PREDICTION - USC AT CALIFORNIA
We never thought we'd miss Eric Vierneisel
On Thursday night it looked like there was a big difference between a nine-man Bears squad with EV and an eight-man squad without him. Not to beat up on Alex Pribble
, who plays very good defense - probably better than Vierneisel. But Pribble can't be counted on to add the six to twelve points that Vierneisel would add on a nightly basis. And those six to twelve points are pretty important for a team that just scored 46 points in forty minutes.
So where do the points come from? The Bears can beat the Trojans if they get typical performances from each of their big two - Ryan Anderson and Ayinde Ubaka - and if another one or two guys step up as well. Against the Bruins Ubaka was apparently ill and of course was held scoreless. Without production from the point, Cal will continue to struggle against all but the dregs of the conference.
And USC of course is far from the dregs - they're an athletic team that plays excellent defense like their crosstown rivals. They are also pretty deep, bringing four good reserves off the bench. The Trojans are content to play a low-scoring game, which is good considering Cal's offensive woes.
So will the Bears step it up on the offensive end? It's anyone's guess. We're betting that they will, and that the Bears will take the must-win end of this LA home-stand by a whisker. We see Ayinde coming back and Theo having another good game. We see Gibson in foul trouble and a relatively poor shooting afternoon for USC from both the field and the line. Call it the power of positive thinking - or perhaps thinking with our heart instead of our head. In any event, call it:
California 68 USC 66
BLOG EXCHANGE WITH CONQUEST CHRONICLES
In the run up to tomorrow's important game with USC (3 PM, Comcast Sportsnet), we exchanged some questions with the good folks at Conquest Chronicles, who are undoubtedly enjoying this basketball season. Basketball is no longer something to pass the time through recruiting season in LA - the Trojans are legitimately thinking about NCAA tournament seeding. Our thanks to Jim and his readers for contributing to these answers; our answers to his questions will be up at some point at his site
: A simple question - did anyone in Trojan Nation expect the team to be this good in '07, or were you (like us) waiting on your Top 5 recruiting class?
: There were some people who said, "we're going to be really good next year," but those people were more or less written off. As a school that has had limited success (if any) on the basketball court, no one had any major expectations. That said, the potential was definitely there, with Gabe Pruitt and Nick Young in the lineup. The emergence of Taj Gibson as a big man and reliable scorer has been unforeseen, and a huge reason we've been successful thus far.
Tightwad Hill: USC has gone from being an awful defensive team (2005) to a pretty good defensive team ('06) to the sixth most efficient defense in the country (as defined by Ken Pomeroy). Fill Bear fans in on what accounts for this type of dramatic improvement.Conquest Chronicles
: Floyd's coaching has made 'SC a defensive juggernaut. 'SC plays relentless man to man defense, with Taj settling into a semi-zone sort of postition in the paint. This allows for ease of slipping screens, and most importantly, for Taj to step into a helpside position to stop players from driving and getting the easy layup. Additionally, freshmen Daniel Hackett and Dwight Lewis are damn quick, and make life difficult for opposing guards off of the bench.
: SC was playing pretty well with Gabe Pruitt on the sidelines, and we
wondered whether his return might actually interrupt a pretty good flow on offense. Seems our suspicions were completely unfounded. With GP back, how far can this team go? What would constitute a successful season for Tim Floyd?Conquest Chronicles
: Since no one had any expectations going into the season, a decent run into the pac-10 tournament and or a NCAA big would be considered wildly successful. Floyd has made the team very competitive in the most competitive league in the nation, and at this point, we've bought into him as the next Pete Carroll, but in the sport that we're not actually good at
. If the season were to end today, it would be considered wildly successful. Assuming we don't have a Washington-football-esque breakdown, it will be hard to call this season anything but a success.
Tightwad Hill: It seems as though SC has gotten itself into trouble on those occasions when it turns the ball over. What is Floyd doing to address this aspect of the Trojan game?Conquest Chronicles:
We've struggled here for indeterminate reasons, but turnovers are coming down. The biggest problem is that our turnovers have allowed teams to come back into games we should have won in a blowout because of the incredible momentum shifts they provide. Floyd keeps emphasizing holding onto the ball and making good looks, and we definitely are making progress. That said, it needs a lot of work. Another problem area has been free-throw shooting. If we're ugly from the line, it hurts, it did against Stanford, it did agains the Bruins, and it will against any other team who can keep it to single digits.
Tightwad Hill: The Trojans are shooting very well from three - Lodrick Stewart checks in at 44% and Nick Young is at 46% (on far fewer attempts). What accounts for the improvement from 2005-6 - are they simply hot or is the offense doing something that creates better looks?
