Montgomery aware of Arizona's challenge

Cal coach Mike Montgomery met with the media earlier in the week to talk about Friday's game against Arizona.

Cal coach Mike Montgomery met with the media earlier and the week to talk about Friday's game against Arizona.

Like many that have looked at the Pac-10, Montgomery does not have a good feel of how his team will fare in conference play. "There's a bunch of people, probably, that would have the same aspirations or thought processes of where we could finish that are similar, maybe have some issues, but have done well enough or conceivably could do well enough to move up in the league," Montgomery said.

"I think there are a lot of people that have to be in the same category. With as much talent that was lost in the league last year, including here, you don't know where it's going to shake out. The teams that have the big time talent coming back from last year like Arizona, Arizona State, UCLA - they have probably a little bit more confidence. But I don't think they're sitting there thinking that right now.

"I don't think there's anybody that's above reproach in the league right now. But what happens in an 18-game league, you don't have to be, you just have to be above reproach on the night that you play and it ultimately shapes itself out."

However, when talking about Arizona, Montgomery is aware that Jordan Hill will pose a major problem for the Golden Bears.

"Jordan Hill is very good," he said. "He is probably one of the most improved big people that I've seen in a long time, from when he came in as a freshman to where he is now. He's very good. He's a first-round guy now. He knows how to score the ball, he's much stronger, he's aggressive at the glass and quick off his feet getting second shots. He's got some go-to moves that are just hard to guard; he's explosive."

Beyond Hill, Chase Budinger and Nic Wise are a concern. Montgomery, however, is aware that the UA lacks depth.

"Nic Wise, Chase Budinger and Jordan Hill are pretty critical to them," Montgomery said. "That's why they're trying to keep themselves out of foul trouble. In a perfect world, you can sometimes isolate some people and see if you can't go after people a little bit, but it's a little harder in zone."

Montgomery has concern with his team as well, though he thinks those concerned with Jerome Randle are overstating it a bit.

"Basketball is an imperfect game," he said. "Guys are going to make mistakes. What you hope for is that a mistake a guy makes is an honest mistake. Jerome, there's not anything that I've been able to find that is negative about Jerome. He's not trying to do anything wrong. He wants to do the right thing. He needs to be helped, like anybody does.

"Everybody else was down on Jerome, but I had no reason to be. Why should I? He is a very good basketball player. Arguably, maybe as good of a point guard as there is in the league. I'd be surprised if anybody shoots it better than he does. He's going to make free throws. He's extremely quick. He's a little lazy on defense and he knows it. We're trying to get him to play better defense. He's capable of it. He has a lot of responsibility out there. He's out there for a lot of minutes, and the ball's in his hands an awful lot. I think Jerome is as much of a key to our team as anybody we have."

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