Who Are You: California Golden Bears

Kevin "Kevo" Danna provides the faithful with his preview of the California Golden Bears, including a look at their current season, the players to watch out for this afternoon, and the keys to a Stanford victory as they look to open Pac-10 play with a win in Berkeley.

October, November, December - gone.  The pre-season is now a thing of the past.  The dawn of a new year can mean only one thing for college basketball fans around the country - the beginning of conference play.  On the West Coast, the pre-season brought a lot of close calls and disappointments as the Pac-10 collectively had one of its worst non-conference records in recent history.  The overall underachievement of the conference constituents now has everyone in the Pac thinking they can claim the conference championship.  The Stanford Cardinal came in to this season picked to finish last in the conference amid a flurry of off-season turmoil.  However, after a win against Virginia and close losses to Kentucky, Oklahoma State, and Northwestern, people are beginning to think otherwise.  The Pac-10 double round-robin schedule begins in the East Bay for the Farm Boys against the team picked to finish atop the conference - The Golden Bears from Berkeley.  It's the biggest rivalry in Bay Area collegiate sports; it's Monty's 3rd tilt against the school he made prominent in college basketball; it's Cal vs. Stanford, and it's this afternoon at Haas Pavilion!

2009-2010: 8-4 (7-0 Home, 1-2 Away, 0-2 Neutral)

Don't let that somewhat-decent non-conference record fool you.  All four of their losses have come to teams that are currently in the Top-20 - Syracuse, Ohio State, New Mexico, and top-ranked Kansas (a game in which they were down 40-39 at the half and only trailed by only five with six minutes remaining).  Also, those losses against Syracuse and Ohio State came without Theo Robertson in the lineup, and ever since he has been re-inserted back onto the court Freddy, Cal has been a much better team.  Their SOS is 29th in the nation according to kenpom.com and they had a couple of impressive victories in the non-conference slate, most notably manhandling Iowa State by 19 points at home.  They also made quick work of Pacific, 79-54, in Stockton for their only road win of the season.

Cal's "Big Three":

•     Jerome Randle (5'10 Senior Guard from Chicago, IL) - he leads the team in scoring (19.3 ppg), assists (4.8), and free-throw shooting accuracy (93.2%- he is also the all-time career leader in school history in this category, entering the season at over 85% through his first three years).  Jerome has a license to kill from downtown, and he will launch from beyond the international line whenever he has the look, even when bringing the ball up the court.  He is also one of the quickest players in the conference and will be a serious load for the Cardinal perimeter defenders.
•     Patrick Christopher (6'5 Senior Guard from Compton, CA) - Patrick is second on the team in scoring (17 ppg), third in rebounding (5.3 rpg), and leads the team with 20 steals.  He is a great defender and can drive to hoop or pull up with equal effectiveness.  He was one of the major reasons why Cal was able to complete a 22-point comeback on the Card in Haas Pavilion last year, as he led the Golden Bears in scoring with 21 points.
•     Theo Robertson (6'6 Senior Forward from Pittsburg, CA) - Theo has battled injury problems for most of his career in Berkeley, but when healthy, he is an extremely vital contributor on both ends of the floor.  He led the nation for most of the year with his 48.7% clip from three-point territory and is tearing it up again from downtown this season at a 46.7% rate.  Last season's mark was good enough to land him in Cal's history books as the 2nd-most accurate three-point shooter in a single season and is the career leader in three-point FG%.  In addition to his shooting touch, Theo has over 70 steals for his career and led the team in 2006-2007 with 27 swipes.

Also Watch out for These Guys:

•     Jamal Boykin (6'8 Senior Forward from Los Angeles, CA) - Jamal is a great rebounder and has a very effective mid-range jumper.  He is one of the emotional leaders on the floor for Monty and can really give Cal a boost.  He scored 22 points last season in Monty's return to Maples.
•     Jorge Gutierrez (6'3 Sophomore Guard from Chihuahua, Mexico) - Christopher might have led the team in scoring in their 82-75 comeback victory over Stanford last season in Haas, but Jorge really jump-started the comeback with his inspired play on both ends and even started in the second half of that game.  Always a very solid defender, Jorge has significantly improved his shot, leading the team with a 60% accuracy rate from downtown.

Keys for Cardinal Success vs. Cal:

•     Mix in a significant amount of zone: Cal has a little bit of an edge from an athletic standpoint, so Stanford has to be creative in their looks defensively to confuse the Bears.  Cal can certainly stroke it from downtown with Randle, Robertson, and Gutierrez, so the zone has to be used at the right times.
•     Stay out of foul trouble: against the last two power-conference schools they faced, Stanford committed a combined 62 team fouls.  Not only does Stanford need their best horses on the floor, but Cal is a solid free throw shooting team at over 73%.
•     Bigs need to hit shots: Zimmermann, Trotter, Bullock, and Daian all have the ability to stroke it from mid-range and further out, but they have yet to show that in game situations.  If they can hit those open looks, Sanders-Frison and Zhang will be forced to come out and contest instead of sagging in the paint.  This will lead to better driving lanes for the likes of Fields and Mann.

Come out to Haas to cheer on the Cardinal, and check back on TheBootleg.com afterwards for insightful analysis from Boom-Boom Salloom!

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