Cal Preview

In the 32 years since joining the Pac-10, the Arizona State Sun Devils have never won a Pac-10 championship and on Saturday afternoon at Haas Pavilion in Berkeley, the Sun Devils have a great opportunity to put themselves in the driver's seat for just that with a week to play as they will take on the Cal Bears in a game to determine first place in the conference.

ASU has won six of seven including an impressive win on Thursday night across the Bay at Stanford. After trailing at the half, the Devils, led by Eric Boateng's 24 points and perfect shooting from the field, were able to snap out of their funk and take control early in the half and never look back in the 68-60 win. Aside from an amazing night from the Big Boat, Derek Glasser stepped up for 20 big points.

The Bears have been strange all season long as they are arguably the most talented team in the Pac-10 and unarguably the most experienced but that hasn't been enough for them to pull away from the rest of the teams in the Pac-10 but they are still sitting atop as of now. Winners of five of six and 14-2 at home this season (with their last home loss on January 6), the Bears will look to complete the season sweep of ASU and clinch the Pac-10 title. The Bears are coming off a 95-71 trouncing of Arizona (that's ALWAYS fun to write) as Jerome Randle went off for 24 points and held Nic Wise to just 7 points.

Projected Starters

G – Jerome Randle – (19.4 PPG, 4.5 APG) vs. Derek Glasser (10.5 PPG, 5.1 APG)

G – Patrick Christopher – (15.8 PPG, 5.5 RPG) vs. Jamelle McMillan (6.8 PPG, 3.0 APG)

G/F – Theo Robertson – (14.0 PPG, 44% 3PT) vs. Ty Abbott (12.4 PPG, 44% 3PT)

F – Omondi Amoke – (4.6 PPG, 4.6 RPG) vs. Rihards Kuksiks (11.7 PPG, 39% 3PT)

F – Jamal Boykin – (11.5 PPG, 6.6 RPG) vs. Eric Boateng (8.7 PPG, 6.6 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.

It's been hit and miss all season for the ASU offense as we all know but Derek Glasser is finally getting back into his rhythm after a long cold stretch while Jamelle McMillan finally got going again in the Stanford win as well. While the PG duo is nice, the real offensive firepower comes from Ty Abbott. After a disastrous sophomore season, Abbott is playing better than ever and will be the go-to guy for ASU in this one. And one side note, we all loved Abbott's 28 points against UofA but he was even better against Cal a couple years ago when he scored a career-high 30 points. Trent Lockett is the first man off the bench for ASU while Demetrius Walker could also get some run.

Edge – Even

Frontcourt

The Bears are very similar to the Devils in that they basically play 4 guards/wings and have just one big man and just like ASU, the Bears do it very well. Theo Robertson is an excellent shooter that has expanded his game and is a dangerous scorer from anywhere on the floor. Omondi Amoke is the guy who does the dirty work for Cal while Jamal Boykin has been a tough matchup for all bigs in the Pac-10 with his athleticism.

Coming off his biggest game in the maroon and gold, Eric Boateng needs to continue his recent hot streak and contain Boykin and Amoke down low while giving his shooters as many open looks as possible. Kuksiks was silent against Stanford with just a couple points but his shot must be respected and if he can make a couple shots early on – the entire offense will open up. Rohde and Shipp are the first guys down low off the bench.

Edge – Even

X-Factor

Rihards Kuksiks needs to find his stroke because of two reasons: Ty Abbott and Eric Boateng. If he is nailing his shots, defenses have to play him tight on the perimeter which gets Abbott more space coming off screens and it keeps Boateng all alone down low where he can try not to travel and make a few buckets. Who Will Win and Why

Coming into this season, I said this team would definitely be rebuilding and might win 18 games and crack .500 in Pac-10 play and I thought I had the Kool-Aid in my veins but this team decided to do even better. Cal hasn't won a Pac-10 title in 50 years and this is their Senior Day but I feel like the Devils and Herb Sendek would prefer to crash the party. ASU in a nail-biter.

Prediction

ASU 68 Cal 66


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