This is a tough game to call (on at 6:30 on Fox Sports national). On the one hand, Ken Pomeroy predicts a two-point Cal victory. On the other hand, numbers can be misleading.
It's hard for us to imagine how the Bears can cope with two healthy Lopez brothers inside and on the glass. At the same time, Stanford has difficulties of its own on the defensive end. Their height discourages penetration and inside scoring, but the Cardinal have been vulnerable to teams with strong perimeter games. If we knew that Ubaka and Vierneisel would be at 100%, we'd probably pick the Bears. Ubaka should be ready to go, but Vierneisel is still hobbled with a bad ankle and won't play much (if at all). Given this, we're forced to concede the strong possibility of a season split with our hated rivals. Prove us wrong, you Bears!
In recent days there have been some rather uncivil exchanges between Cal fans and, I guess, tree fans. We've had to switch the blog to moderated comments, which is disappointing, but the hassle is better than a stream of obscene one-word posts from trolls.
That's of course what makes the Stadium story so irresistible to the mainstream media - the antagonists hate each other. On one side you've got Cal football fans, most of whom attended the University and suffered through at least four years of living in the People's Republic of Public Filth and Assorted Madness. On the other hand you've got the professional protesting classes, who love trees and conflict and hate the University and most other large concentrations of wealth and influence. These groups would argue about the weather, let alone a large construction project.
Regardless of one's views on the project, we can all agree that anonymous posts filled with ad hominem attacks on the character of the other side add nothing to the debate. So we're inviting anyone who is legitimately involved with one of our four antagonists - the Tightwad Hill crowd, the City of Berkeley, the Panoramic View homeowners, or the Oak Tree mob - to join us in a friendly Q&A on the merits of the University's project.
Seriously - we'll go modified Lincoln-Douglas style, with an unedited opening statement and then an exchange of questions and answers from both sides. We of course reserve the right to point out the errors in your statements, since we're confident there will be more than a few, but we won't edit anything you say beyond obscenities and calls for illegal activities. We're not afraid to hear your side of things, or to let you pick apart our arguments for the project. We are skeptical that you're willing to do much more than shout epithets and massage the facts to suit your needs. Prove us wrong. Send us an email with your credentials and we'll go from there.
And just to show we're of the best intentions, here's some old school Santana as inspiration. Probably the only thing we can agree upon is that this kicks a little ass, even considering Carlos' outfit.
#11 - LARRY FRIEND - FORWARD (1955-1957) OK, we're back in the swing of things in our highly subjective countdown of Cal's 16 greatest basketball stars. This is the second of several "who's he" picks for many of our readers. Larry Friend was Pete Newell's second star in Berkeley (we'll meet the first a little higher up on this list) and the captain of Newell's first championship team.
Friend was born in Chicago, and played his first three years of prep basketball at Marshall HS before his family moved to Los Angeles. He became a star at Fairfax High, and entered junior college to prepare for an eventual transfer to California in 1954. He arrived on campus the same time as a certain head coach, who had left Michigan State to revive Cal's basketball fortunes.
Newell's first team was led by All-America Bob McKeen (more on him later in the countdown) but aided by 12.3 ppg from Friend, his 6'4" sophomore. That team limped to the finish line with a 9-16 mark, but after a full off-season of tutelage from the master, Cal burst out of the gate in 1956 with a 9-1 mark. After losing three of their next four - including a memorable 33-24 four corners loss to Bill Russell's USF Dons, the Bears caught fire, winning eight in a row behind Friend's scoring in the paint. He finished the year with a 13.0 ppg average, and the Bears improved to 3rd in the conference with a 17-8 mark.
As a senior, Friend was named team captain and became the unquestioned leader of the Golden Bears. He averaged 18.9 ppg over a season that saw Cal race out to a 16-2 start, suffering losses only to defending national champion USF and #1 ranked Kansas. The Bears lost only twice in conference play, and in each instance they avenged the loss with a later win (against Washington and UCLA). The 14-2 mark was good enough for Newell's first PCC championship, Cal's first since 1953.
Cal met Brigham Young in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Corvallis, Oregon. The Bears blew out the Cougars behind 25 points from Friend and 18 from teammate Earl Robinson. On deck was a date with two-time defending champion USF, who had lost Russell and KC Jones but still featured stars like Mike Farmer and Gene Brown. Friend scored 12 points and grabbed six rebounds, but it wasn't quite enough; Brown's twenty points led the Dons to a narrow four point victory. Despite the loss, Friend was named the MVP of the Western Regional, having set a Cal record for most points in an NCAA tournament game that would last for 39 years.
