California Preview

The Golden Bears (11-9, 4-6) arrive in Tempe licking their wounds after receiving a 21-point beating in Tucson on Thursday. The Sun Devils (16-6, 5-5) hope to keep their NCAA Tournament hopes alive by holding serve at home on Saturday.

Cal Coaching Staff

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

Projected Starting Five

G Martin Smith 5'11 170 Jr (5.2 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 4.2 apg) – Valuable walk-on averaging 26.1 minutes per game
G Ayinde Ubaka 6-3 200 So (7.0 pts, 3.8 asst) – only appeared in nine games due to a broken foot; started last eight games
C David Paris 6-8 260 Jr (6.9 pts, 3.9 rebs, 52.1% FGs) – served a one game suspension on Thursday against UA; became starter against ASU in Berkeley
F Rod Benson 6'10 215 Jr (13.2 pts, 5.8 rebs, 55.6% FGs) – Shooting 56% as a 1st year starter; 2nd in scoring for the Bears
F Dominic McGuire 6'9 215 So (7.1 pts, 4.8 rebs, 51.4% FGs) – Cal's leading shot blocker; shooting 58.7% FGs in conference play

Key Reserves:

G Richard Midgley 6'2 210 Jr; (14.9 pts, 3.5 rebs, 41.3% 3pt) – coming off the bench after a shoulder injury; top scorer; plays starter minutes
F Marquise Kately 6'5 220 So; (9.4 pts, 4.1 rebs) – 3rd in scoring for the Bears; averages 26.1 minutes per game
F Kevin Langford 6'9 215 Fr; (2.7 ppg, 2.2 rpg) – has started three games; averages 12.0 minutes per game
C DeVon Hardin 6'10 245 Fr (5.3 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.0 blk) – Cal's second best shot blocker; averaging 16.6 minutes per game

Overview

Much like Stanford, the Cal Bears come to Tempe a healthier team than when ASU played them in Berkeley earlier this year. Leading scorer Richard Midgley played sparse minutes against the Sun Devils because of a shoulder injury; however, he is now much healthier and has returned to putting up big offensive numbers despite coming off the bench for Ben Braun's Golden Bears.

Even with Midgley's scoring, the Bears are not an extremely dangerous offensive team. Only two players average double figures and two of their top three scorers come off the bench. Additionally, Cal is a young team and five of their top nine players are freshmen or sophomores, so teams can take advantage of their relative inexperience.

However, that does not mean the Sun Devils will have clear sailing on Saturday. The Bears have a major height advantage on the Devils, with five of their top nine players being as tall or taller than ASU's biggest starter, Ike Diogu. Teams with superior size have been able to frustrate the Sun Devils' star by doubling him with two bigger players as soon as he touches the ball in the post.

After watching Diogu go off for 39 points against single coverage against Stanford on Thursday, look for the Bears to bring the second defender early and often to try to frustrate Ike and to limit his shot attempts. Most likely, they will also tell the player guarding Jason Braxton to sag down into the paint in an attempt to thwart any entry passes into Diogu, as well.

If Ike is effective passing out of double teams, ASU's outside shooters will find open looks while the Bears are trying to rotate to the open man. With Steve Moore struggling to find his outside shot, Kevin Kruger, Serge Angounou, and Bryson Krueger will have to knock down their open looks.

While offensive productivity is nice, as always, ASU's chances for a victory will hinge on their defensive performance. The Devils must hold Midgley and Benson to their averages or less while also not letting Ubaka find his stroke as he makes his way back from injury. If the Devils can at least slow down those three, they should be able to hold the Bears to a manageable point total.

The Devils must also keep Cal's transition points to a minimum. If ASU can make Cal earn their points instead of getting easy fast break dunks and lay-ins, the Sun Devils will at least be in the game at the end, probably with the upper hand.

Ben Braun knows that he must slow this game down or the Devils will outscore his young Cal team. Accordingly, he will double Ike at all times and may even show some zone to keep ASU off balance and to deaden the pace of the game.

ASU's talent matches up well with the Leon Powe-less Bears (season ending knee surgery). As usual, if the Sun Devils defend, rebound, and get Ike his touches, they should win a hard fought game and keep their NCAA Tournament hopes alive.

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