Louisville's hands full with Cal's guards

Louisville (20-12) has a tough matchup against guard-heavy California (23-10), the Pac-10 champion, in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament Friday night in South Regional play.

How well Louisville defends California's perimeter trio of Jerome Randle, Patrick Christopher and Theo Robertson could determine the outcome of Friday night first round South Regional matchup in Jacksonville.

That trio led the Golden Bears to the regular season Pac-10 championship this season, combining to average more than 48 points.

"I think they're a great shooting team like Marquette and they have a lot of quickness like Marquette," Rick Pitino said. Marquette beat Louisville by 21 two weeks ago.

Randle, the Pac-10 Player of the Year, leads the way. Cal's leading scorer, the 5-foot-9 point guard ranked fourth in the Pac-10 in scoring at 18.7 points per game, third in assists (4.4), second in made three-pointers (2.7 per game) and first in free throw accuracy with an amazing 94 percent average.

"We're up against it and we know it. We're spending every waking moment studying Cal," said Pitino. "They're very tough to guard in transition. Randle is equally good off the bounce as he is pulling up. They're an excellent fundamental team. They move well, they pass well. They play like a senior team. They're not going to beat themselves."

Louisville will try to contain Pac-10 POY Jerome Randle.
Christopher, a strong 6'5, 220-pound senior guard, ranks in the Top 10 in California history in scoring, three-pointers made and free throw shooting and is second on the team in scoring behind Randle at more than 16 points per game. Robertson, another senior, led the Pac-10 in three-point field goal accuracy this season. He averages 14.4 points, scoring a season-high 27 against Arizona. Randle, Christopher and Robertson all have scored more than 1,000 career points.

"Their seniors are all great shooters," Pitino said. "They're a dangerous basketball team."

The Bears aren't very big in the frontcourt. Jamal Boykin, a 6'7 senior, is the top inside player for California. Boykin, a transfer from Duke, leads Cal in rebounding and produced seven double-doubles this season. He was third in the Pac-10 in field goal percentage this season, averaging 12 points while shooting 60 percent from the field.

"We recruited Jamal Boykin before he went to Duke," Pitino said. "He's improved and uses his left hand as much as his right hand."

While Louisville enters the tournament having lost three of their last five games, including a 69-66 loss to Cincinnati in the second round of the Big East Tournament, California appears to be playing their best at the end of the season. The Bears have won 9 of their last 11 games, though they did fall to Washington in the Pac-10 Tournament finals last Saturday.

"Under normal conditions they are a four or five seed but the Pac-10 was down this year. But they've got four seniors and have been a high RPI team all year," Pitino said. "If we beat them then we played a great basketball game. We realize we're facing one of the most underrated teams in the country."

If Louisville hopes to advance to the second round for a possible game against top-seed Duke Sunday, they'll need a great effort from senior guard Edgar Sosa. Sosa, Louisville's second leading scorer, scored 28 points in the loss to Cincinnati last week and led the Cardinals in assists this season. How he plays usually dictates whether Louisville wins or loses.

"Edgar is playing as well as I've seen him play at all phases of the game," Pitino said. "He had a brilliant season except at the free throw line. He's one of the premier point guards in basketball. He's going against the all-time leading scorer in Cal history. So you're going to have two premier point guards going against each other."

If the game becomes a track meet, depth definitely favors Louisville. The Cardinals routinely play 10 or 11 players off the bench, while California mainly relies on their starters and one or two reserves off the bench. The Bears depth got even thinner with the suspension of forward Omondi Amoke, who started 14 games this season. Still, Pitino knows his team faces a major challenge in the opening round.

"We're playing a terrific basketball team in Cal, a very experienced team that won the Pac-10 regular-season and went to the finals of their tournament," Pitino said. "Any time you start four seniors with great quickness, they're a dangerous basketball team."

The two teams had one interesting common opponent this season – Syracuse. While Louisville beat the No. 1 seeded Orange twice, including 78-68 in the regular season finale, California had no answers for Syracuse in a 95-73 loss in November.

"We know they are a team that is very battled tested," Cal forward Jamal Boykin. "They come from a very strong conference in the Big East and we know that they have an inside-outside attack that is very versatile. I'm very impressed with the way they play."

California Suspends Starting Forward

California head coach Mike Montgomery announced Wednesday that sophomore forward Omondi Amoke has been suspended indefinitely from the Golden Bear basketball team for a violation of team rules.

A 6-foot-7 sophomore, Amoke averages 4.8 points and 4.6 rebounds. He started 14 games this season, including the last six. His best game came against Ohio State, when he posted 11 points and 15 rebounds.

Cal coach Mike Montgomery could replace Amoke in the starting lineup with either 6-7 Markhuri Sanders-Frison or 7-3 Mazx Zhang.

Cardinal Fan Gathering in Jacksonville

University of Louisville men's basketball fans are invited to attend pre-game party at the River City Brewing Company in downtown Jacksonville, Fla. on Friday, March 19 from 5-7 p.m. The Cardinal Pride pep band, U of L cheerleaders, Ladybirds and the Cardinal Bird will greet fans prior to the Cards' NCAA Tournament first round game against California.

The River City Brewing Company is located on the South bank of Downtown Jacksonville, across the St. John's River from the Jacksonville Landing and just minutes from the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena. Parking is available on site. The River City Brewing Company offers great views of downtown Jacksonville from their huge outdoor deck as well as over 40,000 square feet of restaurant/bar area with plenty of tv's to watch NCAA tournament games.

Can't join the Cardinals in Jacksonville? Find out where Cardinal fans in your area are watching the game here.

River City Brewing Company
835 Museum Circle
Jacksonville, FL 32207

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