Friend was named to the Helms Athletic Foundation's first team All-America squad following his senior season. He was drafted by the New York Knicks and averaged four points per game in a reserve role before badly injuring his knee at the end of the season. He returned to professional basketball in 1961, playing a starring role for the Los Angeles Jets of the new American Basketball League, but that league unfortunately folded after just one season of play.
Turning away from basketball, Friend built a very successful investment practice in Orange County and later became a part owner of the NBA's Phoenix Suns. He died in 1998 after a long bout with prostate cancer. Larry Friend was only 62. He is a member of both the Cal Athletic Hall of Fame and the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.
In the first meeting, Cal waxed Stanford on their home floor for the first time in fourteen tries. That historic victory was made possible by Ayinde Ubaka's 26 point performance - his best game as a Golden Bear.
Since that game, Stanford has made dramatic improvements while Cal has grown even thinner with injuries and illness limiting the effectiveness of Eric Vierneisel, Ubaka and now Theo Robertson. In this preview we'll break down what went right for Cal against the Cardinal last month, and examine the chances for a series sweep tomorrow at Haas Pavilion.
As noted above, Cal beat the Cardinal at Maples because Ubaka and his teammates dominated the Stanford backcourt, outscoring them 41-20. As expected, Stanford controlled the boards, pulling down 50 rebounds to Cal's 32. However, Stanford missed several easy put backs and les freres Lopez were a combined 7-20 from the floor. Brook Lopez only played 16 minutes and was generally ineffective. Anthony Goods shoot poorly from three (2-7) and the Cardinal as a team were only 3-16 beyond the arc.
So what has changed for Stanford? For starters, Brook Lopez (right) is reasonably healthy. He's playing 30+ minutes per game, and he's become much more effective, scoring 20 points against Gonzaga and 18 against USC with a school-record 12 blocked shots.
Trent Johnson has shuffled his starting lineup, going with both Lopez brothers, Lawrence Hill, Fred Washington and Anthony Goods. There's not a true point guard in that lineup, but the Cardinal have still done an OK job getting the ball inside the Lopez brothers. Mitch Johnson, the former starting point, is now the first man off the bench. He continues to underwhelm, and the Cardinal are a less effective offensive team with him on the floor.
Keys to the Game - Cal offense When both bigs are on the floor, Stanford will often zone - and they'll likely do that against Cal, whose #4 and #5 men can run and shoot from outside. So the recipe for Cal's success is pretty simple - attack the zone effectively with cutters to the high post, and shoot well from the perimeter. We've seen Cal do the latter - the Bears are shooting a respectable 37% from three this year. However, we haven't seen them dissect a zone effectively all year.
Ubaka (left) needs to return to form; according to Braun he was still feeling the effects of the flu as late as Wednesday. Vierneisel doesn't figure to play much, but we could certainly use him from the outside if Stanford does indeed run lots of zone.
Keys to the Game - Cal defense On the defensive end, Cal will need to do two things: 1) play effective pressure defense to complicate entry passes to the post, and 2) limit Stanford's opportunities on the offensive glass. That's a tall order, even with Cal's recent improvements in rebounding.
Taylor Harrison is another key. (Did we just write that?) Harrison got USC's Taj Gibson out of his game by inducing a technical foul in Saturday's loss to the Trojans. Look for him to pester the Lopez brothers tomorrow in the hopes of luring them into foul trouble.
#12 - GEORGE DIXON - GUARD (1925-1927) Who? Just the only two-time first team All-American in school history, that's who. Dixon was a guard and captain for the Bears who led the team to undefeated records in both 1926 and 1927. The basketball of that era would be barely recognizable today. In 1926 the Cal team averaged fewer points per game than the football team did this year. They beat UCLA 21-8, and St. Mary's 27-12.
Dixon was a big, physical guard who was named the top guard in the Pacific Coast Conference after his junior and senior years. After both seasons Dixon and his mates faced Oregon in a two out of three tournament for PCC conference supremacy. Cal won all four games, by an average of ten points. Dixon was the first Golden Bear to be named to an All-America squad, earning the honors from the Helms Foundation in both '26 and '27.
One wonders whether California might have contended for national championships during Dixon's era, but sadly he came along much too early for the NIT or NCAA tournaments, which started in 1938 and 1939, respectively. Dixon's worth to the Cal team was proven out in 1928, the year after his graduation, when Cal slipped to a 9-6 record.
Dixon's reputation for hard-nosed play is supported by his decorated rugby career. In his sophomore year, he was a member of the 1924 US Olympic rugby team, which traveled to Paris to compete in a three-team tournament with Romania and the favored host country. The US had won the gold medal in the 1920 Antwerp Games behind a half-dozen Cal stars, but the French team were 20-1 favorites to win the gold on home soil in '24. The majority of American players this time around were football and basketball players from Stanford and Cal who had only been playing rugby for six months. We'll turn it over to the Rugby Football History website from here:
"If these young American athletes expected to be welcomed to France with kisses on both cheeks, they were unpleasantly surprised. The team was the target of hostility even before the players set foot on French soil. French journalists branded them "streetfighters and saloon brawlers" after a brouhaha in the port of Boulogne where immigration officials mistakenly refused the team entry, and the players - many of whom had been seasick during the turbulent crossing - forced their way off the ship onto dry land.
