PREVIEW AND PREDICTION - CALIFORNIA AT UCLASo we're playing with house money tonight. Here's the TH preview of the game no one expects Cal to win:
As Nestor and several commenters pointed out, I forgot that Afflalo matched up on Ubaka for almost all of the first meeting between the teams. My bad - I tried to wipe the memory from my mind. But the point remains - the super-quick Collison's one issue as a defender is his size disadvantage with bigger guards. Whether he's guarding Ubaka or Wilkes, Cal has a height advantage and should try to establish that guard in the post on occasion, if for no other reason than to force double teams and create some open space for cutters.
Why not? It's not like we have a lot of good options. UCLA is extraordinarily difficult to screen on the perimeter, so opponents are often reduced to passing the ball around at twenty feet, hoping for a good look from three. Teams rarely get that good look, because UCLA gets out on shooters as well as anybody. I just don't see Cal's flex offense doing much against a superior opponent without the addition of some wrinkles. The Bears need to give UCLA something - anything - to worry about in the paint to create space for shooters on the perimeter. In the first game, Cal didn't do that, and the Bears scored 46 points. Ubaka's awful game had a lot to do with that, but do you remember a lot of good perimeter looks for the Bears? I don't.
(BTW, the Bruins Nation folks can be a prickly lot. Read the comments over there - they suggest that we regurgitate material from the hated Chronicle, which to our loyal readers should be high comedy. And associating the SF rags with our basketball content is an interesting line of attack, considering that I wouldn't think BN readers would want to be tied to the LA Times' stellar, unbiased football coverage.
Nestor's a very good guy, though, and has lots of passion for his school.)
Back to the game:
* Cal takes care of the basketball as well as any team this side of Pullman, which is one thing to feel good about tonight. UCLA is 2nd in the conference in turnover margin (at +3.12/game - WSU leads)
* Shipp will likely guard Christopher, which is an upgrade from the last two opponents. How will PC respond to a tougher match-up? Don't think we can expect 24/11 tonight...
* In the first game, Collison didn't have a good offensive game, but Afflalo more than made up for it and torched Cal in the second half. The Bears should expect a better performance from DC tonight - he's the reigning Pac-10 POW, having averaged 17 ppg and 9.0 apg in the sweep of the Arizona schools.
* Cal has beaten the Bruins at Pauley the last two seasons, and Howland has been playing that up with his team this week. I expect to see a pretty motivated bunch of Bruins.
* UCLA creamed Cal on the glass in the first matchup. The box score says the Bruins had 11 offensive rebounds, and I think they converted every one. BBR suggests that Cal might zone more than usual in an effort to slow the game down, but we know how Cal struggles to rebound out of the zone. I'm not sure I agree.
Prediction? The Bears will keep it fairly close and wilt in the second half. It's a depressingly familiar outcome for our short-handed Bears, but I can't see any other result against an inspired Bruins team that is playing pretty well.