Conquest Chronicles: The players have gotten better, but the offense has become much more patient. The Trojans are content to run 30 second plays before getting an open look. We are very satisfied with a game in the 50's or 60's because it suits our slow the ball down and get a good look offense. We CAN run the ball up and down the court, but we generally will pull the ball out, set something up, and then pass around until someone has an open look. Lodrick is a very streaky shooter, so be careful about him. Nick and Gabe are more consistent, but they also don't take as many shots outside the arc.
Tightwad Hill: Your prediction for the game.
Conquest Chronicles: Cal pulls away early b/c of home court advantage and because they need a win. The Trojans keep it close however, and eventually wear Cal down with their bench, building a decent lead that gets blown up by free-throw shooting and fouling at the end of the game. Final score: 71-64
Our thanks to Jim and his readers for contributing to this exchange, and our best wishes for a good, injury-free game.
USC - FIRST LOOK
The USC Trojans entered this road trip ranked #25 in the country - its first ranking since 2002 - and full of optimism. Last night's big loss at Stanford
knocked them back a peg, as the Lopez twins completely dominated the game on both ends. Brook Lopez had 12 blocked shots, which for purposes of comparison is more blocks than the entire Cal team has had in conference play.
Last year Cal owned the Trojans, sweeping the season series and then winning by 15 points in the first round of the Pac-10 Tournament. These are very different teams, however - Leon Powe and DeVon Hardin obviously aren't available to torment the Trojans inside. For its part, USC has added its own super freshman in Taj Gibson
. Gibson (left
) is very much the key to USC's improved defense, which ranks seventh in the country (according to Pomeroy)
. The Trojans hold opponents to a 39.5% shooting percentage (3rd in the nation). Gibson's ability to block and alter shots has allowed SC's defense to extend on shooters and limit good looks from the perimeter - Gibson is 82nd in the country in block percentage (again, according to Pomeroy).
Aside from Gibson, the Trojans are a familiar lot. Gabe Pruitt
) returns to Haas for the first time since L'affaire Victoria - he sat out the first part of the season with academic difficulties, but is now back to rain threes down upon the rest of the conference. He's the USC career leader with 131 three point shots over his two-plus year career. Senior Lodrick Stewart
starts alongside him in the backcourt - he has shot very well from three but can also slash to the basket. Nick Young
plays a wing - he's a 6'6" junior who is SC's best pure scorer (17.2 ppg) but can become a bit of a black hole. Against Stanford last night he went 5-19 from the floor.
The Trojans start Abdoulaye N'diaye
at center. He's not much of an offensive presence, but plays tough inside defense and averages 15.6 mpg. Off the bench, the Trojans' best player is freshman Daniel Hackett
, a 6'5" guard who leads the team in assists with 61. Fellow freshman Dwight Lewis
is yet another 6'5" guard who is more of a scorer than Hackett. Keith Wilkinson
and RouSean Cromwell
are two sophomores above 6'10" who will relieve N'diaye and Gibson in the front court.
USC is not a great matchup for the Bears - but then, who is when you're dressing only eight scholarship players? USC doesn't have a true point - their expected starter Ryan Francis was tragically murdered in the off-season in his home state of Louisiana. As a result, the Trojans have been occasionally vulnerable to turnovers, and they can fall out of a good rhythm offensively - they've scored fewer than 60 points in their last two outings. Cal will need to bring it on defense and limit second shots to keep the score at a manageable level to have a chance of winning on Saturday.
UCLA 62 CALIFORNIA 46
A game that looked somewhat winnable in the first half turned into a blowout in the second. This was the worst offensive performance by California in recent memory.
What went right? Not much. Ryan Anderson had a nice first half, and Theo Robertson played well throughout. Cal played very good man defense in the first, drawing several charges and contesting shot after shot. Omar had his second consecutive plus-50% game from the field, though we wish he'd force the issue more. Braun went to Taylor Harrison and Alex Pribble more than usual in the first, perhaps to prepare for a better second half performance.
It wasn't to be. Ayinde Ubaka would probably prefer to forget this - the worst game he's played in a California uniform by a long shot. On defense, Cal played man instead of zone, but it didn't help much on the boards. UCLA had 18 offensive rebounds
- many of which were simply hustle rebounds by Aboya, Mata and Mbah a Moute. Cal shot nine free throws
in a home game. That's not because the refs screwed us, it's because UCLA plays sound defense and we didn't move the ball well after the first seven or eight minutes. We became a jump shooting team, and not a very good one at that.
On to USC. We'll have a blog exchange up for a game that Cal needs - if for no other reason than to wipe this one from our collective memory. GO BEARS!
PREDICTION - UCLA AT CALIFORNIA
UCLA reported yesterday that Luc Richard M'bah a Moute (right
) will start at the four, sending fellow Cameroonian (is that correct?) Alfred Aboya to the bench. This is not good news, since the Prince will be even more difficult for Cal to handle in the paint than his fellow countryman. Enough of that, on to the good news about this game.
