don’t understand how this team can win at UW (9-2 in conference) and lose at Washington State(4-7), win at Oregon (I think the hardest place to play in the Pac 12 7-4) but lose at Oregon State (5-6). Is the team up and down?

Fatigue/depth is one issue - this team has lost a lot to attrition over the past couple of years (although we can hardly complain to UCLA fans who have seen an entire recruiting class leave). But due to various reasons, (transfers, going pro in China, injuries, academics) this team is going 6.5 players deep right now. Unfortunately, we don't have the star power to get by without hustle and determination every night.

A second factor is that this team has a very distinct playing style, and sometimes we just draw bad matchups. Although, to be honest, UW seems like a much worse match-up for us than WSU, so I'm just going to say - yes we are up and down, but we've been up more this season than down and its been a very odd Pac-12 season anyways.

2. How is California replacing Richard Solomon?

Not that well. We're missing his elite rebounding rate and his shot blocking/altering in the middle. We were already thin, but now, we're throwing in a freshman stick figure with good hands and good skills (David Kravish), a former walk-on whose range is a power dunk (but oh what dunks! Robert Thurman) and another freshman who only started playing for the Bears after Christmas (Christian Behrans). Suffice to say, we miss Solomon.

3. Is Robert Thurman for real? He came seemingly out of nowhere to destroy UCLA in that game early this year at Cal in the second half but I saw he also had a big game against Washington.

He's probably not the player you saw at UCLA, but he is a solid competitor. A big body who can finish in the paint, compete for rebounds and not make a big mess out of any playing time. But in the second go-around through the Pac-12 season, I think there will be a scouting report on him - mainly, don't let him catch the ball uncontested near the rim, because he will dunk it.

4. Is Jorge Gutierrez the conference’s best all-around player?

We certainly think so. Probably not the most talented, but I think it will be difficult to find a player who has played with more grit, determination - and who has improved so so much from being a freshman to a potential Pac-12 POY. We are going to miss him. A lot.

5. Can California go to the NCAA Tournament without winning the Pac 12 regular season or post season titles?

Yes, but everything will have to go right - like every single conference favorite winning their own tournament, and Cal making it to the tournament final and losing in a triple OT thriller. If we don't win the regular season title or tournament - I think we're NIT bound.

6. Predictions for the game.

I haven't had a good handle on how UCLA has played this season. At all. Every time I think I have it figured out, they turn the corner the other way. When I think the UCLA season is over, Josh Smith comes out and dominates like he was supposed, and the Wear brothers look like All-Pac 12 players and UCLA beats Colorado by 17.

So, with no force of conviction, I say Cal 65, UCLA 58.