Cal Faces Ohio State in NIT

For the first time since the 1960 Final Four, the California Golden Bears will meet the Ohio State Buckeyes today (Monday) in a 2nd round matchup (on ESPN at 4 p.m.) in the 2008 National Invitation Tournament. The Bears, now 17-15 on the season, will be looking to extend their 2008 campaign at historic Saint John Arena in Columbus, Ohio.

The Buckeyes come in with a 20-13 season record. They defeated UNC Asheville 84-66 in the first round at home after finishing fifth in the Big Ten with a 10-8 conference mark.

In a teleconference on Friday, Cal coach Ben Braun said he was very impressed with Buckeye senior guard Jamar Butler saying, "He's a phenomenal player."

Butler, 6-1, is a multi-dimensional player who can knock down shots, distribute the ball, and control tempo. He is OSU's leading scorer at 14.7 points per game, and averages 6 assists per game. He is the best three-point shooter on Buckeye's team at 39% - and hits an excellent 94% from the free throw line.

Up front, Ohio State features 7-foot freshman center Kosta Koufos. Koufos is the second leading team scorer at 13.9 ppg and is the leading rebounder with 6.7 boards per contest.

The other starters are expected to be 6-8 senior forward Othello Hunter and guards David Lighty and freshman Evan Turner. The Buckeyes will use a three-guard lineup.

Braun, commenting on the Buck's offense said, "They run a lot of ball screens. They set as many ball screens as any team we've faced."

How Cal chooses to defend those screens will be a key to the game. They can hedge and recover, switch, or go under or over the top. The Cal coach didn't indicate a preference during the teleconference.

Ohio State is not a high-tempo team. They average 67.6 points per game, shooting 46% from the field, 34% on threes. They shot just 69% from the free throw line, potentially granting an advantage to the Bears if the game comes down to the closing minutes early Monday evening.

Defensively, Ohio State plays zone and uses that to try to control the tempo of their games. They have held their opponents to just 39% from the field this season. Cal hasn't played against many zone teams this year, but they did have good success against Arizona State's zone.

ASU's zone defense caused a lot of problems for Pac-10 opponents this year, but the Bears were able to score effectively against it. In the first game, a 99-90 double overtime loss at Haas, Cal shot a respectable 44% from the field, but their tired legs in the 2nd half hurt their scoring. Nevertheless, Cal won 76-73, again shooting 44%.

According to kenpom.com, the Buckeyes rank 249th nationally in possessions per game with just 64.8 per 40 minutes; the Bears rank 73rd at 69.7 per game. For the Buckeye's pattern to prevail, they will want to slow Cal down; the Bears will be working to force the tempo.

Ohio State ranks an impressive 23rd in adjusted defensive efficiency; Cal ranks 7th in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency - so this will be an interesting game that will match the home team's outstanding defense against Cal's potent attack.

The keys: Cal will need to control Butler and solve the Buckeye zone defense.

As has so often been the case this year, Jerome Randle will be a key to the Bears' game.

Randle did not have one of his better games against New Mexico in the first round NIT game. He will need to handle the ball safely and make good decisions Monday night.

Cal will need its usual excellent game from Ryan Anderson, and another solid effort from DeVon Hardin, to pull this one in. Patrick Christopher versus David Lighty on the wing will also be a key.

The winner of this game will meet the winner of the Dayton vs. Illinois State matchup. In that game a trip to Madison Square Garden and the NIT semifinals will be on the line.


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The Buckeyes come in with a 20-13 season record. They defeated UNC Asheville 84-66 in the first round at home after finishing fifth in the Big Ten with a 10-8 conference mark.

In a teleconference on Friday, Cal coach Ben Braun said he was very impressed with Buckeye senior guard Jamar Butler saying, \"He's a phenomenal player.\"

Butler, 6-1, is a multi-dimensional player who can knock down shots, distribute the ball, and control tempo. He is OSU's leading scorer at 14.7 points per game, and averages 6 assists per game. He is the best three-point shooter on Buckeye's team at 39% - and hits an excellent 94% from the free throw line.

Up front, Ohio State features 7-foot freshman center Kosta Koufos. Koufos is the second leading team scorer at 13.9 ppg and is the leading rebounder with 6.7 boards per contest.

The other starters are expected to be 6-8 senior forward Othello Hunter and guards David Lighty and freshman Evan Turner. The Buckeyes will use a three-guard lineup.

Braun, commenting on the Buck's offense said, \"They run a lot of ball screens. They set as many ball screens as any team we've faced.\"

How Cal chooses to defend those screens will be a key to the game. They can hedge and recover, switch, or go under or over the top. The Cal coach didn't indicate a preference during the teleconference.

Ohio State is not a high-tempo team. They average 67.6 points per game, shooting 46% from the field, 34% on threes. They shot just 69% from the free throw line, potentially granting an advantage to the Bears if the game comes down to the closing minutes early Monday evening.

Defensively, Ohio State plays zone and uses that to try to control the tempo of their games. They have held their opponents to just 39% from the field this season. Cal hasn't played against many zone teams this year, but they did have good success against Arizona State's zone.

ASU's zone defense caused a lot of problems for Pac-10 opponents this year, but the Bears were able to score effectively against it. In the first game, a 99-90 double overtime loss at Haas, Cal shot a respectable 44% from the field, but their tired legs in the 2nd half hurt their scoring. Nevertheless, Cal won 76-73, again shooting 44%.

According to kenpom.com, the Buckeyes rank 249th nationally in possessions per game with just 64.8 per 40 minutes; the Bears rank 73rd at 69.7 per game. For the Buckeye's pattern to prevail, they will want to slow Cal down; the Bears will be working to force the tempo.

Ohio State ranks an impressive 23rd in adjusted defensive efficiency; Cal ranks 7th in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency - so this will be an interesting game that will match the home team's outstanding defense against Cal's potent attack.

The keys: Cal will need to control Butler and solve the Buckeye zone defense.

As has so often been the case this year, Jerome Randle will be a key to the Bears' game.

Randle did not have one of his better games against New Mexico in the first round NIT game. He will need to handle the ball safely and make good decisions Monday night.

Cal will need its usual excellent game from Ryan Anderson, and another solid effort from DeVon Hardin, to pull this one in. Patrick Christopher versus David Lighty on the wing will also be a key.

The winner of this game will meet the winner of the Dayton vs. Illinois State matchup. In that game a trip to Madison Square Garden and the NIT semifinals will be on the line.


©Copyright 2008, 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 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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