The American rugby players' reputation only deteriorated. When Paris authorities cancelled previously arranged games against local club teams and restricted American workouts to a patch of scrub land next to their hotel, the players responded by marching down to Colombes Stadium, scaling the fence, and going through their paces on the hallowed turf.
"It wasn't the best way to conduct international affairs," concedes Norman Cleaveland, chuckling at the memory. "If they wanted to push us around," snarls 91-year-old Charlie Doe, who was vice-captain of the 1924 team, "then we damn well pushed back."
Dixon and the rest of the ragtag bunch of Bay Area athletes kicked the favored French all over the pitch and won a 17-3 upset and the gold medal. The crowd of 40,000 Frenchmen had to be restrained by les gendarmes from attacking the upstart Americans, who couldn't hear the Star Spangled Banner through the booing and catcalls.
Word's breaking that Tedford has decided to promote Jim Michalczik to Offensive Coordinator. We had the right idea, but the wrong guy. Coach Mich is an excellent choice and by all accounts a terrific guy who commands respect from his players. We thought Gould was the more natural pick, based on two things: 1) his tenure with the program, and 2) the fact that RB coaches do less in-game 'coaching' than OL coaches.
The questions that come to mind are: 1) Will Michalczik be in the booth, and 2) Will Cal then hire a replacement or assistant to work with the OL during the games? We can't imagine that he can wear both hats on the field, unless the Bears are going to drop pretenses and just have Tedford call all the plays. The official release suggests Michalczik will continue his OL responsibilities, so perhaps that is the case.
In any event, Michalczik loves the power run game, and so do we. If the spread isn't dead, it's certainly on life support - at least until Longshore graduates.
Congratulations to Coach Michalczik and his family on a well-deserved promotion. GO BEARS!
Sure, why not? Beats debating the most effective vector for spreading Sudden Oak Death.
* Alonzo Carter, the successful and relentlessly self-promoting head coach at Oakland McClymonds for the past eight years, is moving a few miles north to become the head coach at Berkeley High. This Coach Carter looks nothing like Samuel L Jackson - he's built like a beer keg and is loud and boisterous. Under his watch, Mack has won four Oakland Athletic League championships, and sent Derrick Hill, Kyle Reed and David Gray among others to play at Cal. Here's an entertaining video of the man himself touring around the Mack campus.
Coach Carter regularly projects himself as being "close to the program," and he probably is - Tedford has been very careful to repair relations with Bay Area coaches that had frayed during the Gilby/Mooch/Holmoe era. If he can turn Berkeley High into a local power, that's only good news for Cal down the road.
* Big night in hoops, headlined by the Ducks and Bruins at Pauley in the Battle for Conference Supremacy. Our gut tells us this will be a UCLA win, but then we think of how the Bruins struggled to contain Stanford's guards. And then we think of Aaron Brooks....and we still pick UCLA by four. The key to this game should be offensive rebounding by the Bruins. We love Maarty Leunen, but he'll have his hands full tonight.
* Arizona needs to get its shit together in a hurry, but may have to wait until Saturday. Washington State visits Tucson tonight, and the Cougars look to again be a tough matchup for the Cats. Greg Hansen has a great piece in the Daily Star on the recruitment of the Cougars which should put stars in perspective for those fretting over Cal's Scout ranking. Our favorite quote comes from Devon Harmeling - "Genetically, I'm not a Division 1 player." Except for the genes that make you money from 22 feet, we suppose.
* Cal had a visit this week from Juco DE Alex Cook, who's reported to be an Arkansas lean. ASU's also in the running and hosted Cook this week as well. Probably a long shot, but we thought we'd mention it since this is the one area JT and staff haven't addressed in the '07 class - a DE who can come in and contribute immediately.
90-86. Double OT. Stanford losing at home. You really couldn't ask for much more from a basketball game. The biggest winner last night was Gonzaga, who needed this game badly to build a better case for an at-large bid (in the event they don't win the WCC).
The biggest loser? Other than the very ordinary crowd of Maples dorks, who haven't yet regained their fastball, the biggest losers are the Washington Huskies. Washington seems primed for a second-half run, but Jerry Palm rates their RPI as 69th best in the nation (right ahead of Winthrop). The Huskies need their non-conference opponents - particularly LSU - to play better down the stretch; they also need Pac-10 teams to win their games out of conference. A Stanford win last night (and for that matter an Arizona win last weekend) would have been one of the many shots in the arm that Romar's team needs to earn a bid in March.