First a programming note - the game starts at 6:00 pm
on Fox Sports Bay Area
and a bunch of other FSN stations (but not Fox Sports West, for some reason). Big portions of the country will be able to check out Haas Hysteria tonight. Let's hope the Bears give them something to watch.
We think they will. UCLA grinds teams with suffocating defensive pressure in the half-court. Teams with substandard point guard play shouldn't really bother with the Bruins (we're looking at you, Stanford) unless UCLA simply fails to show up (which they haven't done under Howland).
If there's one thing Cal has this year, it's good point play. Ayinde Ubaka isn't the type of guard who can dissect a defense and consistently make the right pass at the right moment. That's what many Bear fans have been looking for ever since Jason Kidd left, and it's simply not what Ubaka's good at. He does do two important things, though. He can make over-pursuing defenses pay by scoring on the drive or from the perimeter. And - this is the important part - he takes pretty good care of the basketball. The whole team does, as a matter of fact, ranking 15th in the country in turnover percentage. We see Ayinde having a big night tonight - and we'll need it.As Nestor at Bruins Nation points out
, Lorenzo Mata will have his hands full with Mr. Anderson, and hopefully this forces Howland to go to his bench more. Not that his bench players aren't great - they are, but they don't block shots and rebound like Mata (who is the 82nd best player in the nation
in defensive rebound % - according to Pomeroy).
You're getting sleepy....
All of this suggests that Cal will give the Bruins a game. Can they actually pull the upset? Sure, if they can reverse the second-half slide that has plagued them since Hardin's injury - UCLA has shown they are apt to start slowly against inferior opponents. The problem is that UCLA is a mirror image of Cal, enjoying a big second-half advantage over almost all of its conference opponents (Arizona excepted). They bang, they reach, they pester offenses and all this harassment eventually takes its toll. The home crowd should add some fuel to the Bears' fire, but it's hard for us to see Cal ending the second-half blues against this particular opponent. Unless Pribble and Harrison contribute valuable minutes and play out of their heads, of course, and everyone stays out of foul trouble. Which could happen - after all, it's Bruin Week.
UCLA 70 California 66
Full house tonight
OUR EARLY PICK FOR OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR
In the hours since we posted that Mike Dunbar has left Cal for the land of 10,000 lakes, we've thought long and hard about who would be the best choice to replace him. And we've come to a pretty firm opinion that we'd like to share with Coach Tedford, his staff and the Golden Bear Nation. The best choice to be the new offensive coordinator at Cal is:
Let's drop the pretense. Tedford is a great - not good, great - offensive coach. Why filter that asset through an established OC who a) probably isn't as terrific as Tedford and b) would inevitably have at least slightly different ideas than the boss about play selection, general philosophy and the like? Tedford is willing to defer to his coaches to an extent - the Bears play Bob Gregory's defense, not Tedford's - but when it comes to offense JT has shown that he runs the show.
Now, it makes little sense to literally give Tedford the OC title. He needs someone to literally call the plays in line with Cal's scheme and...well...coordinate
things. For all his offensive prowess, Tedford has also demonstrated the administrative abilities necessary to run a successful program. Graduation rates are up, staff morale has been pretty good, and the team is almost always prepared to play. This isn't to suggest that Tedford couldn't handle both roles - a certain head coach in Los Angeles has had quite a bit of success wearing a coordinator's hat. But it's a risk, and we'd prefer not to add new burdens to our workaholic head man.
Based on history, it would seem that an established coordinator isn't likely to be comfortable running Tedford's offense. George Cortez worked for a while because he was content to stay in the background and focus on offensive execution. But even Cortez eventually left. All the speculation about OC's at other schools (or former OCs' like Tom Cable - who by the by is probably going to wind up in Westwood) is pointless, in our view. History suggests that Cal would be back in this same position a couple of years later.
We need a coordinator who can work with Tedford, implement his schemes and be satisfied with such. This last criteria suggests a position coach, as opposed to a coordinator making a horizontal move. The first criteria suggests someone who has a track record and comfort level with JT. Put together, it seems to us that this is the perfect moment to promote Ron Gould
Gould is the only staff holdover from the Tom Holmoe era, and has done an outstanding job working with Cal's running backs during his career. He's also an important part of Cal's recruiting effort. Gould would certainly welcome the promotion, and we're sure he'd be up to wearing both hats for a time. Tedford could bring in another staff member - an ace recruiter, perhaps? - to assist with the backs, if necessary.
Any other ideas?
