Jason Scheer of WildcatAuthority helps preview Cal vs. Arizona hoops on the Bear Republic Podcast

Cal basketball heads into McKale Center on Saturday at 7 p.m., to face an Arizona team that's struggling with its identity. Could the Bears be hitting their stride at just the right time to knock off the Wildcats?

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With California (18-6, 9-3 in Pac-12) set to face No. 9 Arizona (22-3, 11-1) at 7 p.m., on ESPN2 on Saturday, we brought in WildcatAuthority.com's Jason Scheer to break down the Wildcats.

Arizona, since the return of Allonzo Trier, has had some identity issues, the sub-par play of Lauri Markkanen (4-for-20 in his last three games) and lack of ball movement have only exacerbated that. The Wildcats were able to power through down the stretch on Wednesday against Stanford, and that's where start our conversation.

Key stats from Arizona's win over the Cardinal? 42 points allowed in the paint, 12 offensive rebounds by Stanford and 17 second-chance points allowed, despite the sizable front court of Dusan RisticLauri Markkanen and Chance Comanche. Ristic had his quietest game of the year, going 1-for-5 from the field with just five rebounds (he's averaging 11.8 points and 6.2 rebounds going into the game, and 13.5 points and 6.5 rebounds in Pac-12 play.

Markkanen has gone 4-for-20 in his last three games, and went 2-of-9 with only three boards on Wednesday.

Arizona, Scheer said, looked soft, and head coach Sean Miller let them know it in the post-game press conference. Scheer says that the biggest concern, at this point, is interior defense. The Bears, against Arizona State, scored 36 points in the paint, and pulled down 12 offensive boards.

At 4:00, we compare the last two games for Cal and Arizona -- one was the most complete game the Bears have played this season, and, save Oregon, the other was the Wildcats' most concerning. In fact, ever since its win over UCLA, Arizona has looked out of sorts.

At 5:18, Scheer reveals that teams have been playing zone defense heavily against the Wildcats, and that's exactly what Cal did against the Sun Devils. How will that affect Saturday's game? We discuss. Since returning from his injury, point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright has struggled with confidence, and Arizona has struggled with ball movement.

Cal has missed 23 man games due to injury, and the Bears struggled when each of their injured men have returned. At 8:09, we delve into how that same phenomenon has affected the Wildcats, focusing on the ball-stopper Trier, who missed 19 games. It's been, Scheer says, a "perfect storm." The Bears have made progress from their ills. The last time Cal faced Arizona, Ivan RabbCharlie Moore and Jabari Bird had only played three games together. Now? They've shared the court for 15 games.

At 11:55, Scheer touches on the struggles of freshman seven-footer Markkanen. Since he played the Bears, he's shot 53.5% from the field, and 54.7% from three, but his 4-for-20 slump is concerning for the Wildcats.

"You can see on his face that he has no confidence right now," Scheer says.

At 16:11, we break down Arizona's dominance at home. The Wildcats have won 16 straight at the McKale Center, but the Bears have spoiled that home-court advantage before.

At 17:35, it's prediction time. There's a consensus: It's going to be close. The Vegas spread is Arizona -8, but we think it could be a three-point game.

"I don't like the way Arizona is playing, and I can easily see Cal coming in here and winning," Scheer says. "But, it feels with Oregon's loss to UCLA, Miller is very good at finding a way to motivate the team, and take advantage of an opportunity."

If the Wildcats win, they would retain sole possession of first place in the Pac-12, and extend their lead to two games.

Read More:

RECAP: Arizona Survives Stanford

VIDEO: Sean Miller Talks Stanford Win

Scout Bracketology: 2/9

RECAP: Cal Wins Fifth Straight in Dominant Fashion vs. ASU

PREVIEW: Cal vs. Arizona (members)


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