The Cardinal come to Haas this weekend, and we'll take a closer look at the game later today.
Continuing our look at the Pac-10 at the midway point, here's a look at the bottom half of the conference, and our picks for mid-season honors:
#6. Stanford Cardinal (14-5/6-3) The hottest stock in the conference. The big boys are rounding into shape, and Trent Johnson has finally parked his son's butt on the bench. The win against UCLA was no fluke - the Cardinal can hang with anyone in the conference provided their guards don't give games away with turnovers and ill-advised shots (we're looking at you, Anthony Goods). Tonight's game with Gonzaga will be a nice measuring stick. 1st half MVP: Lawrence Hill. 15.9 ppg on 55% shooting? Not what we expected. Hill (right) has been the heart and soul of the Cardinal, and his ability to create off the dribble has helped the Lopez twins play an even larger role on the offensive end. Pleasant surprise: Robin Lopez. Brook was supposed to be the better of the two twins, and probably will be over time as he fully recovers from his back injury. Meanwhile Robin is shooting 53% from the field and looks like a pretty polished Pac-10 big man. Important number: 12. That's how many blocks Brook Lopez had against USC. The Cardinal are 2nd in the nation in block % thanks to their imposing duo up front. What they need to fix: Mitch Johnson will never be a good point guard, but he's got to stop losing games for the Cardinal. His old man has finally taken him out of the starting lineup in favor of the big lineup of both Lopezes, Hill, Fred Washington and Anthony Goods. That's a start, but Johnson still plays 25+ minutes and has got to be something other than a turnover machine during those stretches. Reasonable expectation: An NCAA bid.
#7. Washington Huskies (13-7/3-6) If Stanford is the hottest stock in the conference, we think Washington is the best buy (along with Arizona). The Huskies have under-performed in the first half of conference play, but showed signs of getting their act together in the win over Oregon. It hinges on Justin Dentmon and Ryan Appleby, who can help squeeze the Huskies into the Tourney with an improved second half. If they simply take care of the basketball and play better defense, Washington could prove to be a tough matchup for teams down the stretch. 1st half MVP: Jon Brockman.Freshman Spencer Hawes has been great, but Brockman (left) makes this team go, averaging 9.5 rebounds a game and contributing more than 13 ppg. Pleasant surprise: There really aren't any. Quincy Pondexter had a terrific start but has struggled a bit in conference play. We knew Hawes would be terrific, and he's lived up to expectations. The backcourt has been a major disappointment. Important number: 42.6. That's Washington's offensive rebound %, fourth best in the nation. This team lives off second shots, and opponents who can control the defensive glass turn the Huskies into a very ordinary team. What they need to fix: Defensive efficiency. The Huskies don't surrender lots of points because they play at a fast pace. They surrender lots of points because their defense stinks on ice. Their guards are a step slow and can be taken off the dribble. Reasonable expectation: We think the Huskies might be able to get it together to qualify for the NCAAs, but that's about it. Even that result would be a disappointment, regardless of how young these Huskies might be.
#8. California Golden Bears (12-9/4-5) Ben Braun is keeping his charges together with duct tape and chewing gum, and there's reason to believe the Bears can pull an upset or two in the second half of the season. That would get them into the NIT, which would be a pretty good outcome considering their injury woes. 1st half MVP: Ryan Anderson. A week ago Ayinde Ubaka might have been the pick here, but his bout with the flu left Cal really short-handed against the LA schools. And besides, Anderson is pretty valuable as the only reliable scorer taller than 6'5" on the team. Pleasant surprise: Anderson, again. Everyone else has played up to expectations. Important number: 78.6. That's the Bears' FT %, and it leads the nation. Cal has kept themselves in game after game at the line. What they need to fix: Cal does a very poor job turning their opponents over. The Bears rank near the bottom of the NCAAs in steal and block %. Given their physical shortcomings and lack of depth, it's difficult for the Bears to trade possessions over a full forty minutes. Reasonable expectation: 16-17 wins and an NIT berth.
