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Know Your Enemy: California Golden Bears


We were able to do an exchange with California Golden Blogs on the upcoming game tomorrow between Arizona and Cal.  After last night's win against Stanford, this game will determine who will sit atop the Pac-10.  Tomorrow's game is definitely the most highly anticipated basketball game of the year and McKale should be crazy.  Let's dive in and see what we can learn about the Bears:


1. Cal is sitting atop the leaderboard in the Pac-10 conference.  Sum up the season in a few words and tell us if you think your record should be better or worse based on performance?

Sum up the season in a few words?

Good, but not great.

We've definitely had a good season with some solid wins.  Wins over teams like USC and OSU have been hard fought and exciting.  However, with 4 returning senior starters and a couple other energy players, Cal fans were and are still looking for more.  What is more?  Probably not get blown out by Washington.  And not lose to a weakened UCLA team at home.  But considering some of the other REALLY embarrassing losses that Pac10 teams have suffered (OSU to Seattle by 51 ring a bell?), Cal has mostly skated free. 

So, right now, we've been good, but hopefully in the latter part of the regular season, Cal will be great.

2. Jerome Randle is averaging just a bit over 18 points this season. He dropped 39 at Washington State, then turned around and had only 5 points in one of your two conference losses at Washington. What happened?

I hate blaming these sort of things all on injuries, but what happened is that he hurt his knee near the end of the Washington State game.  Hobbled vs. Washington, he tried too hard to make stuff happen, he lacked some of his quickness and his jump shot was off.  He sat on the bench for much more than he usually does, and he later came out and said that he probably shouldn't have played at all, but he felt pressure (self-imposed) to try and gut it out.

He had better games vs. Oregon and Oregon State last week, but he was still limping somewhat noticeably, and his jump shot was still off.  It wasn't enough to cost us either game, but it did help to make the win over OSU a lot more interesting than we were hoping for.

Cal fans are all hoping Randle has gotten back to mostly full health, because he is, as the cliché goes, the straw that stirs the drink for Cal.  However, you might be seeing less-than-full-strength Jerome Randle on Sunday, and that would be an opportunity for the Wildcats to exploit.

3. What kind of offense does Cal run? What are the strengths/weaknesses?

Cal's offense runs through Jerome Randle, who leads the team in points and assists.  Cal will use a variety of screens to try to free Randle for open threes or dribble drives that allow Jerome to use his speed to either get to the lane or find an open man.  Cal plays at a quick pace and often performs best when they push the ball in transition off of turnovers and missed shots.  Randle and Patrick Christopher are very quick, and that's what makes the transition offense so successful.  Cal has three players with the green light to shoot 3's at all times, but Cal's offense is typically more successful when they attack the basket and get easier shots with layups from Omondi Amoke, post points from Jamal Boykin and mid range jumpers and dribble drives from Christopher and Theo Robertson.

4. Does Cal press?

This is a hard question to answer because the answer is 'no.'  How's this:

Cal very rarely applies any pressure past the three point line, choosing to rely on their solid, if unspectacular man-to-man defense and defensive rebounding ability to get stops.  Cal forces very few turnovers, but they generally force teams into many 'one and done' possessions.

Cal's defensive specialists are Jorge Gutierrez and Nikola Knezevic, but both are offensively limited so they rarely (if ever) see the court at the same time.  Cal seems most exploitable from deep - they have trouble closing out on 3 point shooters at times.  Also, watch out for 7'3'' Max Zhang - he's still raw but a treat to watch if he's on his game blocking shots down low.

5. What is the depth like on your team? Does your coach Montgomery utilize it?

Non-existent. Our starting four seniors produce very well when they're called upon to do so, but we're very lucky to get anything from anyone else. Jorge Gutierrez is our best bench player and he's still recovering from a injury that kept him out of five of the first six Pac-10 games. Brandon Smith is a freshman running point and is showing it. Nikola Knezevic is good on defense but can't do much else. Max Zhang will provide some good minutes if your team has a good big, but has no real offensive moves and can only be good for putbacks. D.J. Seeley has some hops, but his defensive effort isn't always there and continues to struggle with his shot.

You'll probably see our bench a lot (especially on the tail end of a back-to-back), but probably only in small spurts to spell our starters. We're just not that developed yet to provide an eight-nine man rotation against the best of the conference. If we win on Sunday, we'll need contributions all-around. We can't keep on running our seniors into the ground.