CAL "PISTOL-WHIPS" UCLA
Not really, of course, but I just had to make light of the least accurate prediction in a long line of really bad Tightwad Hill predictions.
This game was all about Ayinde Ubaka. 29 points, 5-6 from three, and the clutch basket down the stretch. Let's be fair - Ayinde's senior year was a mild disappointment. A bad flu bug limited his effectiveness, and he sparred (justifiably) with Braun after the horrific loss at Wazzu. This amazing performance doesn't erase the frustration of a .500 campaign, but it's the perfect capper to a distinguished career. Congratulations, Ayinde.
This game was also about Arron Afflalo taking only seven shots in 38 minutes. Even the POY can have an off day, but you have to also give some credit to the Bears for playing inspired defense. A completely different performance in terms of intensity and communication on the defensive end. And, it didn't hurt that the rebound differential was only 31-29.
Bruins Nation is taking this game as they should - as a troubling development, but hardly a sign of the apocalypse. Afflalo won't play a worse game the rest of the way out. The Bruins looked a little flat on defense, and they struggled mightily from the stripe. And Cal - despite their ups and downs this season - is one of the more talented and disciplined 8 seeds in the history of this conference's tournament. When an opponent plays badly in all phases of the game, and one of Cal's two big guns goes off, then sure, the Bears can beat lots of teams. I never thought all of those conditions would be met today, against the Pac-10 champions.
Now of course we have to deal with a question that seemed unthinkable just 12 hours ago: Can Cal win the Pac-10 tournament? The answer's still probably "no," but you've got to think our Bears have at least a puncher's chance against the Ducks. After that, who knows? I'll have something up on Oregon tomorrow - until then, drink in the most surprising Cal basketball victory in, well, ever. (Or was the Duke upset in the '94 tourney more surprising? Thoughts?)