#9. Oregon State Beavers (9-13/1-8) Boy, this is one disappointing team, and unlike ASU you can't blame it on youth. OSU starts one freshman in Josh Tarver and the other four starters are upperclassmen. 1st half MVP: Marcel Jones. Jones (left) is sixth in the Pac-10 in scoring at 16.5 ppg and also pulls down 6 rebounds per game. He's frankly the only scoring threat on the Beavers (including Mr. Outside, Sasa Cuic) - shut down Jones, and you beat the Beavers. Hell, you probably beat them even if he goes off for 25. Pleasant surprise: Kyle Jeffers has been a force on the offensive glass, and the lone shot-blocker inside. He doesn't add much offensively (6.5 ppg) but that's OK given that Jones and Cuic are black holes. Important number: 59.1 - which is OSU's awful % from the foul line. Every one of their starters is 65% or worse from the stripe. To compound matters, the Beavers rarely get to the foul line in the first place, ranking 319th in the nation in free throw rate %. What they need to fix: Josh Tarver needs to play much better in the second half of the season. It's hard to be efficient offensively when your 3rd leading shooter averages 37% from the field (and 26% from three). Reasonable expectation: One more conference win (against the Sun Devils in February). Lots of alumni heat on Jay John in the offseason.
#10. Arizona State Sun Devils (6-14/0-9) Mr. Excitement has brought his snoozy brand of basketball to the desert, and as expected the first half of the season has been a learning experience for the Devils. And by learning experience we mean zero conference wins. 1st half MVP: Jeff Pendergraph. Well, there's not a lot of competition. Pendergraph (right) continues to be one of the most dangerous scorers in the conference off the glass: he averages 59% from the field and leads the conference in offensive rebounds with 84. Pleasant surprise: Freshman Derek Glasser has stepped in and done an OK job at the point, ranking 125th in the nation in Assist Rate. Important number: One. That's how many seniors rank in the top nine Devils in terms of minutes played. This may be a brutal transition year, but things look much brighter for ASU in '07-'08. What they need to fix: Everything? The Devils don't do anything particularly well right now. Sendek's offense depends on movement away from the basketball and high-percentage shots. The Devils are shooting 48.5% from the floor, but only 30.5% from three. Worse, they throw up a lot of threes - 38.4% of their shots are from beyond the arc. They've got to find ways to get the ball inside to Pendergraph and Atuahene or hope the kids (Shipp and Polk) become much more reliable from the perimeter. Reasonable expectation: Winning a conference game.
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Mid-Season Pac-10 Awards: Player of the Year: Aaron Brooks, Oregon Coach of the Year: Tim Floyd, USC Freshman of the Year: Ryan Anderson, California (suck it, Budinger)
All-Pac 10 (ten selections): Arron Afflalo, UCLA Ryan Anderson, California Jon Brockman, Washington Aaron Brooks, Oregon Darren Collison, UCLA Taj Gibson, USC Lawrence Hill, Stanford Derrick Low, Washington State Ivan Radenovic, Arizona Mustafa Shakur, Arizona
Honorable Mention (another ten): Spencer Hawes, Washington Marcel Jones, Oregon State Maarty Leunen, Oregon Robin Lopez, Stanford Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, UCLA Jeff Pendergraph, Arizona State Bryce Taylor, Oregon Kyle Weaver, Washington State Marcus Williams, Arizona Nick Young, USC
In an earlier post we looked at Cal's second half chances and saw - well, not much. Today we'll roll out a mid-season review of the entire conference starting with the top 5 teams as we see them. Later today we'll have the bottom half of the conference, and our picks for Pac-10 honors. This is a power poll that doesn't perfectly conform to current conference standings (as you'll note by our #5 choice).
#1. UCLA Bruins (18-2/7-2) Yeah, why not? They're not perfect - any team that allows Stanford's guards to take them off dribble drive is far from that - but this is still the best TEAM in the conference and our conference's best bet to cut down the nets in Atlanta. Defense rarely slumps. 1st half MVP: Arron Afflalo. We thought about giving this to Collison, since he's such a sparkplug on the defensive end, but Afflalo showed us why he's an All American by nearly outscoring Cal in the second half at Haas. When the Bruins' backs are against the wall, AA is the guy who will bail them out on both ends of the floor. Pleasant Surprise: Lorenzo Mata blocks shots and controls the defensive glass - an underrated contributor who has really polished his game since last year. Important Number: 28.2. That's the % of opponents' field goal attempts that come from three point range, ranking 19th in the nation. This shows that the Bruins get out on shooters as well as any team in the conference, reducing their vulnerability to rivals who have a hot shooting night. What they need to fix: Two things - 1) they can struggle to stay in an offensive flow and Collison needs to establish a bit better control of the half court. 2) And, of course, the free throw shooting is still a bit of an Achilles heel. Nitpicking, really. Reasonable expectation: UCLA will be a 1 or 2 seed in the tournament, and they have all the ingredients to make a return visit to the Final Four.
