Entering the season, the California Golden Bears had the highest expectations of any Pac-12 team, bringing in talented freshmen and returning key pieces from last year's team.
Things haven't exactly been golden in Bear land to this point, but a win against the Arizona Wildcats could change that.
We turned to Avinash Kunnath of our counterpart California Golden Blogs to get the scoop on how Cal fans feel about this team, and more heading into Saturday night's ESPN showcase.
1. From the outside, Cal seems to be underachieving a lot. What's the feeling within the fanbase about this team's performance so far?
Avinash: Cal is achieving slightly below expectations, but aside from getting blown out by San Diego State they have had a chance to win every game they've played in. Late game execution has been a problem, with the Bears not being a great free throw shooting team and lacking a true point guard to run the show.
Fans are a little disappointed, but everyone got a little too excited about getting super frosh like Brown and Rabb. There are serious trouble spots (lack of a backup 4, low assist to turnover ratio, inconsistent offense) that will keep us from making a jump to elite status. Cal's defense has generally been good enough to keep us in every game we play in, and eventually the Bears should be able to start winning on the road. I think Cal fans will be happy to make the tournament and get a fair enough seed to make a mini-tourney run.
2. How's our guy Ivan Rabb doing at the college level?
Avi: Haha. Your guy. You Wildcats.
Rabb has been great. He's one of the smoothest post players I've seen on the collegiate level in a long time, and has proven to be a double-double machine. Rabb is also incredibly unselfish and probably our best passer.
The big issue for the early part of the season was getting him the basketball--defenses double down and guards are still learning how to react quickly to dump that ball down low. Rabb also usually spends every other game in foul trouble due to the intense defensive style of Cuonzo.
3. How does Tyrone Wallace's absence change your thoughts on how this game will play out?
Avi: Hard to tell. Cal moved the ball better against Arizona State so the offense looked better for one half, but Cal doesn't have a lot of bench depth and their defense suffered. The Bears blew a double digit second half lead in a matter of minutes, something that generally earlier in the season would have been a sure victory at home.
Wallace's isolation ball is ineffective against elite teams like Arizona, so I don't know if that offense would have done so well. Sam Singer is a natural point, but his durability is a question mark. After about the 20 minute mark, Singer's effectiveness seems to dip and that could come in handy if the Wildcats find themselves in a hole. It'll have to be Cal's defense that carries the way to any potential upset.
Thanks to Avi for taking the time out to answer our burning questions. Be sure to check out California Golden Blogs for all your Cal info, and visit Avi's site Pacific Takes for all things Pac-12