The Oregon roadie has been a (relatively) smooth one for California over the past several years. The Bears have had some recent success at Mac Court, winning last year in a tight 62-60 game behind twenty points from Ayinde Ubaka. Overall, Ben Braun is 4-6 in Eugene, a very respectable figure considering Oregon's recent strength and the difficulties of negotiating Mac Court. His record is much better in Corvallis, where Ben has gone 9-1 over his career.
This year's a different story, of course. This year the Oregon Ducks sit atop the Pac-10 conference, having beaten both UCLA and Arizona, and having suffered only an overtime loss to a very good USC team in Eugene. We're waiting for Ducks to melt down, for the factions to form, for the players-only meeting with only some of the players, for the coach to turn on his starters and reshuffle his lineup every other night. We're waiting for Aaron Brooks to hit someone. We're waiting for Oregon to quit - and they're just not doing it. But they are a problem for a different day - Saturday to be precise.
First Cal must play a team that it must beat - we repeat, must beat - to make the post-season. (Having now officially jinxed the Bears, we must pick them to lose by thirty so the karma evens out). Here's the quick and dirty on the Oregon State Beavers:
Marcel Jones makes the Beavers go - he and PG Josh Tarver are the only players to start each game for Jay John's team. Jones, a 6'8"/220 junior, leads OSU in scoring and rebounding - he takes 32% of OSU's shots, a very high % ranked 42nd in the country. He only shoots 27% from three (and he's put up 69 thus far) so let's hope Cal can push him to the perimeter. Another big guy who thrives outside is 6'10" junior Sasa Cuic, who led the Pac last year by shooting 49% from behind the arc. This year he's down to 36% but he can still change a game if he finds his stroke. 6'9" Kyle Jeffers starts at center, giving the Beavers a significant height advantage over Cal (what else is new).
Josh Tarver starts at point alongside Wesley Washington and a rotation of off guards that includes Josh's little brother Seth. The back court is the weak link for the Beavers; their guards can be turned over and they get relatively little scoring outside of Josh T's 9.3 ppg.
They don't shoot fouls well (63%); nor do they get to the line very often, ranking 308th in the nation in the ratio of free throws made to field goal attempts.
The Beavers held LSU to 60 points in a seven-point loss in December; they lost to Oregon by only three points. But they also lost to USC by 45 points and have an overall losing record at Gill Coliseum. Their recent win in Tempe suggests to some that this inconsistent team may be on the upswing. If so, their size could present problems for a Cal team that continues to struggle with depth in the front court.