Previewing Cal

NC State has earned it's fifth straight NCAA Tournament bid as the Wolfpack are the No. 10 seed in the Atlanta Regional. NC State opens Friday in Dallas, Texas, against No. 7 seed California. Here is a preview of the Golden Bears.

No. 7 seed California Breakdown

Official Site: California Golden Bears
Conference: Pac-10
Record: 20-10
RPI: 54
SOS: 63
Roster: Official Roster
Schedule: Schedule
Stats: Stats

Probable Starters
Pos  No  Name             Ht    Wt   Yr  PPG   RPG
F    44  Leon Powe        6-8   240  So  20.7  10.0
C    35  DeVon Hardin     6-11  235  So  7.5   6.7
G     1  Ayinde Ubaka     6-4   200  Jr  14.8  3.8 apg
G     2  Omar Wilkes      6-4   185  So  7.5   1.4
G    15  Richard Midgley  6-3   195  Sr  8.8   2.5

Ben Braun

Bears Making 14th NCAA Tournament Appearance
Cal earned its 14th invitation to the NCAA Tournament this March and fifth during Ben Braun's tenure as head coach. The Bears own an 18-13 all-time NCAA playoff record, which includes three trips to the Final Four. Cal captured fourth place in 1946, won the national title in 1959 and finished as the NCAA runner-up in 1960. Since then, the Bears have advanced to the Sweet 16 round twice - in 1993 and again in 1997. Under Braun, Cal has gone to the tourney in 1997, 2001 (1st round), 2002 (2nd round) and 2003 (2nd round), in addition to this season.

Braun Leads Cal Coaches in Postseason Appearances
Cal head coach Ben Braun is leading the Bears into the postseason for the seventh time in his 10 years at the helm this March - more than any coach in school history. Braun has guided Cal to five NCAA Tournaments - 1997, 2001, '02, '03 and '06 - and a pair of National Invitation Tournaments - 1999, 2000. The Bears reached the NCAA Sweet 16 in 1997, while they won the NIT in 1999, defeating Clemson, 61-60, in the title game. Braun's postseason record at Cal stands at 11-5, which puts him No. 1 in school annals, just ahead of legendary coach Pete Newell.

After Slow Start, Cal Steps Up Defensive Pressure
After the non-league portion of their schedule, the Bears ranked last in the Pac-10 in field goal percentage defense, allowing opponents to

DeVon Hardin

make 45.3 percent of their shots from the floor. Cal also surrendered 66.6 ppg, with six of 10 foes tallying at least 67 points. But with the start of conference action, the Bears seemed to have a change of attitude, and by the end of the league season, Cal ranked second in field goal percentage defense (41.7%) and third in scoring defense (62.1 ppg). During Pac-10 games, nine teams had FG rates of 40 percent or less, with the Bears going 7-2 in those contests. Cal limited Oregon State to 31.9 percent in Corvallis, while USC converted just 29.5 percent in the Bears' home finale. And in Cal's 68-61 victory at UCLA Dec. 31, the Bruins shot 36.7 percent from the field.

Cal Holds Teams to Lowest Average in 20 Years
Cal enters the NCAA Tournament allowing only 64.7 ppg - lowest for a Bear team since the 1985-86 squad surrendered 63.4 ppg when a 45-second shot clock was in use. Cal's previous record during the 35-second shot clock era was set in 2001-02 (66.6 ppg). This season, the Bears have given up more than 70 points only seven times, while holding opponents to 60 or few points on 10 occasions. Eight Pac-10 foes failed to break the 60-point mark, including Washington State, which was held to 41 points Feb. 23 - the lowest total for a Cal opponent since the Bears beat Eastern Washington, 56-27, on Nov. 16, 2001. Cal's 2005-06 average represents a significant drop from last year, when the Bears yielded 70.8 ppg.

Powe-tent Force on the Block for Bears
Sophomore F Leon Powe, who went 629 days between games due to knee surgery and a foot stress facture, has returned with a vengeance this season, earning All-America and all-conference honors as the leading scorer (20.7 ppg) and rebounder (10.0) in the Pac-10. If he can maintain his lofty status in both categories, he will become just the sixth league player ever to pace the conference on the two lists, joining Ike Diogu of Arizona State (2004-05), A.C. Green of Oregon State (1984-85), Cal's Mark McNamara (1981-82), UCLA's Bill Walton (1972) and UCLA's Lew Alcindor (1967-69). Powe is also on pace to be the sixth Bear to claim a Pac-10 scoring title since 1994, with the others being Lamond Murray (1994, 24.2 ppg), Shareef Abdur-Rahim (1996, 21.1 ppg), Ed Gray (1997, 24.8 ppg), Sean Lampley (2001, 19.5 ppg) and Joe Shipp (2003, 20.4 ppg).

Powe has scored at least 20 points 15 times (including in eight of the last 10 games), and 30 or more on three occasions. In back-to-back games vs. Stanford Feb. 9 and Arizona Feb. 16, he came through with 32 points against the Cardinal and 30 points vs. the Wildcats - both resulting in Cal victories.