#2. Oregon Ducks (19-2/7-2) We've stopped waiting for Ernie Kent to implode; he's got the Ducks playing really well and is the odds-on favorite to win Coach of the Year (though we'd give it to Floyd). Few teams in the country can score from outside like the Ducks - we knew that, but we've been shocked by how well they lock down opponents in slower paced games. 1st half MVP: Aaron Brooks. Who else? He's the Conference POY so far - he sits against UW and the Ducks lose. He returns, and Oregon knocks off WSU at Friel. He slumps in the first half against Cal, and the Bears run Oregon out of the gym. He catches fire, and leaves the Bears grasping at air. Pleasant Surprise: Tajuan Porter's the trendy pick here, but we're going to give it to Maarty Leunen. Leunen leads the conference in rebounding, which is pretty important for a team that has one post player (two if you count Zahn off the bench). Important Number: 41.2. That's the % of Oregon's field goal attempts that come from behind the arc. Live by the three, die by the three. This makes Oregon an interesting team come Tourney time - on a cold night they could be upset bait. What they need to fix: Even with Leunen, they can really struggle on the glass. Their wings need to stay at home against bigger teams like Washington if the Ducks are to make a run deep into March. Reasonable expectation: Elite Eight. They seem like one of the eight best teams in the country right now.
#3. Washington State Cougars (17-4/6-3) Everyone's cuddly underdog, right? Not ours. We remember Tony Bennett ending Jason Kidd's college career, so we will continue to root against the Cougars. Not that it will help much - WSU does the little things better than any team in the conference, and their efficiency masks some obvious athletic shortcomings. 1st half MVP: Derrick Low. Takes care of the basketball like no other point guard in college basketball (see "important number," below). Shoots 42.5% from three. Fifth in the conference in steals. Pleasant Surprise: Kyle Weaver. Kind of hard to call Weaver a big surprise, since he was the most athletic returnee on the Cougar team, but he's taken his game to the next level. Teams must respect his ability to penetrate and finish at the basket, and this makes Low and Ivory Clark all the more dangerous in the half court. Important Number: 15.9. That's WSU's turnover %, which ranks them 2nd in the country. The Cougars simply don't waste possessions, which is why they've become a much more efficient offense. What they need to fix: Offensive Rebounding. It's really nice that Wazzu has been efficient in the half-court, shooting 47% from the field. But eventually the Cougars will have a night where the shots don't fall, and they need to generate second shots. Right now they're 9th in the Pac-10, and that won't cut it. Reasonable expectation: Sweet 16. Depth is a killer for the Cougars, and they will struggle against teams who match up well defensively in the half court and can run. If WSU gets the right draw, though, there's no reason to think they can't go a step further.
#4. USC Trojans (16-6/6-3) The Extreme Makeover of the Pac-10 - Tim Floyd has completely reinvented the Trojans as a defensive juggernaut. What a brilliant hire. It's getting harder and harder to remember just how dysfunctional this bunch was under Henry Bibby. 1st half MVP: Taj Gibson. He's the only new starter, so we give him the lion's share of the credit for SC's improved defensive efficiency. Gibson helps force opponents to the perimeter where they must contend with a swarm of athletic and long 6'5" guards. Pleasant surprise: The defense, obviously. No team in the conference has made a bigger improvement in its defensive stats than USC. Also, SC's freshmen have made big contributions off the bench. Important number: 42.2. That's the effective FG % for USC opponents (giving greater weight to made three-pointers). That ranks them third in the freaking nation. Ernie Kent's getting lots of love for COY, but we think Floyd deserves the honor for eliciting this type of improvement. What they need to fix: Turnovers. Floyd seems to have gone a ways toward fixing this issue, but without a "true" point USC can still fall into stretches where they're lax with the basketball. Reasonable expectation: Sweet 16. Why not? Floyd's a good game coach, and the Trojans have enough offensive weapons to slug it out in the half court. This is a very dangerous team, and they have a top 5 recruiting class coming in.
#5. Arizona Wildcats (14-6/5-4) As noted yesterday, Lute is back on retirement watch after the Cats' recent implosions in LA and against North Carolina at home. The big question in Tucson is whether he's lost his touch. Some of the Cats have made great improvements (Ivan the Terrible, Shakur) but collectively they suffer from the same defensive shortcomings that plagued them in '05-'06. Are we witnessing the end of an era, or will Arizona pull it together for one last run? 1st half MVP: Ivan Radenovic (right). For all the Chase Budinger hype, Radenovic has quietly put together an all-conference season (15.8/7.8) even if his teammates don't get him the ball enough. Pleasant surprise: Mustafa Shakur has finally emerged as the true point guard that Cat fans have been waiting for. He averages 7.4 assists per game and is a big reason that Arizona runs the most efficient offense in the nation. Important number: 33.6/19.0. Those are Arizona's %s for getting to the line, and keeping opponents from the line. They rank 10th in the nation on the former stat, and first in the nation on the latter. This tells you two things: first, Lute hasn't lost his touch and still rides the refs better than any coach in the conference. Second, Arizona's always a threat to win games at the line, which is critical come tournament time. What they need to fix: Lazy perimeter defense. Arizona isn't a very big team inside, so you'd think opponents would jam the ball inside to get Radenovic in foul trouble. Nope - Arizona is almost dead last in the country in the % of opponents' shots that come from three point range. Watching the Cats confirms this - their guards and wings just don't pressure shooters as well as they need to to make a deep run in March. Reasonable expectation: Who knows? We continue to think this team could make the Elite Eight. They could also be one-and-done in the tourney. It all comes down to the defense - every other part of their game is Final Four-worthy.
