Basketball: A Mid-Season Report

<p><em><small>Photo by Michael Pimentel<br>GoldenBearSports.com</p></small></em> <p>It's almost Oscar time, and once again Clint Eastwood is among the nominees. I've always been a big Eastwood fan; one of my favorites is &quot;The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.&quot;</p>

As the Bears completed the first half of the conference schedule, that movie's title seems an apt description of the team's performance. At 4-5 in the league, and 11-8 overall, we've seen some good, some bad, and a little ugly.

The Good. The most consistent aspect of this team has been the defense. Cal is third in the Pac-10 in field goal percentage defense, probably the best measure of defensive efficiency. Counting non-conference games, the Bears are holding opponents to 40% from the field. They are also third in blocked shots.

Most of the year, Cal has played man-to-man defense. They have even played man on baseline inbounds situations, where they have historically switched to a 2-3 zone. In fact, until the UCLA game, Cal had probably played less zone than any previous Ben Braun team.

That makes the effectiveness of the zone in the wins at UCLA and over Oregon State even more remarkable. The next time they play it, watch how the weak-side wing defender in the back of the zone follows cutters along the baseline, all the way to the opposite corner. It really is a match-up zone (with some similarities to Temple), and it's confusing the opponents.

The offense has also been pretty good, especially lately. The performance on Saturday night at Haas against Oregon State was the best so far. OSU is not exactly a great defensive team, but 57% shooting from the floor is good against anybody.

For those of you looking for a reason for the offensive improvement, it's not some new system, or a new assistant coach. To paraphrase the Clintonians, "It's the execution, stupid."

Cal tries to go inside out, pounding the ball inside, kicking it out, reversing it, and running off the defense. A lot of teams play that way, and one of them, Connecticut, won the national championship last season. (Of course, the system works really well with Emeka Okafor and Ben Gordon.)

The Bad. The health of the players has been the biggest problem. It started last year with Leon Powe's knee, and it has only gotten worse since. The injuries to Ayinde Ubaka and Richard Midgley had a lot to do with the team's inconsistent play. Now that everyone is reasonably healthy again (except for Leon, of course) it will be interesting to watch this team in the second half of the conference schedule.

The Ugly. Free throw shooting has been terrible until the last two games. Even after going a combined 25 for 31 (81%) against the Oregons, the Bears are still shooting just 62% for the year. Coach Braun testifies that the team shoots about 80% from the line in practice, but that's practice. Clearly, the focus and concentration last week was much better, but the real challenge will be to make the shots in Tucson and Tempe, in the face of intimidating fans.

This team can continue to improve in the second half of the conference. They are finally healthy, and they are playing with increased confidence. Even with a tough schedule, they can improve on that 4-5 mark. The big key will be their response to adversity, because they are unquestionably going to face some, (possibly as soon as Thursday night in Tucson.) This continues to be a very interesting team to watch, Cal fans can look forward to the last nine conference games.



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As the Bears completed the first half of the conference schedule, that movie's title seems an apt description of the team's performance. At 4-5 in the league, and 11-8 overall, we've seen some good, some bad, and a little ugly.

The Good. The most consistent aspect of this team has been the defense. Cal is third in the Pac-10 in field goal percentage defense, probably the best measure of defensive efficiency. Counting non-conference games, the Bears are holding opponents to 40% from the field. They are also third in blocked shots.

Most of the year, Cal has played man-to-man defense. They have even played man on baseline inbounds situations, where they have historically switched to a 2-3 zone. In fact, until the UCLA game, Cal had probably played less zone than any previous Ben Braun team.

That makes the effectiveness of the zone in the wins at UCLA and over Oregon State even more remarkable. The next time they play it, watch how the weak-side wing defender in the back of the zone follows cutters along the baseline, all the way to the opposite corner. It really is a match-up zone (with some similarities to Temple), and it's confusing the opponents.

The offense has also been pretty good, especially lately. The performance on Saturday night at Haas against Oregon State was the best so far. OSU is not exactly a great defensive team, but 57% shooting from the floor is good against anybody.

For those of you looking for a reason for the offensive improvement, it's not some new system, or a new assistant coach. To paraphrase the Clintonians, "It's the execution, stupid."

Cal tries to go inside out, pounding the ball inside, kicking it out, reversing it, and running off the defense. A lot of teams play that way, and one of them, Connecticut, won the national championship last season. (Of course, the system works really well with Emeka Okafor and Ben Gordon.)

The Bad. The health of the players has been the biggest problem. It started last year with Leon Powe's knee, and it has only gotten worse since. The injuries to Ayinde Ubaka and Richard Midgley had a lot to do with the team's inconsistent play. Now that everyone is reasonably healthy again (except for Leon, of course) it will be interesting to watch this team in the second half of the conference schedule.

The Ugly. Free throw shooting has been terrible until the last two games. Even after going a combined 25 for 31 (81%) against the Oregons, the Bears are still shooting just 62% for the year. Coach Braun testifies that the team shoots about 80% from the line in practice, but that's practice. Clearly, the focus and concentration last week was much better, but the real challenge will be to make the shots in Tucson and Tempe, in the face of intimidating fans.

This team can continue to improve in the second half of the conference. They are finally healthy, and they are playing with increased confidence. Even with a tough schedule, they can improve on that 4-5 mark. The big key will be their response to adversity, because they are unquestionably going to face some, (possibly as soon as Thursday night in Tucson.) This continues to be a very interesting team to watch, Cal fans can look forward to the last nine conference games.



©Copyright 2005, BearInsider.com and Scout.com. All rights reserved.

If you haven't done so already, subscribe to The Bear Insider so you can participate in this very active online Cal community and get access to the members-only content from the nation-wide Scout.com network.

Bear Insider staff writers visit the Insider discussion board regularly, and are available to discuss questions you may have about this article and Cal Athletics.

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