For instance, if the game is held at Madison Square Garden...you can forget it. I believe Lute has never lost a game on that floor...and he's won every Pre-Season NIT he has entered the Wildcats in. Additionally, he's won 2 Pre-Season Maui Invitational Tournaments...and believe it or not, he's the reigning Pac-10 Tournament Champion Coach. The `Cats won the last tournament in 1991, after which it was dissolved. Lets not forget winning a Junior College Championship, taking Iowa to a Final Four, taking U of A to three Final Fours, a National Championship in 1997, as well as last year's NCAA Tournament Final qualifying team. They gave Duke a big-time battle as well.
And if you want to make his numbers look even more impressive against the `Cats next opponent, lets go ahead and add that in; Lute Olson is 31-9 in his career against Cal. He's also been the winner of the last six, and 9 out of 10. I truly don't think I need to refer too much to the 99-53 drubbing Cal took less than a week ago in Tucson as more proof on Coach Olson & Arizona's domination of Cal, and Pac-10 Basketball in General. I believe he'll also add in his resume his 7th Pac-10 Coach of the Year award soon (though I could be wrong).
For the Bears, its certainly time for them to step up. Nobody likes to be bullied, and nobody likes to be thumped the way they did on National TV...but they are probably a better team for it. Its always tough for fans to understand that, but every once in a while players and teams have to be reminded that they still have a lot of areas to work on. And as long as it happens during the course of a season, its okay to go through that. Its somewhat of a 're-hungering' if you will...and for Cal, I think they needed that. I don't think they needed to be pummeled to that extent, but every message has its own bottle.
- 6'7 230 lbs Junior Power Forward Luke Walton
- 6'9 250 lbs Frosh Center Isaiah Fox
- 6'9 220 lbs Junior Small Forward Ricky Anderson
- 6'1 190 lbs Frosh Shooting Guard Salim Stoudamire
- 5'10 170 lbs Junior Point Guard Jason Gardner
- 6'10 240 lbs Frosh Center Channing Frye
- 5'10 175 lbs Frosh Shooting Guard Will Bynum
- 6'8 225 lbs Frosh Power Forward Dennis Latimore
As I said in my 1st preview of Oregon yesterday, Point Guard Jason Gardner has been the cornerstone of this year's team, and his play has reminded me so much of when Damon Stoudamire was in Tucson. He has un-equaled confidence in the Pac-10, and that's always been a trait of Arizona point-guards since Lute took over. Salim Stoudamire was recently awarded with the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year award, and there's no doubt that he deserved it - in fact, that was my choice for the award about 2 weeks ago. Salim is going to be another great Point Guard for Lute next year after Gardner heads to the NBA, and I think he's about as solid defensively as any Frosh I have ever seen. How can you argue with 90+% from the free-throw line as well. In the front-court, Luke Walton is really peaking right now, and I think he's shooting it about as good as he can. Whatever Ricky Anderson, Channing Frye, and Isaiah Fox add is fine, but it really comes down to the big 3; Walton, Gardner, and Stoudamire. In the Arizona offense, we'll again see a lot of motion, with back & post screens primarily for Gardner and Stoudamire in a zone...and against man-to-man, we'll see Walton & Anderson move into that equation.
- 6'11 225 lbs Senior Center Solomon Hughes
- 6'11 265 lbs Frosh Center Jamal Sampson
- 6'5 220 lbs Junior SF Joe Shipp
- 6'5, 200 lbs Junior SG Brian Wethers
- 5'10 165 lbs Junior PG Shantay Legans
Key off the Bench;
- 6'10 250 lbs Frosh PF Amit Tamir
- 6'3 200 lbs Junior SG Dennis Gates
- 5'10 160 lbs Soph PG A. J. Diggs
- 6'5 195 lbs Senior SG Ryan Forehan-Kelly
The key for Cal defensively will to be to play big, smart, and aggressive. They must out-rebound the `Cats too, since Arizona wins 90% of the games they play when they out-rebound their foes. I think if Cal is going to play with Arizona, they can not back down...and they really have to stymie the moxie that Arizona emits. That moxie usually starts from Jason Gardner's play, and I really believe that if Cal is going to win this game...they have to absolutely clamp down on Gardner. He has to miss a bulk of his shots, which would then allow Cal to really tighten the screws on what the `Cats would like to do offensively. Getting in Gardner's face and stopping him from starting a transition offense...and basically taking him out of the game would provide Cal's best opportunity of winning. Again, Gardner is the entire key to Arizona's confidence and style...and when you take him away, they are not nearly the same team. Shantay Legans & A.J Diggs must stop him.
Offensively, the Bears again need to be aggressive. If they are passive at any point in this game, they will not have a chance to win it. They also might need someone to really take over the scoring load, as Arizona usually dominates teams that like to spread the ball around. I don't know think Cal needs to play the perfect game to beat them, they just have to play much smarter than they did against Arizona the 1st two times this season. And that also means the Game Plan has to be smarter. Defensively, that means finding someone that will stop Gardner. I do like the fact that the game is in L.A, and the Bears always play very well in this area since they have so many players from Southern California.
But when you add in the domination that Arizona has had over Cal, how well they play in Tournament's (with very few exceptions), and the confidence that Arizona brings to the table - it makes it very difficult to choose the Bears. I am going to have to select Arizona, 78-73...and I think Jason Gardner will again shoot them down. This is one that I hope I am wrong about, and nobody will be happier than me about it.