Scouting Report: Cats at Cal

The Cats can clinch the Pac-10 on the road this weekend and the second place Bears want to ensure that it does not happen. Cal is two games out and tied for second place and know that they realistically need to beat the Cats if they hope to win the regular season crown. The Wildcats seemed to have found the groove that made them the preseason No. 1. Now they want to not only wrap up the Pac-10, but a top seed as well.

No. 1 Arizona (21-2, 13-1) at No. 23 California (19-5, 12-3)
Date: Thursday, Feb. 27, 2003
Time: 7:30 p.m. PST
Location: Haas Pavilion (11,892), Berkeley, Calif.
Radio: Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries/Ryan Hansen)
TV: FSN (Steve Physioc/Marques Johnson)

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LAST GAME: The Cats played one of their better games of the year and blitzed ASU 92-72 in Tempe. Cal edged USC in LA 84-82.

LAST MEETING: Arizona beat Cal 90-85 earlier this season in Tucson. They are the only Pac-10 team to beat Cal in Berkeley in the past two seasons.

BACKCOURT: "Cal creates a lot of problems because they have three tremendous scorers in (Amit) Tamir, (Brian) Wethers and (Joe) Shipp," Lute Olson said. "They create a lot of problems because they have so many scorers. It's not like playing ASU where if you limit Ike's (Diogu) touches, you can have a big bearing on their game, or (Jason) Kapono at UCLA."

Richard Midgley is one of the best shooters in the Pac-10 and has firmly established himself as the team's point guard. The freshman has shown great maturity in his ability to be a floor general. He replaced AJ Diggs at the start of the conference season and the offense runs better with him on the floor. He is a good scorer, getting most of his points on the perimeter. 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.

"Midgley is shooting the lights out from three-point range," Olson said. "I think his percentage is 52-53 percent over the last half dozen games from three-point range."

Joining Midgley in the starting backcourt is Brian Wethers. The 6-5 guard has scored in double figures all but two games. He can score from the outside but is as easily adept at getting into the lane. 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 opponent's 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' leading scorer, scoring 30 points four times this season. He averages over 21 ppg and will garner a number of votes for conference Player of the Year. Shipp is a very good outside shooter, but can also get into 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 but had success earlier this year at McKale. Despite a size advantage for the Bears, the Wildcat guards had a field day in the first game. Salim Stoudamire scored 15, while Jason Gardner added 18 and seven assists.

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. Isaiah Fox is still seeing spot minutes in the post, but with Dennis Latimore leaving he will be the only option off the bench.

OUTLOOK: Cal needs someone other than the big three to step up. Tamir, Wethers and Shipp combined for 61 points in Tucson and still lost by 15. The Cats' are getting great play out of their front line and if the Bears hope to win they need to contain Frye. Frye has been on fire and Walton appears to finally be healthy. The Bears will have their hands full, but have the athletes to make this interesting.

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