PAC-10 SEMIS - CAL v OREGONWho would've thunk it? Cal will now play its third game in 72 hours against the Oregon Ducks, who aren't the best opponent for a tired bunch of Bears. The Ducks are smallish and quick, and our Bears have tailed off in the second half of each of the previous two games this season. Of course, the same was true of each UCLA game, so let's not despair.
What's interesting about the Ducks is what they did defensively to Arizona yesterday. The Cats had a big size advantage up front with Radenovic and Hill, and Oregon effectively fronted the post and denied entry passes from Shakur and Williams. Radenovic took seven shots all day, making only two. Hill had better success (15/14) but he was about it for Arizona. Budinger, Williams and Shakur went a combined 11-37 from the floor as Oregon's swarming defenders contested every shot.
Arizona's an up and down team, so you could expect a collective off night. But Oregon showed something very different yesterday - they really haven't played that type of defense since early in the season (notably in a road win against a very different type of offense in Georgetown).
Cal is a different matter - tonight's game matches two of the more 3-happy teams in the conference. Cal shoots lots of threes because it's our strength - our "five" has shooting guard range on his jumper and the Bears can't score much from the post. Oregon shoots lots of threes because they shoot lots of threes. While it's true that Leunen is their only scoring big, the Ducks have lots of effective slashers and penetrators who can break down defenders and score in the lane. Too often they seem to just get lazy and settle for threes.
The key to beating Oregon is pretty simple (if difficult to pull off). Shut down dribble penetration, and hope for an off night from their shooters. Can Cal's back court pull off another terrific defensive performance? On the other end, can Ryan Anderson and Theo Robertson score inside and perhaps get Leunen into foul trouble (as he did in the win at Haas)? Those are the questions for tonight's game. If Cal answers them and somehow keeps their legs, then they can absolutely make it to their second consecutive conference final.
In light of yesterday's stunner, I won't even attempt to offer a prediction - I'll just leave you with a hearty and emphatic: