We had questions, we needed answers. There was only one place to go to find out all the juicy details of how the California Golden Bears were going to destroy the Oregon men's basketball team today. The fine folks at California Golden Blogs sent these in from their front line tree forts straight to us. Our answers are up on their site here.
1. Patrick Christopher torched us last time we met in the Bay Area. What can we do to contain him?
There isn't much any defense you can do against Christopher when he's on. He can get most any jump shot he wants and has the capability to hit it against any good defender. If I were Oregon I'd do my best to hold onto the rock, not lose the ball a hundred times (the Ducks were Cameron Colvin-ing the ball that night and pretty much handing Cal easy points), and keep PC from finishing in transition. Christopher is the kind of guy that seems to get amped up after a big play like an alley-oop or a transition dunk, and he seems to get more aggressive after those type of plays. If you play solid halfcourt defense, he can settle for jump shots, and hope those shots don't go in.
2. With 5 games remaining, how confident are you that Cal will go into the Pac-10 tournament leading the Pac-10?
This isn't a serious question, is it? Do you realize the last time we won a conference championship, we were still practicing Duck and Cover?
Cal should at the minimum win four of their last five, and we'd all prefer that loss to come later rather than sooner--a loss to either Oregon school would be disastrous, and would open the door for ASU and Washington once more going into the last two weeks of the season. It would put all the pressure on the Bears to sweep at home against two Arizona schools that could be very much alive for the Pac-10 crown, depending on what happens Sunday night in Tucson. So where UCLA fans would be going "ho-hum", we are all in a state of panic. PANIC I SAY!
Not also that, but we are still playing for the likeliest at-large bid the Pac-10 could receive. Cal is in the top 25 in RPI, and as long as they beat the teams they should beat without getting majorly upset by anyone, they could make it to the Dance without having to worry about winning the Pac-10 tournament. Every win helps us toward that goal.
3. Ok, I get it. Max Zhang is tall and Chinese like Yao Ming. He averages 3 points per game and 3 rebounds. Why do Cal fans love him so much?
Well, I can't argue that Max's nation of origin has nothing to do with his cult of personality, because Cal's Asian student population played a major role in creating his popularity. But Cal's love of the Zhang Train goes so much deeper. For one thing, Max is the tallest player in the history of Cal basketball, but came in as raw a player as you'll ever see. So when he threw down 13 points and 3 monstrous blocks at home against Stanfurd the Max love blossomed into something much more than a mere crush.
We keep learning charming things about Max - that his Mom came and lived with him to help him gain weight by constantly cooking for him. That his Mom never watches him in person because she's worried he'll be too nervous with her in the audience. He sounds like the mild-mannered, gentle-giant type, except he happens to have the ability to embarrass Landry Fields. If Cal fans can't love that, there's nothing left to love!
4. With so many seniors on the roster, what are your prospects for next season?
Next season will be a fun one. No expectations, no pressure, plenty of intrigue. We'll probably get Harper Kamp back; all accounts are he would've been our best low post option and definitely our best defender. If we had him this year we could have destroyed this weak conference instead of scraping to the finish. Jorge Gutierrez will probably handle most of the point guard duties along with some of Brandon Smith; Omondi Amoke will probably move back to his natural 3 spot with Theo moving out. D.J Seeley will probably finally get his chance on the floor to showcase his offensive moves. You hope Zhang grows into his body and becomes a true center with a set of low post moves and that Markhuri Sanders-Frison becomes more polished down low. Then you have a promising freshman class being brought in--Allen Crabbe is supposedly the best player in Southern California, Gary Franklin is Cal's point guard of the future, and Richard Solomon and Alex Rossi will probably be seen in spurts.
Don't get me wrong. We're not going to make a great deal of noise next year unless the Pac-10 continues to blow and no one steps up to the plate. Expect a transition from the shooting offense we run now to a team that plays a lot of tough defense and runs a lot more of the offense through the post (either high or low). But although we'll miss our seniors, there's plenty of excitement for 2011 and definitely 2012, when this team should start to mesh and gel in terms of talent and experience.
5. Admit it, Jerome Randle, through some stroke of luck with the NCAA Rules Committee, will be the starting quarterback for the football team next season. He can pass, he can score, he can do all the little things. Tedford will pull the trigger. Right?
Ah, but can Randle (generously listed at 5'10") actually manage to see over our offensive line? Court vision is one thing, seeing through 1400 lbs of white guys is something else entirely.
The story at quarterback will be the same as it was last year. Competition will be open. No one will seriously challenge Kevin Riley. We'll get another pretty good year -- flashes of brilliance, even -- from him, and in the end, it will come down to defense. Maybe I'm too cynical, though. Maybe.