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Game #12: Oregon St at Cal

<p class=txt>There is a special feeling in Berkeley right now, and whether some feel its magic swirling around Haas Pavilion or pixie dust on all the Bears shoes, there are a couple of facts that already prove that something positive is brewing. Did you know that no Cal team has ever started a Pac-10 Season under Coach Ben Braun at 3-0? Or for that matter even 1-0?

Its true, Cal has lost every Pac-10 opener under Ben Braun since he started coaching in 1996-97 for the Bears. I remember writing my preview about what I felt was the most important game of the year for Cal last Saturday, Stanford at Cal - Game 1 of the Pac-10 Season for both Bay Area schools. Losing every opener for the Bears was just a trend that had to end (no rhyme intended), and who better to beat then the Cardinal to get the season off to a great start. Obviously, the Bears did not have a let down against Oregon, and I know I didn't see any which way they would. I believe that had to do with the #10 bull's-eye the Ducks were wearing, and the fact that the Bears are absolutely clicking right now. For me, it was simply seeing a team that is flat out on a roll right now…and another team that just doesn't have its wings on yet. I do not know exactly where Luke Jackson was for the first 35 mins of the game, as he was looking up into the crowd, passing off to teammates, etc…doing everything but looking at the hoop. You have to give credit to the Bears, as they did the job collectively. Joe Shipp, Amit Tamir, and Brian Wethers all had turns on Jackson. 

Next up for the Bears is the Oregon State Beavers (7-5 Overall, 0-3 in the Pac-10) under new Coach Jay John. As some of you know, Jay John is the former Arizona Assistant Coach who also worked under Coach Kent at Oregon for one year as well. He is an excellent top man, and I believe he understands the task at hand in Corvallis. A week ago I watched the telecast of the Arizona State-Oregon State game, and one of the announcers mentioned that Jay John was simply getting his players to focus on playing the game, not worrying about the score right now…but to play hard every second of the game. Its that type of teaching versus coaching that'll get the job done in Corvallis - though its going to take awhile. 

Here is a quick look at the 2002-03 Oregon State team;
Projected Starting Lineup: (Returning starters in Bold) 2002-03 Statistics 
PG- Lamar Hurd 6'4 175 Fr (4.9 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 4.0 apg)
SG- Jimmy Haywood 6'2 175 Sr (12.9 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.9 apg, 34% 3-Ptr's)
SF- Floyd North III 6'4 215 So (6.5 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 1.7 apg, 36% 3-Ptr's)
PF- Brian Jackson 6'9 240 Sr (11.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 1.3 apg, 40% 3-Ptr's)
C- Phillip Ricci 6'7 250 Sr (16.9 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 1.2 apg)

J. S. Nash 6'1 195 So (5.4 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 2.6 apg)
Chris Stephens 6'1 173 Fr (2.4 ppg, 0.4 rpg, 0.3 apg)
Derek Potter 6'11 230 So (2.5 ppg, 1.8 rpg)
David Lucas 6'6 205 So (4.3 ppg, 1.7 rpg)

It's quite obvious that Jay John has his work cut out for him after this season. The Beavers will lose seniors Brian Jackson, Phillip Ricci, and Jimmy Haywood - their 3 leading scorers, and what amounts to their entire frontcourt. So in my opinion, Jay John's work will really come down to how well he recruits. His first big signing came during this past summer, when he was able to land Lamar Hurd, a top 100 consensus HS point guard from the state of Texas. Hurd is a lanky, pass-first oriented young player who is a true point, though he lacks an outside shot completely. In fact, if you look at his statistics you see a 50% 3-point shooter…but don't be fooled, he's shot just twice from beyond the arc all year. Since Hurd plays well over 30 minutes per game and plays a perimeter position, his offensive weakness will show up in Pac-10 play and haunt the Beavers as a team. In fact, Hurd has scored just 10 points over OSU's first 3 Pac-10 games. Jimmy Haywood is back this year, after quitting the team a year ago under then Coach McKay. Haywood is an energetic young player who has to be kicking himself a bit for not heading to Arizona when they offered him 4 years ago, and Jay John is the 3rd Head Coach that Haywood has played for during his stay in Corvallis. Jimmy still plays hard though, and he does a lot of the little things any program would want. He is one of the better defensive 2 guards in the Pac-10, and this year according to Coach John, Haywood has the green light on offense. Perhaps that's why Jimmy has jacked up 67 three pointers to date, which is 5.5 a game. That's also nearly 3 times that of any other player on the team. Floyd North III and J.S. Nash are the other two players who rotate in the backcourt, though North starts since he has the size to guard some wings. Nash and North are both aggressive types, who will take some rather exotic turn around jumpers too. North is a very good rebounder, Nash better offensively. David Lucas is starting to get some PT too, and look for him to play a bigger role in tomorrow night's game due to his size.

For the 2nd year in a row, the frontcourt is led by Jackson and Ricci. Jackson has always been more of a small forward due to his speed and outside game, but unfortunately due to his height has had to play the interior. That has led to Jackson's frustration, and for a short time last year…he quit the team as well. The continual banging on the post has also led to Jackson being injured, and he's not 100% right now either (abdominal strain). He'll likely enjoy playing defensively against Amit Tamir, since Amit is willing to play outside too. Phillip Ricci doesn't necessarily have the height of a Pac-10 center, but the former California JC State Player of the Year is a force down low. Ricci, who is from nearby Galt, plays a very physical game with solid up and under moves. He mostly tries to get defenders off their feet, and he can work with both hands as well. Derek Potter is improved from a year ago, though he's still only providing 2.5 ppg off the bench. 

Coach John knows the limitations of his team. He knows the Beavers aren't deep, and that they do not have the offensive ammo to keep up with most of their Pac-10 counterparts. It's a limitation that you have to coach through, and try to find ways to win. Unfortunately for Coach John, the limitations have been suffocating so far in Pac-10 play. OSU opened at home against the Sun Devils, and after playing well the first 10 minutes, promptly ended up losing by 20 points. They played a bit better against John's former team, the Arizona Wildcats, but still lost by 20 at Gill Coliseum. They are now in the middle of a 3-game road stretch, and coming off an Oregon State-style defensive game at Maples Pavilion Top Stories