Leon Powe

But Powe saved his best for the Pac-10 Tournament. In the quarterfinals, he poured in 22 points and snared a tournament-record 20 rebounds (old mark: 18 by Arizona State's Ike Diogu in 2003) to become Cal's first 20-20 player since McNamara accomplished the feat three times during the 1981-82 campaign. One night later, Powe established another tourney record, this time with 41 points (14-17 FG, 13-18 FT) in the Bears' double OT win over Oregon in the semis. The old mark of 39 points was set by UCLA's Reggie Miller in 1987, and Powe's total ties for the third-highest ever by a Cal player.

Overall, he owns 28 career double-doubles - with a Pac-10-best 14 this season - and has led Cal in rebounding in 47 of the 53 games he has played, including 22 of 26 this year (includes ties).

Powe first underwent a pair of surgeries on his left knee in 2004 that kept him out all of the '04-05 campaign. Cleared to play last May, he earned MVP honors at the San Francisco Pro-Am and averaged 23.6 ppg and 10.4 rpg during Cal's trip to Italy over the summer. But just before the Bears' exhibition game vs. Humboldt State Nov. 14, Powe was diagnosed with a minor stress fracture in his right mid-foot, putting a hold on his return until the Nov. 30 San Jose State game.

Hardin Climbing Season, Career Block Ladders at Cal
Sophomore C DeVon Hardin, who owns a team-best 48 blocks this year - including four each against Arizona and Arizona State Feb. 16-18 - has moved into Cal's career and season Top 10 lists. In just under two full seasons, he has swatted away 74 shots, putting him alone in sixth place and just one out of a tie for fifth. On Cal's season list, Hardin is in fifth place by himself. His average of 1.60 per game is third in the Pac-10 this year.

Ubaka Directs Attack at the Point
Ayinde Ubaka, who entered the season with a career scoring average of 6.3 ppg, earned All-Pac-10 honors in 2005-06 after more than doubling his rate to 14.8 ppg. Cal's second-leading scorer (and No. 10 in the Pac-10), he has reached double figures 27 times in 30 games after doing so on just eight occasions over his first two years in the program combined and only twice last season. Ubaka set a career high with 17 points in the opener at Eastern Michigan,

Ayinde Ubaka

then topped the total with 21 points in the Golden Bear Classic final vs. Northeastern to earn all-tournament team honors. He later bettered that performance with 29 points against Oregon (8-10 FG, 3-3 3P, 10-12 FT) Jan. 5. In addition, he has proven to be a clutch performer with the game on the line. In the Pac-10 Tournament, Ubaka scored 11 of his 16 points in the second half as Cal rallied from a 33-31 halftime deficit to win, 82-67. Then vs. Oregon, he hit the tying bucket with two seconds left in regulation and scored 12 of his 17 points in overtime. Earlier in Los Angeles during the Bears' first meeting with UCLA Dec. 31, he tallied six of Cal's final eight points in the last 36 seconds, helping push a 60-58 lead into a 68-61 victory.

Like Father, Like Son with Smith, Wilkes Brothers
In 1975, the Golden State Warriors captured the NBA title with a couple of rookies playing key roles during their championship run - guard Phil Smith (7.7 ppg) and forward Jamaal Wilkes (14.2 ppg). Thirty years later, the sons of Smith and Wilkes are members of the California basketball team. Senior guard Martin Smith is a fourth-year walk-on who was rewarded with a scholarship for the 2005-06 campaign. Last year, he started 16 Pac-10 games and ranked fifth in the league in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.95:1). Omar and Jordan Wilkes join the squad as active members of the Bears this year. Omar, a 6-4 guard, sat out last season after transferring from Kansas and has been a regular starter at Cal in 2005-06. Jordan is a 6-11 center who averaged 20 ppg and 10 rpg en route to league MVP honors last year at Loyola HS in Los Angeles.

Robertson Comes to the Rescue
Throughout the season, freshman F Theo Robertson has adapted to the role the Cal coaches needed him to play. For the most part, he has been the Bears' top scoring threat off the bench, but he

Theo Robertson

has also filled in as a starter during two different stretches when teammates were slowed by injury. With Leon Powe (foot) out the first four games of the season, Robertson averaged 11.8 ppg as his sub at forward, while he spelled Omar Wilkes (ankle) for three games in February and contributed 7.7 ppg and 3.0 apg.

Now back in his more familiar spot as a reserve, Robertson came through with a career-high 18-point night (4-5 FG, 3-3 3P, 7-8 FT) in Cal's double OT win over Oregon in the Pac-10 Tournament, topping his previous best of 14 established back on Nov. 21 vs. Long Beach State. He scored 16 of his total in regulation, then nailed two free throws with 31 seconds left in the second OT to give Cal an 86-79 edge.

For the year, Robertson is shooting 40.4 percent from three-point range (23-57), and he has made 9-of-12 treys over his past six games.

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