UCLA vs Cal, 1st Round Pac-10 Tournament. That statement should be hype enough for any Pac-10 fan to tune into tonight, since no two programs in the Pac-10 this year are as intertwined. And it doesn't take an expert to nail down the headlines in this one; there are just so many twists and turns. "> UCLA vs Cal, 1st Round Pac-10 Tournament. That statement should be hype enough for any Pac-10 fan to tune into tonight, since no two programs in the Pac-10 this year are as intertwined. And it doesn't take an expert to nail down the headlines in this one; there are just so many twists and turns. ">

Game 4, Pac-10 Tourney: Cal vs UCLA

<p><font face="Verdana" size="2" color="#000080">UCLA vs Cal, 1st Round Pac-10 Tournament. That statement should be hype enough for any Pac-10 fan to tune into tonight, since no two programs in the Pac-10 this year are as intertwined. And it doesn't take an expert to nail down the headlines in this one; there are just so many twists and turns.

People who don't follow the Pac-10 as closely will only remember the highlights from February 21st, when Matt Barnes crushed Shantay Legans with one of the biggest cheap-shots you'll ever see near the end of the game. And that's something will be reminded of often as this game starts, I can see the tape already.  And truthfully, that might be the biggest 'Firework' to this year's UCLA-Cal match-up, but there is so much more.

First and foremost is that the game is being played in Los Angeles...and I think most fans are expecting the Bruins to have the homecourt advantage. That is to be determined - since almost three-quarters of the Cal roster are from the Los Angeles area, including the entire starting 5.  I think it'll be a very mixed crowd actually.  The Bears have always played some of their best basketball annually in L.A as well, so the homecourt ideology isn't going to be there in my opinion. 

Secondly, when you review the first two games played by both UCLA & Cal, we see some very low scoring affairs...and that's to be expected usually...as when the rivalry goes up, so does the defense.  No team was better than Cal on the defensive end in the Pac-10, and no team has more size at the Point Guard & Shooting Guard spots than do the Bruins...so they both have solid defensive abilities. 

The 1st game played in Pauley Pavilion went to the Bruins 64-57, and it was a game that was truthfully up for grabs down to the 2 minute mark.  Both offensives really struggled, but the Bruins had two timely buckets down the stretch to edge Cal.  And the 2nd game at Haas Pavilion was Cal all the way, building a 15 point lead early and cruising pretty much the rest of the way.  The Barnes-Legans incident occurred in the final 3 minutes of that game when it was going to clearly be a Cal victory, so it definitely gives the ammo of being a cheap-shot...as the battle was already over.  Certainly nobody will ever forget that incident.  There was something about that play that told me immediately that UCLA & Cal would have some unfinished business this year - and I remember talking about that in the PostGame report.  So here we go again!

Starters;
- 6'11, 240 lbs Senior Center Dan Gadzuric
- 6'7, 235 lbs Senior Forward Matt Barnes
- 6'8, 215 lbs Junior Shooting Guard Jason Kapano
- 6'6, 190 lbs Frosh Point Guard Cedric Bozeman
- 6'6, 200 lbs Senior Forward Billy Knight

Key Reserves;
- 6'10, 225 lbs Sophomore PF T.J Cummings
- 6'1, 170 lbs Frosh PG Ryan Walcott
- 6'7, 190 lbs Frosh SF Dijon Thompson
- 6'5, 190 lbs Senior SG Rico Hines
- 6'7, 195 lbs Frosh SF Andre Patterson

Cal's Starters;
- 6'11 225 lbs Senior Center Solomon Hughes
- 6'11 265 lbs Frosh Center Jamal Sampson
- 6'5 220 lbs Junior SF Joe Shipp
- 6'3 200 lbs Junior SG Dennis Gates
- 5'10 175 lbs Junior PG Shantay Legans

Key off the Bench;
- 6'10 250 lbs Frosh PF Amit Tamir
- 6'5, 200 lbs Junior SG Brian Wethers
- 5'10 160 lbs Soph PG A. J. Diggs
- 6'5 195 lbs Senior SG Ryan Forehan-Kelly

The rosters for both teams are incredibly entwined as well, since so many of the same kids were either heavily or distantly recruited by each others School.  Not only was the aforementioned Matt Barnes, but Dan Gadzuric was a heavy target four years ago by the Bears...and Jamal Sampson was obviously a prime recruit for the Bruins since they signed his HS teammate Cedric Bozeman this year.  Certain people have their own take on the history of each recruiting story (player by player), but there is an unquestionable amount of similarity between the players on both squads.

UCLA enters the game playing pretty good basketball, at least better than they were playing the last time they visited Berkeley.  After that loss, in which the Bruins were held to 18 1st half points....they turned up a notch and beat Stanford in Palo Alto.  They didn't play very well at home in their win over OSU, but played pretty soundly against Oregon in a tough loss just last Saturday. 

Cal is also coming off a loss in their last game, and well...it was easily their worst game of the year.  The broke down defensively early, and were annihilated by the `Cats in Tucson.  I think it was easy to see that wasn't the same Cal team who had finished tied for 2nd in the Pac-10 though, and there might be something to the fact that Arizona happens to have Cal's number this year.  I think its obvious to see that UCLA does not have Cal's number though, and I think if anybody is looking forward to competing tonight...it would be Cal.  Most experts make too big a deal about the last game that was played anyway, its something most players will tell you that's wiped out entirely since there's a new opponent, new game-plan, new city, and a different tempo.

Something great comes out in the Cal Bears against the Bruins - and whether its just the simple fact that beating a historically great program like the `Blue is their merit - it seems to be enough!  Cal's defensive game plan will again be shadowing Jason Kapono, and forcing the Bruins lone inside player Dan Gadzuric away from the hoop and to his left.  Teams who have down this successfully usually beat the Bruins, and I think Cal has all the necessary tools to do so again.  I think if UCLA really wants to have a better shot of winning this game, they will play the active T.J Cummings from the start over Billy Knight or Matt Barnes.  The Bruins simply are not as potent without him in the game, and it was no surprise to me to see the Bruins play their best road game of the year when Matt Barnes was disqualified for the Stanford game (after the Cal incident), and TJ got the start in their win.  After the Bruins returned from Palo Alto, Coach Steve Lavin went back with his old line-up...and the Bruins played a dismal game against the Beavers in a win...and lost two days later to Oregon at home with the same old line-up.  Its obvious to me that TJ could really help the Bruins win games, and they seem to obviously score more as well (95 points against Stanford with TJ in the game, 65 & 62 respectively against the Oregon schools at home with him on the bench).

Offensively for Cal, it'll be about the Bears working the ball in the post...and getting off to a good start.  Its important for the Bears to shoot a respectable amount of their free-throws as well, since this game could be called tighter than most of the games played in the 1st Round of the Pac-10 Tournament.  And for that reason (which is an extremely important factor), I like the Bears chances.  Games paced at half-court tempo's have driven the Bruins nuts all year long, and that's exactly the speed I see tonight.  I'll go ahead an pick a 74-64 Cal Victory, with the MVP going to Joe Shipp.


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