PREVIEW - UCLA AT CALIFORNIA
We've devoted lots of time to tomorrow's game with UCLA (6:00 - FSN) because it's a game with lots of upside potential for the Bears. Lose, and well you expect to lose to the #3 team in the land. Win, and you begin to see the outlines of a NCAA bid thanks to a skyrocketing RPI. Let's have a look at the matchups, with thanks to Bruins Nation
for lots of excellent hotlinked material.When Cal has the ball...
We'll start here, since defense is what defines Ben Howland's Bruins
. While the Pac-10 has a number of teams that play sound technical defense (Cal, Wazzu, USC), no team gets after it like UCLA. They deny even the simple perimeter pass, and extend pressure coverage well past the arc. That's why UCLA leads the conference in steals at 8.4 a game. Frankly, we haven't seen CBB defense like this since Nolan Richardson's 40 minutes of hell in the early 1990s.
Fortunately, Cal takes care of the basketball. In fact the Bears are 15th best in the country at offensive turnover % (as defined by Ken Pomeroy). Having a senior point guard helps - but everybody (outside of Vierneisel) is doing a good job in this respect. So here's our first key to the game - how will backup Jerome Randle handle having Darren Collison (left) in his shorts for 15 or so minutes tomorrow night
? If Randle turns it over a few times, the Bruins can break for cheap baskets that are very difficult to make up.
Luc Richard M'bah a Moute is a question mark for tomorrow's game - Howland held him out of the Arizona game with a hyper-extended right knee and he's likely a gametime decision. If the Prince cannot go, then Alfred Aboya slides into his spot at the four (with Lorenzo Mata at the five). Aboya is a very solid if unspectacular player who lacks the explosiveness of the Prince on either end. Theo can perhaps out-quick Aboya, though that's far from certain.
Ryan Anderson needs to run Mata ragged. Mata is a solid post defender, but we're not convinced he can keep up with Anderson, who's adept at scoring from outside. No doubt Braun will put Ryan on his horse on the baseline in an effort to open up the middle to cutters and second-chance points.
Ayinde Ubaka enjoys a size advantage over Collison, and the Bears need to find ways to establish Ayinde inside as long as Collison checks him. If that happens, Howland may switch Arron Afflalo (right) to Ubaka, at which point Omar needs to step up. (We're frankly hoping that Howland makes this move since it would free Ayinde up to run the point and not worry about the inside game). This would be our second key to the game - Omar Wilkes.
Cal desperately needs its junior wing to build on last Saturday's fine performance at Oregon on the offensive end and take the game to UCLA. If Cal becomes a two-man team, it will almost surely lose this game.
We'd ordinarily say that Cal will try to chew clock and go deep into their possessions, but after the Oregon track meet we're not so sure. One more thing - the Bears cannot settle for threes against UCLA. The Bruins have the 18th highest ratio of 3-pointers defended to total FG attempts; and we're guessing that the majority of those aren't good looks.When UCLA has the ball...
Cal will likely run a fair bit of zone against the Bruins. It makes sense based on both personnel and past results. UCLA struggled against ASU's 3-2 matchup zone
, though they performed better against Arizona's zone last Saturday running a four-guard lineup at times.
The Bruins have lots of shooters - they shoot 53.3% from the field and 38.9% from three. Collison is above 50% from three, and Afflalo is dangerous (if a bit streaky - remember the NC game last year). Michael Roll is very dangerous off the bench. Still, it's worth risking a hot shooting night to prevent penetration by Collison and Afflalo, who figures to have a significant advantage in his matchup with Omar Wilkes.
Collison was absolutely unconscious in non-conference play, shooting 59.3% from the field. He's cooled off a bit in the Pac-10
, at just a bit below 45% from the field. Josh Shipp will be a difficult matchup for freshman Patrick Christopher.
Which brings us to our third key to the game - improved rebounding out of the zone
. Cal must keep Aboya, Mata and the rest of the Bruins off the offensive glass to win this game. This is the area where losing M'bah a Moute hurts UCLA the most - he is so difficult to check inside that he creates lots of second-chance points. Even without him, the Bears have a formidable task here - Aboya (right) had six offensive boards against Arizona.
One last thing - UCLA is not a particularly good free-throw shooting team at 65.2%.Now the fourth key to the game - getting out to a fast start on both ends
. This has been a strong suit for the Bears in the last month, as they opened up big leads against Stanford and Oregon. They need a similar performance against the Bruins, who have been a bit vulnerable to slow starts
. UCLA is a deep team - throwing very good reserves like Roll, Bryant Westbrook and James Keefe onto the court to eat minutes and wear down opponents. The second half will likely be a struggle for California, so it's very important to get off to a quick start.
Prediction to follow tomorrow. GO BEARS!
