Only one opposing team has walked out of Matt Court with a victory. Will Cal be able to do the same?
Oregon hosts the California Golden Bears tonight, and the guys at CGB were kind enough to give us the Cal scoop on the game. Thanks to Kodiak, NorCalNick, and LeonPowe for the responses. Our answers to their questions can are here.
1. Oregon's court has the saying "Deep in the Woods". When Jorge Gutierrez goes into the forest, what sound are we most likely hear?
Kodiak - You won't hear anything. Until Jorge emerges from his mud-wall camouflage to wreak unforgettable havoc upon you.
NorCalNick - Whatever it sounds like when Jorge runs into a tree, plus the sound of two refs arguing over if it was a block or a charge.
LeonPowe - Pain. Somebody gonna get a hurt. Probably both Jorge and whatever else is unlucky enough to be there with him.2. How "must win" is this "must win" game for Cal?
Kodiak - We feel very strongly that is a game we must win.
LeonPowe - Nothing really is a must win. We'd like to win as many games as possible obviously as well make some sort of post season, but we're building for the future here. Experience is much more valuable.
NorCalNick - As must win as a game matching up two teams with no NCAA at-large hopes can get, I suppose. I won't be pulling my hair out if Cal loses, but there will be some nice positives for the W. The winner will all but lock up a top 6 seed in the Pac-10 tourney and avoid the dreaded play-in games, while the loser might have to suffer through an early game against Oregon St. or Arizona St. before facing Arizona or UW. Yuck. With Cal's strength of schedule and Oregon's recent run it would count as a 'quality win' for either team in terms of NIT resumes, so there's that too.
3. Give us the backstory on why Pac-10 Commish Larry Scott laid the smackdown on Mike Montgomery and his "I hate the refs" agenda
Kodiak - Larry Scott inherited a league with myopic, incompetent refs. Monty has put up with them for over two decades. He is displeased when they suck more than normal. Larry Scott felt that he had to make some type of token lip service supporting the refs. Much ado about nothing. If Larry Scott is smart about wanting to enhance the conference's visibility, competitiveness, and national rep, he'll quietly make corrections to our horrible referees.
NorCalNick - Eh, much ado about nothing. Technically he implied that refs don't always call fouls100% of the time when they happen - the type of statement that would cause delicate Pac-10 fans to cry "I do declare!" before fainting. More accurately, he characterized Washington's style of defense as hyper aggressive and unafraid of drawing fouls because they're so deep and because they know that refs won't call a foul on every play. Which is true. I don't even think he was complaining - just explaining their strategy.
4. Given the recent streak of losses, how confident are Cal fans in a turnaround just in time for the Pac-10 tournament?
Kodiak - Perhaps you haven't been paying attention. The only thing that proper Cal fans have any confidence in is our ability to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory in the most horrible and heartbreaking fashion at any time.
LeonPowe - Very much so. Crabbe was concussed. Now he's not. Pac 10 freshman of the year and our most talented player and a definite difference maker.
NorCalNick - Well, our downturn not so coincidentally happened at the same time as one of our best players, Allen Crabbe, was out for two games with a concussion. So we're confident that they Bears will play well and be competitive in each game as long as our core stays healthy (not a sure thing, sadly). We're hoping to take 2 of 3 to ensure a .500 record and pad our NIT resume, and it's a pretty attainable goal since Oregon is by a wide margin the best team left on our regular season schedule.
Other than two blowout losses to a Washington team that Cal matches up horribly with, they've been close in every game this year, so as long as that doesn't change I think most Cal fans will be happy, even if the Bears drop a game or two.
5. Looking back on the season, give us one or two things that surprised you about how this basketball year has shaped up.
Kodiak - I'm pleasantly surprised that Markhuri Sanders-Frison, Harper Kamp, and Jorge Gutierrez all improved their games to be highly formidable. I'm also pleasantly surprised that Brandon Smith has been able to hold his own (more or less) at the point and that Allen Crabbe has been able to exceed expectations as a true freshman. I absolutely cannot believe that Lady Gaga hasn't asked to have the floor of Matt Knight Arena ripped up so that she can wear it to her next awards show.
LeonPowe -UWs collapse in oregon. The ability of toughness and grit to win games for cal. Less surprising: ucla returning to at least regional relevance.
NorCalNick - Fishing for compliments, Oregon fans? Well, I'd say that the Cal/Oregon game involves two of the bigger positive surprises - the winner could very well finish 4th in the conference, something nobody would have ever predicted about Oregon after the Kent exodus, and something only the most naively optimistic would have said about Cal after we lost 8 players from 2010. So that's pretty cool.
But other than Oregon's Altman-led renaissance, I don't think anything too shocking has happened. I guess ASU and WSU were supposed to be a little better, and I didn't see Washington choking away the Pac-10 on the Oregon/OSU road trip. And Derrick Williams being so amazingly good is pretty crazy. But that all fit into the realm of the imaginable earlier in the year.
6. Prediction for the game. Go now!
Kodiak - Cal jumps out to an early lead by working the ball inside against the press. As the game goes on, Cal slows down and starts missing easy shots as well as turning it over due to fatigue. Cal has a slim lead at the half. In the 2nd half, Oregon goes on a run and uses the home crowd's energy to re-take the lead. It comes down to clutch execution and free throws.
LeonPowe - Cal 52 Oregon 45
NorCalNick - I can't decide how homeriffic I'm feeling. Oregon has played so well lately, particularly at Matt court that predicting a Cal win seems iffy. At the same time, Oregon's weakness (FTA/FGA defense) plays right in to Cal's strength (drawing fouls), which is exactly what won Cal the game earlier in Berkeley. It wouldn't surprise me to see the Bears steal this one from the line late. But I think an Oregon win is the safe bet.
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