To: The Editors of the San Francisco Chronicle Re: Your 1.29.07 Editorial on the Memorial Stadium Controversy
Your recent editorial, suggesting that the University fold its tent and hereafter play its home games at the Oakland Coliseum, is quite possibly the dumbest suggestion you've made in a long history of dumb suggestions. We're not even going to pick it apart - it's that stupid; the mother of all non-starters. The Mausoleum is not the Rose Bowl. It's a dilapidated, ugly facility sandwiched between an airport, a freeway, and...well, Oakland. As for building a new facility, well, we wouldn't collaborate with Al Davis and John York to order Chinese takeout, let alone build a football stadium.
But our point is larger than your silly editorial. We'd like to request that you stop covering California athletics. No, seriously - we don't need the aggravation. You see, athletic programs are now covered by lots of national specialty media - you may have heard of ESPN - which have become primary news sources for most people in your coverage area. All you do with your half-baked articles is blur the picture for those out-of-town bloggers and professional media who erroneously suppose that they can "get the local scoop" by linking to your material. You are thus a source of disinformation.
Yes, yes - Glenn Dickey got Cal, and we, unlike many of our brethren, occasionally liked what he wrote about Golden Bear athletics (the other stuff is drivel, of course). Of course, he's now over at the other paper (ed - fixed) Well, we can get Cyberbears to lob him the occasional guest column and voila, there's a Dickey fix for the ten or so of us who enjoy his insights.
You see the occasional good column over the years from GD is now far outweighed - and the pun is very much intended - by the nonsense that spurts forth from Ray Ratto's laptop. You demean those of us who love Cal football by asking this disinterested, cynical lout to write about a sport about which he knows nothing, and for which he could give a fig. His indifference is palpable; we're sure he'd rather be writing about latest Warriors-Blazers barnburner, or speculating about the Niners' draft, or eating Cheetos - anything rather than have to thumb through his grease-stained media guide to remember who starts for Cal at WLB. This is a man who ranked Virginia Tech #10 and Georgia Tech #24...the day after GT beat the Hokies 38-27...in Blacksburg. He is a menace.
You see, Bear fans can get our news about Cal athletics from any number of sources in the official and unofficial media. You have to wade through lots of garbage to get to it, but we guarantee that a handful of insiders on Cyberbears speak to the coaching staff more frequently than Ratso and his ilk. We really need exactly one professional media source on Cal athletics - Jay Heater, who is an actual insider and displays some knowledge and enthusiasm for his subject. We don't need you, or the Mercury News, for that matter. So save yourselves some money (we understand that's a bit of an issue now) and concentrate on what you're really good at - covering the depressingly ordinary professional franchises who populate the greater Bay Area.
* Barring any last minute surprises, Cal's just about done for the year in recruiting. The last two recruits to verbal are Dorsey LB Robert Mullins and Chandler, Arizona DE Cameron Jordan. We'll cover both of them in more detail once Cal actually has their LOIs. Suffice to say they're both intriguing prospects for very different reasons. Jordan gives us three DEs, with Ernest Owusu still on the radar screen. Some have thought that Jordan could bulk up and move inside since speed is not his strong suit, but there's no indication that this is the plan for him.
* Christian Tupou will not be coming, which is just OK by us.
* Speaking of bad off-seasons: Arizona has lost six coaches in the last 2.5 months. Count with us: OC Mike Canales quit (ONE): RB coach Kasey Dunn left for Baylor (TWO); WR coach Charlie Williams took a job at North Carolina (THREE); the Minnesota Gophers snatched up recruiting coordinator Dan Berekowitz and asst. strength coach Mark Hill (FOUR, FIVE); and OL coach Eric Wolford just joined Ron Zook's staff at Illinois (SIX).
Some Cats fans are explaining this as a welcome wholesale change of the offensive scheme, but that doesn't explain why it's good to lose your recruiting coordinator a couple of weeks before LOI day. Call it 60% a wholesale change on offense and 40% coaches who are tired of Mike Stoops yelling at them.
* UCLA, looking for a coordinator to shake up their boring, vanilla west-coast-offense, has hired the unfortunately-named Jay Norvell, who helped Bill Callahan install a boring vanilla west-coast offense at Nebraska. Inspired choice. Husker fans aren't exactly on suicide watch over this one. Dorrell also "lost" O-line coach Jim Colletto to the Detroit Lions yesterday.
