California Preview

The offers a look at ASU's next Pac-10 opponent.

California Golden Bears (8-4, 1-1)

Cal Coaching Staff

Head Coach: Ben Braun (9th Year)
Assistants: Louis Reynaud, Joe Pasternack, George Nessman

Projected Starting Five (returning starters in bold; 2004-05 statistics):

PG – Martin Smith 5'11 170 Jr; (4.1 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 4.0 apg) – Valuable walk-on averaging over 20 mpg
SG – Richard Midgley 6'2 210 Jr; (16.7 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.2 apg, 42% 3-Ptr) – 2-year starter; Top 3-point shooter
SF – Marquise Kately 6'5 220 So; (11.2 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 1.5 apg, 45% FG, 40% 3-Ptr) – 3rd in scoring & rebounding
PF – Rod Benson 6'10 215 Jr; (12.0 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 58% FG) – Shooting 58% as a 1st year starter; 2nd in scoring
C – DeVon Hardin 6'10 245 Fr; (5.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg) – Newark HS, Newark CA – Bears leading rebounder

Key Reserves:

SF – Dominic McGuire 6'9 215 So; (6.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 1.8 apg) – 3rd in rebounding and 4th in scoring
PF – David Paris 6'9 245 Jr; (5.9 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 46% FG, 75% FT) – Top reserve low post player
SF – Eric Vierneisel 6'7 200 Fr; (3.2 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 1.0 apg, 36% 3-Ptr) – Jacobs HS, Algonquin IL
PF – Kevin Langford 6'9 215 Fr; (1.5 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 0.6 apg) – North Crowley HS, Fort Worth TX

Whenever a program suffers considerable injuries other players on the team have to step up. At Cal, the losses have been significant. The most prominent blow was losing reigning Pac-10 Freshman of the Year Leon Powe before one dribble. Powe was one of the top 10 scorers in the conference and also managed to lead the Pac-10 in rebounding – playing virtually on one knee. His tough presence down low would be hard to fill for any program. Cal also lost freshman center Sam Rayburn due to a setback with a prior knee injury and junior forward Jordi Geli to significant foot problem. The Bears already have a scholarship being used by sophomore transfer Omar Wilkes, who transferred to Berkeley from Kansas. When Cal lost Ayinde Ubaka to a broken bone in his foot during the 3rd game of the season, they slipped to 8 healthy scholarship players.

So who has stepped up to lead Cal to an 8-4 (1-1 Pac-10) record?

Junior guards Richard Midgley and Martin Smith have definitely provided a lift for the Bears. Smith is currently tops in the Pac-10 with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.82. He's quickly pushed himself into the starting line-up and while his shot is inconsistent, Martin has added a speedy push-the-ball point man that makes good decisions on the break. He's easily the most valuable walk-on in the entire Pac-10. Smith has stepped up big.

Midgley has also picked up some of the scoring slack for the Bears. He's drilled thirty three's in 12 games and is currently averaging 16.7 points per game – 5th best in the conference. The English-born Midgley who also played high school basketball in Northern California is unquestionably the team leader. He has proven to be one of the tougher players in the Pac-10 both offensively and defensively. He's a very physical guard who possesses range, score in the lane, and hit the big shot. Midgley is the only player on the Cal roster who has significant postseason experience.

Another player that has dramatically improved for Cal is junior forward Rod Benson. The San Diego native is currently the Bears #2 scoring option and his average of 12 points per game falls in the top 20 of the Pac-10. Benson scored just 68 points over his first two seasons in Berkeley but has already pumped in 144 points to begin his junior campaign. With a developing soft touch around the rim and the ability to beat other post men down the court, Benson has averaged double-digit point totals in all but two of the Bears past nine games. He is much quicker then opponents realize and he can knock down some tough shots as well.

