MAUI, Hawaii – California head basketball coach Mike Montgomery said Sunday morning that he has added in a few wind sprints this past week to his team's workout regimen to get ready for Monday's match-up with Arkansas in the Maui Invitational.
"We have been running 40-yard dashes to get ready to play Arkansas," Montgomery said. "It is definitely going to be a big challenge for us."
Arkansas (3-0) and California (4-0) meet Monday at 2 p.m. CST to open the 30th annual Maui Invitational, a three-day event in which all eight teams are unbeaten.
"We are really excited about being here in Maui and looking forward to seeing how we match up against some great teams," Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson said. "We think we are a better basketball team this season and this will give us a gauge on where we are at, especially going up against a veteran Cal team that was in the NCAA Tournament last season."
Cal indeed brings back four starters from a 21-13 team that made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
The Bears have downed Coppin State 83-64, Denver 77-50, Oakland 64-60 and Southern Utah 75-47 last Monday.
"Everybody from here on out is capable of beating you," Montgomery said. "These four games that we have played we should have won and we have had mixed results. We had some good results. But now all these teams are solid and some are really, really good and some can be really good."
For the first time in the history of the tournament, all eight teams come into the event undefeated and have combined to go 30-0 so far this season.
"Everybody in this tournament is looking at having a good year," Montgomery said. "The Maui Invitational does its research pretty well as far as who they want there. They know who is going to be on your team before they invite you. They are pretty picky to avoid bad games and they have come up with a good field.
"We'll kind of see where we are," Montgomery said. "I am sure the young guys will be shocked by the level of athleticism and just the teams that we will play now from this point forward."
Arkansas will be going up against a team that has talent at every position on the floor with senior point guard Justin Cobbs (6-3, 180), senior center Richard Solomon (6-10, 235) and junior forward David Kravish (6-9, 221) all returning as starters as is former Missouri and Anderson player Ricky Kreklow (6-6, 210) – albeit he is now coming off the bench.
That has allowed Montgomery to insert bring McDonald's All American guard Jabari Bird (6-6) into the starting line-up along with another new starter in 6-5 sophomore guard Tyrone Wallace.
"I have actually taken one of my veterans – Ricky Kreklow from Missouri that played for Mike – and I am bringing him off the bench, not because he doesn't deserve to start, but because that gives me a veteran so I can bring another freshman off and I am not looking at two or all of a sudden three freshmen out there at the same time in the rotation and substitution wise.
"Ricky has been a great settling factor, kind of the glue for us," Montgomery added. "The thing is Jabari is very talented and I think he will adjust. I don't think he will cave. He is a competitor that is used to playing high level basketball. But I think he will be shocked initially at how athletic and how fast the pace of the game is."
Cobb is the Pac 12's leading active career assist with 352 in 71 games (25 in his first four games this season) while Kravish has 111 career blocks and Solomon 88.
Solomon is also sixth nationally right now averaging 12.6 rebounds per game this season for Cal.
"They have a great assist guy in Cobb and a great big guy in Solomon, who is 6-9 or 6-10 and really hits the boards," Anderson said. "They just have a big, talented team with a lot of experience that has been together and really knows how to play the game."
It will certainly be a battle of two teams with contrasting styles – one that likes to get it and go in the Razorbacks and the other who likes to move at a not-so-quick pace in the Bears.
"It is a style of play that Mike has done very, very well with," Montgomery said. "It's pressure, it's run, it's trap and there is a lot of freedom for a lot of different people. They will run 10, 11, 12 people at you . You are going to get some stuff early, but at the end of the day in the last 10 minutes you are going to be gassed and he will be coming at you with people."
Montgomery has cautioned his team that it can't get caught up in playing fast just because it is fun to do so.
"So we have to careful to not play at a pace that we are not comfortable with," Montgomery said. "We have got to take what is given, but we can't just play wholesale up and down because we are not used to that and we don't have that kind of depth.
"Mike has been very, very successful with it, it has been something the fans like to watch and the kids like to play that way," Montgomery added, "but there is no way in practice that we can come close to simulating the quickness, speed and length that they have. You do the best you can and hope they get an idea of where they are supposed to be and then they are going to have to learn on the fly."
The other first round games on Monday have No. 9 Syracuse (4-0) playing Minnesota (5-0) at 4:30 p.m. CST while the other side of the bracket has No. 20 Baylor (4-0) facing host Chaminade (2-0) at 8:30 p.m. CST and and No. 13 Gonzaga (4-0) battling Dayton (4-0) at 11 p.m. CST.
The Baylor-Chaminade game is on ESPNU while the other three games will televised on ESPN2.
With a win, Arkansas would play at 6 p.m. CST on Tuesday against the Syracuse-Minnesota victor while a loss would have it playing at 1 p.m. CST against the loser of that game.
"There are 56 teams in Division I that are undefeated now and we have seven of them in this tournament," noted Jimmy Dykes, the press conference emcee, former Arkansas walk on guard and current ESPN analyst. "It's a great field for a our premier event at ESPN."
Former Arkansas walk on and current ESPN analyst Jimmy Dykes (center) emceed the press conference on Sunday.
Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson and California head coach Mike Montgomery talk Sunday before the coaches get their pictures take with surfboards.
(From left to right) Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson, Cal coach Mike Montgomery, Minnesota head coach Richard Pitino, Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim, Chaminade head coach Eric Bovaird, Baylor head coach Scott Drew, Dayton head coach Archie Miller and Gonzaga head coach Mark Few.
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