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Five Questions: Tightwad Hill

Well, after all the trouble over the holidays and such, Five Questions makes its triumphant return.  In today's installment, we exchanged five questions with Tightwad Hill, an excellent Golden Bears blog, regarding this weekend's game.  You can also view my answers to their questions over on their site.  Thanks to the guys at TH for having us.  Here goes:

ATQ:  How has DeVon Hardin's injury affected this team?  Will he play again
this season?

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:  Cal is a decent team, but it would take a miracle for them to make the
NCAAs in a deep Pac-10.  Would an NIT run this year be a successful season
for Cal?

TH:  Depends who you ask.  For us, and for the majority of Bear fans, the answer
is yes.  We have nine healthy players, and the Pac-10 is loaded.  We'd be
pleased with an NIT berth, and ecstatic should the Bears somehow make it
back to the NCAAs.  Most fans are looking to next year, assuming Hardin
returns and Wilkes comes back from injury, as the year in which Cal could
make more of a run.

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?  Can you give us a
prediction for the game?

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.

Cal already got what it was looking for in Oregon with the win on Thursday.
It's a good thing, because we don't see the Bears beating Oregon at Mac
Court.  There's too many quick, athletic Ducks for Cal to control on the
defensive end.  Call it Oregon 78 California 68.

Thanks again, guys.  Here's to a great game with no injuries tomorrow.

My game preview and open thread is forthcoming.