PREDICTION - CALIFORNIA AT WASHINGTON STATE
Well, Cal isn't going to win this game - I think we all can agree on that point. Even if WSU wasn't playing its best basketball of the year, and even if Cal's young players weren't in late-season free fall, we'd still have to deal with Friel Court. Cal has won five of the last six contests with the Cougs in Pullman, but that recent success can't wipe the awful memories from my mind. From 1991 to 2000 Cal had some pretty good teams, and Wazzu just plain sucked. Still, the Bears lost eight times during that decade on the Palouse, including the horrifying 89-87 loss in 1997 when Ed Gray broke his foot and was lost for the season.
Friel Court - the 2/3 filled arena, the soft blond (almost white) wood on the floor, and the slightly fuzzy camera work that suggested a game broadcast from Brazil. George Raveling once said of Pullman, "it's not the end of the earth, but you can see if from there." This has historically been a tough road trip for not only Cal, but Arizona as well, who has lost some truly inexplicable games on the Palouse in recent years.
This year WSU's success is easy enough to explain. They get after shooters and clog the passing lanes. On offense they are surgically efficient, led by Derrick Low and Kyle Weaver, who presents a matchup problem for most two guards. Cal has no answer for Weaver, and the Cougars are efficient enough to translate a single mismatch into consistent offensive flow all game long.
And then there's Friel Court. The good news is that WSU isn't a blow-you-out team, and Cal should be able to hang around and hope for off nights from the Cougars' perimeter shooters. Not likely, but it's a puncher's chance.