GOODBYE, MR. DUNBAR
The wires are now reporting that Cal OC Mike Dunbar has accepted an OC position at the University of Minnesota
. File this one under "failed experiments." We have mixed emotions about this - on the one hand, it's clear that the working relationship between JT and Dunbar was far from perfect - the fact that he would make a downgrade move suggests that he was eager to get out of Berkeley. Further, our personnel doesn't support Dunbar's version of the spread offense.
On the other hand, it's never good to have this sort of staff volatility so "late" in the off-season (and two weeks from LOI day). We'll see what JT does in response; we don't begin to know who might be on his short list to replace Dunbar. Any thoughts?
WHERE THIS TEAM STANDS
Let's go back to the days before Christmas 2006. Cal had just announced that DeVon Hardin was out for 8-12 weeks. Cal stood at 8-3 against a fairly soft pre-season schedule and had suffered an inexplicable home loss to San Diego. It was increasingly clear that Nikola Knezevic would not return for a long time, if at all, in 2007. Ahead was a road trip to Chicago to face DePaul, and then Tucson, Tempe and Palo Alto. Things looked bleak
Raise your hand if you thought, forty days later, Cal would still be standing at 12-7, having won at Stanford and against Washington, and having given the #9 team in the nation all they could handle on the road. Even more important, it feels like Cal is improving as it adjusts to life without the big guy. For that, we've got to give Ben Braun a lot of credit. He's the same coach as he's been for the previous nine years - conservative motion offense, big emphasis on defensive fundamentals, solid, unspectacular. But this relatively young, short-handed team is improving under his watch - that much is undeniable. The Good - Building Confidence
Check out this quote from the Jonathan Okanes' writeup
of the Oregon game in the CC Times:
"The balance was excellent for their team," Cal coach Ben Braun said. "It wasn't about stopping one or two guys. It wasn't one guy out there. It took everyone on their team to beat us today....If they are the ninth-ranked team in the country, we're one of the teams that's right there in the mix."
Now Ben Braun doesn't really believe that. We don't believe that. There's an appreciable gap between super-talented Oregon and Ben's ragtag bunch of Bears. But we love that Ben uses his post-game presser to stoke the confidence of a team that needs every bit of it. Ben starts two freshmen, and one of them happens to be Cal's most important player in Ryan Anderson. His wing, Omar Wilkes, has shown a frustrating tendency to shrink into his shell on the offensive end and not look for shots. Every one of the Bears knows that they dress nine scholarship players, and that they should
be losing more often than they win.
After Hardin's injury, we wrote that we would judge Ben on the team's improvement; we worried that the team's confidence might evaporate
in conference play. The above quote suggests that Ben is mindful of the need to buck his Bears up - we can't quantify what this means, but we'd guess it has something to do with Cal's play over the last two weeks.The Good - Improved Rebounding
In this week's presser
, Braun discussed Cal's recent improvement on the glass:
"A week ago, I challenged our team, I told them if we don't rebound we aren't going to win many games. We solved the rebound issue against Oregon State, we outrebounded them by four. Washington is the best rebounding team we will play, and we outrebounded them by (11). Giving up offensive rebounds and put-backs, and putting opponents at the foul line are ways we are giving points away."
The Bears' improved team performance coincides precisely with this speech (we're not counting the Stanford win, which was due to Ayinde's incredible play and Stanford's generally poor effort).The Pretty Good - Balance on Offense
Offensively, Cal has got to be more than a two-man show. Fortunately, there are signs in recent weeks that other Bears are stepping up with confidence. Theo Robertson, in particular, has looked much more comfortable on the offensive end, scoring 14 against UW and 19 in the loss to Oregon. Omar Wilkes is beginning to look for his shot, hoisting it up nine times against Oregon and 14 times against the Huskies. And the Bears would not have beaten Oregon State on the road without 13 points off the bench from sharp-shooting Eric Vierneisel.
How far can Cal go this year? As far as Theo, Omar and Eric can take them. The Bad - Second Half Defense
Still, there are some intractable issues plaguing Cal on the defensive end. Coach Braun alluded to the numbers problem facing his short-handed Bears:
"If teams are making contested shots, you can live with it, we just have to accept that Oregon is one of the better shooting teams, especially when (Aaron) Brooks is on. We can give up lay-ups and fouls, which puts our team at a disadvantage or we can hold in and make teams beat us from the outside. I think we have got to play those percentages a little. Thus far, teams have knocked down some shots. If you change that and rush out hard and they throw in, our guys are in foul trouble they are going to the free throw line and scoring easy shots. Both Oregon State and Oregon hit some shots, and I don't know if we are going to take some of those away."
I'm not sure I follow his logic with respect to Oregon, which doesn't have a dominant post game. I thought Cal was simply slow to get out on shooters in the 2nd half, which suggested fatigue and better ball movement by the Ducks. But his point in general is valid - the Bears have to protect Anderson from foul trouble, and this can lessen defensive intensity on the perimeter. Ben and the team deserve credit for distributing fouls efficiently (only two Golden Bears have fouled out in conference play - Wilkes and Christopher at ASU) while playing fairly effective defense.