Playing alongside Benson in the frontcourt is fellow junior David Paris and freshmen DeVon Hardin. Hardin, a local Bay Area product, is starting because of his rebounding prowess and defensive work while Paris is Cal's top reserve. David dropped twenty pounds from last year's playing weight and is much more agile and fluid then he has been in the past. Paris is also remarkably improved from the free-throw line – 25 of 33 to date this season – showing a lot of confidence with a face up game. Hardin on the other hand is limited offensively and will try to dunk or put back anything he gets his hands on. He's a very emphatic and passionate big man that has enormous upside. He plays with the swagger of a raw Ben Wallace – one of his favorite players.

On the wing, Marquise Kately is Cal's top option. The talented former San Francisco prep has the talent to play at the next level. He finished 9th last year in Pac-10 field goal percentage and had two of his bigger games against the Sun Devils, going for a combined 41 points and 11 rebounds during his All-Freshman first season. Kately got off to a sophomore slump of sorts this season and suffered a cut on the back of his non-shooting hand this past week. However, Marquise seems to be rounding into form. He's posted double-digit points in three of his past four games and is working much harder on the defensive end. Kately has looked much quicker as well.

The Bears also have two young athletic combo forwards in sophomore Dominic McGuire and freshman Kevin Langford. McGuire has developed a controlled offensive game and doesn't look to score much on his own. He is a danger though around the rim as he's been Cal's best shot-blocker and one of their top offensive rebounders in each of his first two seasons. McGuire is often the guy for Cal who gets the loose ball and puts it back in. He'll defend anybody on the court and possesses amazing versatility – even guarding Nate Robinson this past week and holding him in check. Langford, the younger brother of Kansas Jayhawk star Keith, is also versatile but is more of a threat with his back to the basket then McGuire on the offensive end. Kevin plays within himself and rarely takes a bad shot. With all the injuries, Langford has given the Bears quality minutes off the bench during his 1st year in Berkeley.

Cal has played an underrated non-conference schedule against teams that should fare well in their conferences though their RPI's aren't much to boast about. Most of the teams they faced should finish in the top three of their respective conferences and many of them have been picked to win. Cal's most prominent win came against WCC contender Pepperdine a few weeks ago, 61-58, when Richard Midgley knocked in a buzzer-beater three in the finale of the annual two-day Golden Bear Classic. Unfortunately, despite a quality team, Pepperdine's RPI is in the low 100's meaning Cal has just one win against a team in the top 100 of the RPI (Washington State). The Bears did suffer very narrow home losses to UNLV and Colorado, two teams in the top 40 of the RPI, in games they had in hand but lost due to poor free throw shooting and costly turnovers. The turnovers have been cut down but the free throw shooting has not improved. Cal is shooting just 61% from the free throw line this year – 2nd lowest in the Pac-10.

The Bears essentially win games on the defensive end. After suffering through some chemistry problems a year ago, Cal has improved from a maturity standpoint and has developed a pride on beating teams with their defensive skills. They are not a team that will outscore an opponent or beat you with depth. While their RPI is 9th out of 10 conference teams, Cal can compete with anybody in the Pac-10. They'll improve as the season plays out and the Bears could be a sleeper for the 4th seed in the Pac-10 Tournament. Since the reintroduction of the Pac-10 Tournament in 2002, Cal finished with the 3rd seed, 3rd seed, and 4th seed in consecutive years.

The Bears have fared very well against Arizona State ever since the 2000-01 Pac-10 campaign. Cal has won three in a row in the series and seven of eight overall. They sport a 4-1 record against the Sun Devils at Haas Pavilion. The last time Cal lost to ASU at home was Jan 8th, 2000 – exactly 5 years to the day that this game will be played – and marks the day that former Sun Devil great Eddie House torched the Bears for 61 points in double-overtime.

If the Sun Devils want to pull out a victory at Haas, they must take care of the basketball and not allow Cal's defensive pressure to result in points off turnovers. Cal's half court offense should not be enough to beat the Devils. It will be the turnovers that decide this game.

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