Bears won't improve by 46 points in six days

Arizona gets a chance to advance to Saturday's Pac-10 championship game when the Cats meet Cal for the third time in tonight's semi-final round. While it's highly unlikely that the Bears will have improved enough in only six days to overcome a 46-point loss to the Wildcats last weekend, expect a much better game tonight.

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Overcoming a 46-point Arizona win in only six days is probably expecting too much out of the California Golden Bears tonight. Sure, it could happen, especially if Cal gets hot shooting performances out of Ryan Forehan-Kelly and another solid effort out of A.J. Diggs. But let's be realistic here, it would take a complete reversal of fortunes for Arizona not to be in tomorrow's championship game.

For Cal to make one of the greatest one-week turnarounds in Pac-10 history it is going to have to become something it hasn't been all year -  a good outside shooting team. ASU found it impossible to get the Wildcats out of their vaunted 3-2 zone the entire game last night and Cal is a worse shooting team, percentage-wise, than the Sun Devils. How that's possible with the athletes Cal has I don't know, but the fact remains.

The Wildcats are not being complacent this afternoon about playing a team they beat by damn near 50 points last weekend; in fact, they are approaching the game the same way they did coming off the disappointing home loss to Stanford - as a must-win.

"The Cal team we expected to show up last Saturday is the same team that came to play (UCLA on Thursday night)," Arizona assistant coach Rodney Tention said after Cal beat the Bruins 67-61. "We know that's the team we have to prepare for (tonight)."

Anyone expecting the same kind of dominance that Arizona displayed at McKale Center last Saturday afternoon has a case of "wishful thinking". Arizona was so good that day and Cal was so bad that it's just about a lock to expect a more middle-of-the-road performance out of both teams tonight.

If Ben Braun and his staff haven't figured out by now that the player who is most effective against Arizona is reserve forward Brian Wethers, then maybe Cal doesn't have much of a chance. Wethers is an exceptional athlete and no one on Arizona team can match-up with him. He scored a game-high 18 points in the Bears' 46-point loss in Tucson and sparked a Bear run in their loss in Berkeley a month ago.

Wethers' activity off the ball on offense and defense could be a real disrupting factor for the Wildcats. Combine his presence with that of senior forward Solomon Hughes, if he can avoid foul trouble, and all of the sudden Cal is a dangerous team.

Okay, enough about the Bears though.

Arizona has improved so much in the rebounding department that its one key weakness is now becoming a strength. The Wildcats dominated the more physical and aggressive (or are they?) Sun Devils on the boards last night, out-rebounding the Devils 47-39.  Rick Anderson grabbed a career-high 14 boards.

Throw in the rebounding of freshmen Dennis Latimore (five rebounds vs. ASU) and Isaiah Fox (seven boards) and suddenly the Wildcats have five legitimate "good rebounders" when you add Luke Walton and Channing Frye to the mix. That offsets the normal advantage Cal has in the frontcourt. With Arizona already considered a superior perimeter team, it's hard not to envision the Cats coming out of tonight's game with another win over Cal.

It's time for the reemergence of Channing Frye in tonight's game. Frye had a couple of his shots go in and out last night against the Sun Devils. If he can get those shots to stay down, his confidence might return to mid-year levels, and that would be huge for Arizona.

Hopefully, Salim Stoudamire will be feeling well enough to play against the Bears after he strained his groin (actually a hip flexor injury) against ASU. If not, that means more playing time for the rapidly improving Will Bynum.

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