As for the Bears, their trip to the Grand Canyon State started with a two-point loss in Tucson as Arizona won 73-71 behind Derrick Williams' dominant 31-point performance. Cal had four starters score at least 12 points with Allan Crabbe leading the charge with 17 of his own.
Head Coach: Mike Montgomery (600-273) vs. Herb Sendek (338-219)
G – Allen Crabbe (9.0 PPG, 5.3 RPG) vs. Trent Lockett (14.3 PPG, 6.6 RPG)
F – Markhuri Sanders-Frison (9.8 PPG, 8.0 RPG) vs. Kyle Cain (7.1 PPG, 7.3 RPG)
Before the season began, the pundits were heavily doubting the Bears because they lost their star guards, Jerome Randle, Theo Robertson and Patrick Christopher and the only returning guard with experience was Gutierrez, a guy only really known for his defense. That has changed. Gutierrez has been a solid option both at the point and playing off the ball while Crabbe, a freshman, has started playing well of late. Brandon Smith, a former walk-on, has seen his minutes increase lately as well and protects the ball well. With the abrupt transfer of Gary Franklin, the depth in the backcourt is thin with Nigel Carter and Emerson Murray coming on in relief.
Without Jamelle McMillan, who is not expected to play, the PG duties will be handed to Brandon Dunson for a second consecutive game. With Dunson, the team is a bit faster but loses the steady calmness that McMillan brings. Abbott has been silent lately and needs to wake up and start scoring points while Lockett needs to completely wear off the rust of missing two games. Carrick Felix is the first choice off the bench and has been productive enough lately to possibly warrant a starting nod regardless of injuries.
Edge – ASU
It's always tough to see in-state talent leave town for other programs and seeing Harper Kamp flourish at Cal this year is a prime example of that. Hailing out of Mesa Mountain View, Kamp committed to Cal when ASU's head-coaching situation was in flux. Having battled injuries in the past, Kamp is now the focal point of Cal's offense and leads the team in scoring. An athletic and physical forward, Kamp is a tough matchup who makes matters worse by hitting all his free throws. Next to him is a mountainous figure in Sanders-Frison. A big body who can score down low and bang on the boards, he will be an interesting matchup for Cain and Pateev to handle. Off the pine will be Richard Solomon and Bak Bak.
ASU will counter Cal's productive frontcourt with a struggling one of their own. Rihards Kuksiks has been a non-factor lately and that needs to change if he wants to remain in the lineup. When he is right, he is a menace for opposing defenses because it pains coaches to have their big men chasing three-point shooters around the perimeter. Next to him is Cain, a strong freshman with a tenacious rebounding style but he also needs to score more. Surprisingly, the guy who lost his job is now playing the best of the bigs as Ruslan Pateev has been very productive in Pac-10 play.
Edge - Cal
Consistency. The Devils can't shoot it, they can't hold on to the ball, they can't stay healthy, they can't put together a string of cohesive possessions. Overall, it's been pretty frustrating. The inconsistency has plagued ASU since the season started and for the team to actually start winning games, all those things need to be corrected.
Who Will Win and Why
After four straight uninspiring contests, including two ugly losses, the Devils need to figure out the right ingredients to score points and make stops on the defensive end. If that means benching some veterans and inserting some young guys, so be it. It's been ugly to watch and trying new combinations could be very beneficial. I see Cal having a field day inside with Gutierrez also having a big day if McMillan remains out.
Final Score – Cal 64 ASU 56