PREVIEW & PREDICTION - ARIZONA AT CALIFORNIAFirst off, let me state unequivocally that Lute Olson does not have Parkinson's Disease.
Believe it or not, Lute spent the first part of his presser this week denying rumors that he's suffering from the disease. He says that his hands shake in anger and frustration because his team doesn't play defense, which sounds pretty plausible to me. It's pretty sad that these types of rumors circulate and are used by opposing programs in the recruiting wars. Here's a link to video of his remarks, courtesy of the Arizona Daily Star.
When he finally gets around to discussing Cal, he goes directly to the heart of their chance for the upset:
"They're a team that shoots a lot of threes, they create a lot of matchup problems because they have four players - perimeter guys - almost guard sized, 6'5, 6'6 and under...and Anderson, the guy that's called the post is really a perimeter player...it does create a matchup problem similar to what we had with USC, where it was hard for us to play Jordan (Hill) at the same time as Ivan (Radenovic)....It's not a team you can zone well because they have a lot of good outside shooters...you step Anderson to the outside and you've got five outside shooters."
Lute's making some important points here - the Wildcats have been rolling out a starting lineup that includes the freshman Hill alongside Radenovic, Marcus Williams, Chase Budinger and point guard Mustafa Shakur. The long Hill is much more comfortable banging down low than chasing a mobile player around the floor. So too is Radenovic.
Also, the Cats like to play a fair amount of matchup zone, and as Lute notes they may find it difficult to do so against Cal (if the shots are falling). Their defensive shortcomings are magnified in man - Marcus Williams in particular can struggle with dribble drive. When Arizona went to zone in the first matchup between the two teams, Cal got hot from outside and climbed back within shouting distance of the Cats.
Since Lute compares Cal to USC, it's worth noting that the Trojans swept Arizona this year, shooting above 50% from the floor and 40% from three in each victory. So Cal might be able to do some interesting things on offense.
Defense is quite another matter. Arizona is one of the more efficient offenses in Division 1 - 2nd in the nation in adjusted efficiency according to Pomeroy - and in the first game they torched Cal for 60.3% (72% in the first half). They also shot 28 free throws to Cal's 8; that's unlikely to be repeated tonight, although Arizona is tops in the nation in limiting free throw opportunities to opponents. (This is perhaps the greatest tribute to Lute Olson - bench jockey supreme. Seriously, I don't think there's ever been a guy who works the refs more effectively than he.)
But the questions persist - who guards the 6'7" Williams? Who stays with Budinger when Arizona does have both bigs in the game? If Cal had the first clue about how to play an effective zone, I'd recommend it here, but the memories of the USC game are still too fresh. Between them, Williams, Budinger and Radenovic went a combined 19-23 in January - and I don't think Cal has become a better defensive team since then. In fact, Cal has fallen to 131st in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency, surrendering an abysmal 52.3% shooting percentage by opponents.
Given these numbers, an upset of the Wildcats is probably not in the cards. Should be a relatively tight game, though, and the Vegas line (2.5 points) reflects this. We'll probably have to wait 'till next year, and hope to send Lute off into the sunset with at least one loss at the hands of a much better Bears team.