* We really hope that Pete Carroll hiring his kid to succeed Lane Kiffin as recruiting coordinator is a sign of the impending demise of the Trojan Empire - sort of like how the class system and rampant nepotism helped doom post-Victorian Britain by centralizing power in an incestuous network of mediocre nobles. Of course, we hope for a lot of things on this blog, and very few come true.
* Congratulations, Lute! You've gone from out of touch has-been to re-focused master coach making one last title run back to out of touch has-been in less than twelve months.
* Oregon still doesn't have an OC. The Portland Tribune says that Bellotti is going to interview from as many as ten candidates at the end of a love letter article about the Ducks' recruiting class. Ten candidates seems like way too many, but who are we to judge? After all, we think you shouldn't dress like sissies and pamper your players, but it seems to work for them. Well, usually it does.
Judges grant preliminary injunctions stopping the actions of a defendant for two reasons:
1. The relevant law suggests that a suit against the defendant is likely to succeed 2. The politics surrounding the case make it advisable to grant the injunction (and the law is murky at best)
It's a reasonable bet that Superior Court Judge Barbara Miller was working off of option #2 this morning. Think about her constituency (and yes, superior court judges are elected with six-year terms). The professional protesting class would have done their level best to knock her out if she had prevented their cases from even going to trial.
Her ruling hasn't been released to the public, but the Chronicle report suggests that she found a likelihood that the stadium project would violate the Alquist-Priolo Act, which forbids the state from building new buildings on active earthquake faults. The University submitted a number of tests to the court, some of which showed no seismic activity under the project and others that were inconclusive. So, in essence, the judge has assigned homework to all parties to do more testing and come up with a conclusive result.
We can't wait to get our hands on her ruling, but so far there's been no press mention of hippies sitting in oak trees or the cheap bastards on Tightwad Hill or the Panoramic Avenue NIMBYs. If her ruling is indeed confined to the Alquist-Priolo issue, then that could be a small ray of sunshine in an otherwise bleak day. Assuming, that is, the University can submit a conclusive round of seismic testing.
Cal will appeal this ruling, for all the good that will do. After that's disposed of, we're looking at a trial beginning sometime during the summer in which the court will evaluate each of the four suits brought against the stadium project. We obviously need to wrap this up before next off-season, or things will get a little bit dicey.
Or, we cut a deal with the City. If we can give up the proposed parking garage in exchange for them selling out the hippies in the trees, then there might be an accommodation that obviates the need for a trial. We're not hopeful, but the University shouldn't close any doors to further negotiation.
One last thing - please keep the comment section clean and constructive.
KRON is reporting that the judge has granted a preliminary injunction against the stadium project. This is bad news, but it's only a preliminary injunction and the University will be back to argue the merits at a later date. So, it's not quite time to panic - though this is certainly a setback. More to come....
We thought they'd get the Trojans at home and lose to the Huskies; they of course reversed that. We didn't think they'd win at Maples, but right now we don't think the Bears will win the return engagement at Haas. So it's up to expectations thus far, in one sense. In another sense, of course, this season is nothing like what we expected. The Bears have two healthy players taller than 6'5", and Alex Pribble is now a critical part of their rotation. A make-or-break year for Coach Braun has turned into an injury-riddled mulligan, and Cal fans have a hard time getting a fix on this team's chances. Not that we won't try.
So what are reasonable expectations for the remainder of the season? We thought of this question when considering where we'd IPO the Bears on ProTrade. ProTrade is a sort of stock market for pro and college sports; a twist on the traditional fantasy games that have never been our brand of vodka. They've asked us to set the market rate for the Bears - the rate being based on how many wins they'll have at season's end.
We think it's probably time to tamp down those long shot NCAA hopes. The Bears sit at 12-9 and 4-5 in conference. The very best we can hope for in the second half is 5-4, which would sit us at 17-13 and 9-9 with a Pac-10 tournament game or two to go. That's maybe good enough to get in with a couple of Staples wins, but remember this team lost to USD at home. On the downside, there's a very real chance that this team could fail to qualify for the NIT, given that they will be favored in only two games down the stretch. We think 4-5 is the record Bear fans should shoot for in the season's final five weeks:
Can the Bears pull off four wins (with at least two upsets) down the stretch? If so, they'll come to Staples at 16-14 with a very good shot at the NIT. So let's set the Bears' IPO price at 16 wins. Any other thoughts?
An ongoing discussion of California Golden Bears football and basketball...Other college football and basketball news filtered through a west coast bias...Like the actual Tightwad Hill, a bit messy and disorganized, but free!