Still, it's clear that Cal has a second-half issue. Since Hardin went down, the Bears have been outscored in the second half of every game except Washington. (Oddly, the Bears have smoked both overtime opponents - UW and ASU - in the extra period). The DePaul and Oregon games looked very similar, as Cal's sluggish reactions left shooter after shooter open on the perimeter. People focus on Hardin, but we could also really use Knezevic right about now.The X Factor - Fatigue
Logic suggests that short-handed teams will tire as their seasons progress. If so, the Bears are doubly jinxed, since they rely on three freshmen who are getting their first exposure to the more physical brand of basketball at the D-1 level. But we're not so sure that Cal's 2nd half issues will extrapolate to the entire season. After all, it's late January and Cal has just played its best three-game stretch of the season. We'll have to wait to see whether the Bears can keep their intensity up over the remainder of conference play.The Outlook - Hazy
Which is a good thing - we thought in late December that this team would be lucky to qualify for the NIT. Now it appears that the NIT is well within reach, and recent outcomes suggest that the Bears have an outside shot of sneaking into the NCAAs. We haven't run the math yet on what it will take to get into the tourney, but let's say that Cal has to win at least seven more games to have a shot. That would put the Bears at 11-9 in a tough conference, with 19 wins overall. Looking at the rest of the schedule, it's vital that the Bears get at least a split at home this weekend. A tall order against two ranked teams, but them's the breaks.
EIGHT GREAT WINS
As promised, here's a list of eight memorable Cal wins over the Bruins for your enjoyment and inspiration during Bruin Week:#8. Whupping
California 64 UCLA 51, at Pauley Pavilion
January 22, 2005
Cal had beaten UCLA at Pauley before, but never had they completely demoralized the Bruins and their fans. UCLA's fans lustily booed at halftime, and then left en masse
with about four minutes remaining. And why not? Cal entered the game at 8-8 and 1-5 in conference. UCLA, coming off a Thursday night loss to Stanford, was 10-5 and 4-3. You couldn't have told it from the game, as Cal's defense suffocated the Bruins, holding them to 23% shooting and an almost nine minute scoreless drought in the first half. UCLA scored only four baskets in the last 6:58. David Paris scored twenty points and Rod Benson added 14 points and 14 boards for the Bears.#7. The Valentine's Day Upset
California 82 UCLA 79, at Harmon Gymnasium
February 14, 1991
Cal had been blown out by 17 at Pauley Pavilion a month earlier, and the Bruins came in ranked #15 in the nation behind Don McLean and Tracy Murray. But Cal raced out to a ten point first-half advantage behind Billy Dreher, who would finish with 24 points. UCLA started the second half on a 26-7 run and built a seven point lead with ten to play. But then UCLA's offense stalled and didn't score a basket for the next six minutes. When the Bruins looked up, Cal was up six and would hold on for the memorable upset.#6. Defense
California 69 UCLA 51, at Haas Pavilion
February 21, 2002
UCLA hadn't scored fewer than 64 points all season, but Cal's league-leading defense shackled the Bruins. Amit Tamir scored 18 points and Brian Wethers added 15. This game was memorable for a flagrant elbow by Matt Barnes on Shantay Legans with 2:25 remaining. Barnes was ejected and later suspended for a game and the Haas crowd screamed for his blood as he exited the arena. The loss dropped #25 UCLA out of the conference race.#5. Happy New Year
California 68 UCLA 61, at Pauley Pavilion
December 31, 2005
UCLA entered the game at #11 (and would go on to win the conference and finish national runners-up); Cal had not beaten a team ranked that high in seven years. But the Bears shot the lights out (66.7% in the second half) and Leon Powe controlled the boards on both ends. Down by four with 1:30 remaining, UCLA's Jordan Farmar sank a jumper and then Aaron Afflalo stole the ball from Ayinde Ubaka under the Bruins' basket on the ensuing possession. Ubaka, making perhaps the play of his career, stole it right back and scored the layup that essentially clinched it. Ayinde finished with 18 points, and Omar Wilkes and Richard Midgely added 15 apiece.#4. Jason, Jimmah. Jimmah, Jason.
