PREDICTION - UCLA AT CALIFORNIAUCLA reported yesterday that Luc Richard M'bah a Moute (right) will start at the four, sending fellow Cameroonian (is that correct?) Alfred Aboya to the bench. This is not good news, since the Prince will be even more difficult for Cal to handle in the paint than his fellow countryman. Enough of that, on to the good news about this game.
First a programming note - the game starts at 6:00 pm on Fox Sports Bay Area and a bunch of other FSN stations (but not Fox Sports West, for some reason). Big portions of the country will be able to check out Haas Hysteria tonight. Let's hope the Bears give them something to watch.
We think they will. UCLA grinds teams with suffocating defensive pressure in the half-court. Teams with substandard point guard play shouldn't really bother with the Bruins (we're looking at you, Stanford) unless UCLA simply fails to show up (which they haven't done under Howland).
If there's one thing Cal has this year, it's good point play. Ayinde Ubaka isn't the type of guard who can dissect a defense and consistently make the right pass at the right moment. That's what many Bear fans have been looking for ever since Jason Kidd left, and it's simply not what Ubaka's good at. He does do two important things, though. He can make over-pursuing defenses pay by scoring on the drive or from the perimeter. And - this is the important part - he takes pretty good care of the basketball. The whole team does, as a matter of fact, ranking 15th in the country in turnover percentage. We see Ayinde having a big night tonight - and we'll need it.
As Nestor at Bruins Nation points out, Lorenzo Mata will have his hands full with Mr. Anderson, and hopefully this forces Howland to go to his bench more. Not that his bench players aren't great - they are, but they don't block shots and rebound like Mata (who is the 82nd best player in the nation in defensive rebound % - according to Pomeroy).
All of this suggests that Cal will give the Bruins a game. Can they actually pull the upset? Sure, if they can reverse the second-half slide that has plagued them since Hardin's injury - UCLA has shown they are apt to start slowly against inferior opponents. The problem is that UCLA is a mirror image of Cal, enjoying a big second-half advantage over almost all of its conference opponents (Arizona excepted). They bang, they reach, they pester offenses and all this harassment eventually takes its toll. The home crowd should add some fuel to the Bears' fire, but it's hard for us to see Cal ending the second-half blues against this particular opponent. Unless Pribble and Harrison contribute valuable minutes and play out of their heads, of course, and everyone stays out of foul trouble. Which could happen - after all, it's Bruin Week.