Cal Preview

There is no time to sulk as the Arizona State Sun Devils will look to get back to their winning ways against the Pac-10 leading Cal Bears at Wells Fargo Arena on Thursday night. After a painful loss at home to the hated Arizona Wildcats, ASU will try to rebound and jump back up to the top of the conference standings.

After an impressive four-game win streak, ASU fell hard against UA in the second half to lose by 19 points in their first loss in the rivalry in their last six games. There wasn't much to get excited about aside from Rik Kuksiks pouring in 15 points. As a whole, the Devils shot just 30% from the field against 51% for the Cats. Kyle Fogg and Derrick Williams scored 21 and 20 respectively to help secure the upset.

After a lot of preseason hoopla, the Bears haven't been terribly impressive but as it stands, they are tops in the Pac-10 in the ever-changing landscape of the 2009-10 season. Last weekend, the Bears took care of business at home against the Oregon schools with a decisive victory over the Ducks and then holding off the Beavers in the second half to preserve the sweep.

Projected Starters

G – Jerome Randle – (18.37 PPG, 4.8 APG) vs. Derek Glasser (10.4 PPG, 5.1 APG)

G – Patrick Christopher – (16.3 PPG, 5.5 RPG) vs. Demetrius Walker (4.5 PPG, 40% 3PT)

G/F – Theo Robertson – (14.3 PPG, 46% 3PT) vs. Ty Abbott (10.1 PPG, 42% 3PT)

F – Omondi Amoke – (5.6 PPG, 5.6 RPG) vs. Rihards Kuksiks (13.0 PPG, 39% 3PT)

F – Jamal Boykin – (11.1 PPG, 6.3 RPG) vs. Eric Boateng (7.4 PPG, 6.3 RPG)

Backcourt

When the season began, the Cal Bears were considered by many experts to be the best team in the Pac-10 because of their two stars: Randle & Christopher. Randle is a playmaking PG that has unlimited range and leads this experienced squad while Christopher is versatile slasher that can score in a bevy of ways. Off the bench, the Bears have Jorge Gutierrez returning from injury and D.J. Seeley also getting some minutes.

Injuries are a part of any sport but so far, the loss of Jamelle McMillan has been very tough for ASU to deal with. The Junior G has missed two straight with Plantar Fasciitis and will miss the Cal game as well. Without him, the Devils will counter with the usual pair of Glasser and Abbott but also Demetrius Walker and Trent Lockett in place of McMillan's minutes. Glasser has been mired in a bit of a shooting slump for the last month but Abbott's play has soared to a new level.

Edge – Cal

Frontcourt

This is where the matchup gets evened out. While Cal has explosive athletes in their backcourt, they have a relatively soft interior presence. Robertson is one of the nation's finest shooters and when he is healthy, the Bears are real tough to beat. Next to him are Amoke and Boykin; two physical players who do a good job of fulfilling their role and stepping up when needed. The depth consists of Max Zhang and Markhuri Sanders-Frison.

Another player who has stepped into a starring role is Kuksiks; the Latvian sharpshooter has expanded his game greatly in the recent weeks and his offensive prowess is essential to the Devils success. Playing the role of "big man" will be Boateng. After starting off hot, Boateng's play has really dropped off and has seen his minutes decline in favor of Ruslan Pateev and Taylor Rohde.

Edge – Even

X-Factor

Lockett/Walker. It's been a bit surprising to see the team struggle in McMillan's absence. It's not to say that anyone doubted McMillan's abilities but the ebb and flow has really altered. If the duo of Lockett and Walker can step in and really pack an offensive punch to electrify the crowd and get more open looks for Abbott and Kuksiks – only then will ASU have a chance to come out on top.

Who Will Win and Why

It's a weird time of year in college basketball because it's the ‘dog days' of the season and some strange things start happening. Unfortunately, weird things have been happening in the Pac-10 since November. After the collapse at home against UA, the Devils will cure their hangover in quick fashion with a defensively dominating performance against the Bears in a tight, low-scoring affair.

ASU 63 Cal 59


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