California 104 UCLA 82, at Pauley Pavilion
January 24, 1993
Jim Harrick thought it would be a good idea to attack Cal's heralded point guard with pressure. Jason Kidd and mates dropped a hundred on the Bruins for the first of three consecutive Bear victories at Pauley. Kidd navigated the Bruin press effortlessly, and set up bigs Al Grigsby and Brian Hendrick inside. Grigsby scored 17 in the first half, and he and Hendrick both finished with 23. Jerrod Haase added 16 points for the Bears, despite the death of his father the day before. Cal would go on to make the Sweet 16 that year.#3. Braun's first win
California 71 UCLA 68, at Pauley Pavilion
February 6, 1997
UCLA had won 18 in a row at Pauley before Ed Gray came to town. The Pac-10 POY dropped 29 points on the Bruins, and Randy Duck added 17 to bring the Bears into a first-place tie with UCLA, Arizona and USC. Gray's short jumper with 1:14 left put the Bears up for good at 67-66. Charles O'Bannon said it best after the game: "(Cal) wanted the game more than us. That's the bottom line." This was Ben Braun's first victory over UCLA.#2. Sweep
California 92 UCLA 88, at Pauley Pavilion
February 24, 1994
This looked like a repeat of the 1993 contest for the first 37 minutes. Cal controlled the game on both ends behind Lamond Murray's 36 points and 23 points and 11 assists from Jason Kidd, and led by 16 with three to play. UCLA then embarked upon a 15-1 run, sparked by seven points from Shon Tarver. The Bruins had the ball with a chance to tie but Cal's over-pursuing defense forced them into a shot clock violation, and free throws by Kidd and Murray iced the game. Cal had swept the Bruins for the first time in history.#1. The Streak is Over
California 75 UCLA 67, at Harmon Gymnasium
January 25, 1986
At Lou Campanelli's welcome press conference, a reporter asked him when he planned to end Cal's 52-game losing streak to UCLA. Campanelli had never heard of the streak, and did a quick consult with AD Dave Maggard. Stepping back to the microphone, he said the streak would end "the first time we play them." NBC was there for a national broadcast, and Cal students slept outside Harmon for a choice view of history. They got it, thanks not so much to KJ but to career games by Chris Washington and Dave Butler. UCLA held a 62-60 lead with four to play when Washington scored on a layup. He then stole the inbounds pass and dunked for a two-point Cal lead. Washington finished with 19 points and Butler added 23 points and 10 rebounds. Following the game, Cal fans stormed the court and players cut down the nets, celebrating the end of 26 years of futility.
Yes, yes - I know it's also Trojan week. No intent to disparage our suddenly-dangerous friends in cardinal and gold. It's just that the home game with UCLA gets us fired up like no other contest on the calendar, including Stanford. We'll break down the Bruins starting later today, and also have a look at the most satisfying Cal wins over UCLA in the past 25 years. For now, an historical overview.
For the duration of the Wooden era, the relationship was aspirational - i.e., Cal wanted to be UCLA in hoops. Then the Wizard yielded his empire, and bequeathed it to a series of unworthy successors (Gene Bartow excepted). There was the wholly unqualified Walt Hazzard, the almost wholly unqualified Larry Farmer, the eminently qualified but restless Larry Brown. Cal always lost against the Bruins, but it was fun to watch the Bears scrap and scrape with their more talented foes. Well, it was fun until the losing streak grew to 52 consecutive games.And then this happened
. UCLA fans scoffed that Cal would put so much emphasis on a single game - but this was the most important athletic victory of my time as a Cal fan. In some ways it was inevitable, as Cal emerged from a string of disastrous head coaches and finally hired a guy who would coach a few years before becoming a total disaster. But it hardly felt that way at the time, when Chris Washington, Dave Butler and Kevin Johnson passed, ran, and blocked their way to the 75-67 upset. The streak was dead.
The relationship between the two schools changed that night. Oh, UCLA was still usually better than Cal, but gone were the massive talent imbalances that characterized the previous three decades. Now Cal could hang with the Bruins; take their best shot on most nights. The Bruins have gone 28-15 v Cal since 1985-6, a clear advantage - but Cal has always had a puncher's chance in their matchups.
UCLA hired the despicable Jim Harrick, who was a delight to jeer and harass. He won a national title, but occasionally struggled against Cal, getting swept in 1994. The Bruins' gains were soon frittered away in the person of Steve Lavin - a cardboard character from a bad sitcom impersonating the head coach of the most storied program in the land. His oily duplicity and staggering ineptitude made rooting against UCLA a joy indeed.
Today of course all this history feels like just that - history. There's a new sheriff in Westwood, and he is the perfect antidote to decades of mediocre-to-poor stewardship. He takes no shit from anyone - not from his own players, and not from UCLA's famously hands-on alumni. He'll recruit the best players in the land and then sit their asses on the bench if they don't play his type of defense. He is in charge, and we're playing in his conference.
Makes a Bear nostalgic for the old days.
