Scouting Report: California

Just a few days ago this was being billed as the match-up between the two undefeated teams in the Pac-10. Both teams stumbled on Thursday, but they are still the two top dogs in the Pac-10. Cal has been a pleasant surprise, while Arizona is still trying to meet high expectations.

No. 1 Arizona (15-2, 7-1) vs. California (14-3, 7-1)
Date: Saturday, Feb. 1, 2003
Time: 5:00 p.m. MST
Location: Olson Court at McKale Center (14,545), Tucson, Ariz.
Radio: Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries/Joe Nehls)
TV: FSNA

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LAST GAME: Arizona was stunned by Stanford 82-77. ASU handed Cal their first Pac-10 loss in a 75-70 win in Tempe.

LAST MEETING: Arizona beat Cal 90-78 in the semi-finals of the Pac-10 Tournament. The Cats swept the Bears last season. Cal last beat Arizona 89-76 in 1999.

BACKCOURT: Richard Midgley replaced AJ Diggs as the point guard at the start of the Pac-10 season. The freshman has shown great maturity in his ability to be a floor general. He doesn't lead the team in assists, in fact he isn't in the top two, but the offense runs better with him on the floor. He is a good scorer, averaging 11.2 ppg the past five games. AJ Diggs backs up Midgley at the point. The 5-9 junior is not much of a threat on the offensive end, but is quick and can be a pesky defender.

Joining Midgley in the starting backcourt is Brian Wethers. The 6-5 guard has scored in double figures every game, including 18 against the Sun Devils. Cal coach Ben Braun calls Wethers the Bears' most athletic player, and the senior can dominate a game on both ends of the court. He's been called on to guard some of the opponents best scorers and could give the smaller Wildcat guards some trouble.

Although listed as a forward, Joe Shipp is essentially another swingman much like Wethers. He's the Bears best scorer, scoring 30 points four times this season. He averages almost 21 ppg and torched ASU for 27 on Thursday night. Shipp is a very good outside shooter, but can also get to the lane.

Donte Smith will see spot minutes at the two-guard position, while Erik Bond gives the Bears a bigger alternative at small forward.

Arizona had trouble last year with Wethers and Shipp and their size could prove pesky again. However, the Wildcat guards could be just as difficult for the Cal guards. Jason Gardner and Salim Stoudamire have been tough match-ups for most opponents this season. Gardner has been on fire of late and appears to be back to where he was a year ago.

FRONTCOURT: This is where Cal is thin. Amit Tamir is the best frontcourt player Cal has, but he is much more comfortable on the perimeter. Tamir is a triple threat who can score, rebound and dish the ball. He is a very good outside shooter who is getting much more comfortable in the paint.

Gabriel Hughes gets the start at center but is not much of a factor. He doesn't score or rebound well enough and at 6-10 isn't a very good shot blocker. In fact Shipp has more blocks on the season than Hughes who is five inches taller. Both of the Bears' 6-5 wings, Shipp and Wethers, rebound better than any of Bear post players, save for Tamir.

Conor Famulener and David Paris are the main reserves off the bench. The 6-6 Famulener actually sees more minutes than Hughes, and Paris at least gives them another big body.

The Cats should dominate the Bears inside. Both Channing Frye and Rick Anderson are mobile enough to follow Tamir around and they are better rebounders than any of the Bear inside guys. Expect Luke Walton to log minutes at the four when he is not posting up on the smaller Cal swingmen.

OUTLOOK: Both teams should be angry after losing games on Thursday. The winner of this game has the upper hand in the Pac-10 title race. Cal has great perimeter players, but lacks size and talent on the inside. This is where the Cats have the upper hand. Arizona is vastly superior to Cal on the inside and that could be the key.

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