What a strange recruiting season. Weeks ago we lamented that the '07 class was DB-heavy with too few defensive linemen. Then Terry Mixon
verballed to Wazzu, and CB Chris Conte
de-committed to UCLA (which wasn't a big surprise). Chaz Thompson
, a juco from Siskiyous, said he would follow Dave Kragthorpe to Louisville - Thompson might have competed for a starting job at corner had he come to Berkeley. Finally, safety Glenn Love
chose the Bruins over Cal - and now Cal has only two DBs poised to sign LOIs on 2/7 (Las Vegas corner DJ Campbell
and Chicago safety Sean Cattouse
). Not a big need position, so no need to panic (though Donovan Warren would certainly be welcome). Someone - probably DeCoud - is almost certainly making a switch to corner now.
On the D-line front, Long Beach Poly DE Kenny Rowe
chose Oregon. Hawaiian DT Matthew Masifilo
announced for Stanford today. We're hoping that Christian Tofou
from Sacto Grant Union rounds out the three-man class, which would be a mild disappointment in terms of numbers. Can JT pull another D-lineman out of his hat? We hope so.
Still in the mix for two linebackers (Malcolm Smith
& Malachi Lewis
), though we don't see a lot of reasons to be hopeful about either. No HS LBs would be a disappointment (even if juco Devon Bishop
does come as predicted).
The Annual Surprise Recruit was unveiled over the weekend - it's John Tyndall
, a LB/FB/ST guy from Pacific Grove HS. Made his biggest impact as a LB in high school, but maybe a step slow to play outside backer in the Pac 10. The team says he projects as a FB and special teams guy - hmm, didn't we just lose one of those
? Holds an Army offer, which suggests that he is a hard worker. We can always use more of those. Tyndall (right
) will greyshirt and count against the '08 class (he can be shifted to '07 at JT's discretion).
We've lost out on a few priority recruits over the past week - will Tedford hold scholarships back for 2008, or will he take fliers on some lesser-rated guys to round out this class? That's the question for the next couple of weeks.
THE SWEET SIXTEEN - #13 - BRIAN HENDRICK
#13 - BRIAN HENDRICK - FORWARD/CENTER (1990-1993)
The forgotten man of modern Cal basketball. When Blues Old and Young discuss the great players in recent history, Hendrick's name rarely enters the conversation. His timing was bad - Hendrick was a three-time all-conference pick on mediocre teams during the fall of Lou Campanelli. Then he hurt his knee, and a certain heralded point guard arrived and sucked the oxygen from Harmon Gymnasium, and that was that. No NBA career - lost in the shuffle.
It's a shame, too, because Brian Hendrick was the best freshman not named Shareef or Jason that I've seen at Cal. He averaged 14.9 ppg and 7.6 rpg as Cal's first true dominant post player on both ends since Ansley Truitt (Leonard Taylor was great, but wasn't as dynamic as Brian). In that freshman year he teamed with Keith Smith and juniors Ryan Drew and Roy Fisher to lead the Bears into the round of 32 with a gutty 65-63 win over Bobby Knight and Indiana. In that game Hendrick led all players with 10 boards and added 13 points against Hoosier star Eric Anderson.
As a sophomore he rounded out his offensive game with a mid-range jumper and upped his average to 17.6 ppg, but the Bears began their slide into disarray. Drew was benched, and a weird 3-guard rotation of Sean Harrell, Billy Dreher and fan favorite Bill Elleby never delivered consistently on either end of the court. Even the additions of Lamond Murray and Al Grigsby in 1991-2 couldn't save the Bears from another losing season - this one at 10-18. It was in mid-February of that junior campaign that Hendrick dislocated his knee against Stanford. He immediately underwent surgery and was lost for the remainder of the season. He still won all-conference honors for his work, the third time in a row he was selected to the Pac-10's first team. To this day he is one of only two men in school history to receive that honor.
Then came Kidd, and Cal fans couldn't understand why the team didn't play better. Some blamed Hendrick, who was still somewhat tentative after surgery, for inexplicable losses to James Madison and Cornell. In truth the team was in a state of mutiny, tired of Campanelli's tirades and quick trigger with struggling players. Hendrick, as the team's leader, certainly played a role in the rebellion that brought assistant Todd Bozeman to the head job. At the time, it seemed selfish, but with some distance and perspective it was the right thing to do - but the wrong person to promote.
But in 1993 it sure seemed like a good idea, as Cal won nine of its last ten games. Hendrick, playing with more confidence due to both his healing knee and new head coach, posted a number of double-doubles down the stretch and demanded double teams that freed up Murray, Kidd and K.J. Roberts from the perimeter. In the NCAAs that year Hendrick blocked three shots in the first round win over LSU, and then collected 12 boards in the upset of Duke.
Brian Hendrick was a 6'9" tweener with a tricky knee, and he went undrafted by the NBA. Undaunted, he has built a nice career for himself in Japan and China, where he currently plays for the Fujian team.