When schools put together invitational tournaments, Dartmouth is the kind of team they try to schedule in the opening game. No slap intended here, just reality.
It’s not by accident that the Big Green (2-6) finds itself facing Cal (9-2) this afternoon on Day 1 of the Golden Bear Classic.
Dartmouth’s resume includes a 65-60 home loss to the Colgate team that Cal just beat by 35 points. One of the Green’s two victories was a 96-47 win over Division II Plymouth State.
Winless in three road games, the visitors have been outscored by nearly 17 points per game outside Hanover, N.H.
Cal coach Mike Montgomery said Friday morning the staff had just begun preparation for not only Dartmouth, but all three teams participating in the two-day event.
“We’ll look at what things any of the three teams will give us a problem with, and we’ll work on that specifically,” Montgomery said of a field that also includes Air Force and Portland. “I still think most of it’s still about us.”
Two concerns going forward, he said, are rebounding and attacking zone defenses. The latter will be a particular challenge a week from now as Cal opens the Pac-10 season at home against Arizona and Arizona State, two teams playing almost exclusively zone defense.
With limited size, the Bears knew rebounding would be a critical issue this season. They have outrebounded foes by an average of more than five per game, but Montgomery isn’t satisfied.
“We haven’t been a very good rebounding team,” he said. “We’ve given up too many offensive rebounds, so we’re going to have to go back and work on block-off.”
Cal is allowing 10.1 offensive rebounds per game.
Meanwhile, Dartmouth’s top player is senior forward Alex Bennett, who shares the Ivy League scoring leader with Cornell’s Ryan Wittman, both at 21.4 ppg. Bennett, who just topped the 1,000-point career plateau, has scored at least 24 points in five of the Big Green’s eight games.
Sophomore guard Ronnie Dixon (52.2 percent) and Bennett (50 percent) rank 1-2 in the Ivy League in 3-point accuracy.
A LONG DROUGHT: Dartmouth is 3-15 all-time vs. Pac-10 teams and without a win against the conference since beating Oregon 92-82 in 1971. The Big Green is 0-5 vs. Cal. The teams haven’t met since the 1984-85 season, when the Bears prevailed 71-44.
The first meeting between the schools took place on New Year’s Day in 1940 at Madison Square Garden. Cal won 42-30.
IN THE LATE GAME: Air Force (8-2) and Portland (6-5) will duel in the second game Saturday, with the winner likely facing Cal in Sunday’s 5 p.m. final.
Air Force, which won the Golden Bear Classic in 2003, has beaten up on a relatively tame schedule. One of its losses was a 76-57 defeat at the hands of Stanford.
Running a Princeton-style attack, the Falcons are led by 6-5 senior wing Anwar Johnson, who averages 14.7 points and 6-6 senior wing Andrew Henke, who contributes 13.6 points. Henke is the brother of former Santa Clara standout Mitch Henke.
Portland, coached by former Montgomery player/assistant coach Eric Reveno, beat Washington 80-74 in its opener and lost 79-76 in overtime at Oregon last Saturday. Four of the Pilots’ five defeats have come by five points or fewer.
Portland’s top player is 6-4 junior guard Nik Raivio, who scores at a 16.9 ppg clip. Former De La Salle High standout Ethan Niedermeyer, who has missed five games due to injury, averages 6.2 points.
TIPOFF: 1 p.m. Saturday, Haas Pavilion, Berkeley.
TV: None. RADIO: 1550 AM.
NOTES: Cal apparently is in the hunt for 6-foot-10 Toronto native Dwight Powell, a member of the 2010 class at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. Powell, who visited the Berkeley campus last weekend, is rated as the No. 9 power forward prospect in the current junior class by Scout.com . . . Dartmouth coach Terry Dunn is the twin brother of West Virginia assistant coach Jerry Dunn, who previously served as head coach at Penn State. Terry Dunn was a record-setting high hurdler during his college days at Northern Colorado . . . Dartmouth is older than the U.S., founded in 1769 . . . The Cal game is the 2,500th in Dartmouth basketball history. The Big Green is 1,190-1308-1 (yes, a tie!) all-time . . . Cal is 7-0 at Haas Pavilion this season.
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:
PF Jamal Boykin, 6-8, Jr., 9.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg
SF Theo Robertson, 6-5, Jr., 11.6 ppg, 3.4 rpg
C Jordan Wilkes, 7-0, Jr., 4.4 ppg, 4.5 rpg
SG Patrick Christopher, 6-5, Jr., 14.5 ppg, 3.9 rpg
PG Jerome Randle, 5-10, Jr., 20.2 ppg, 4.5 apg
PF Josh Riddle, 6-8, Fr., 1.5 ppg, 3.0 rpg
SF Alex Bennett, 6-6, Sr., 21.4 ppg, 5.1 apg
C Kurt Graeber, 6-9, Sr., 3.3 ppg, 4.1 rpg
SG Ronnie Dixon, 5-11, So., 8.3 ppg, 2.0 rpg
PG Jabari Trotter, 6-1, Fr., 11.5 ppg, 2.6 apg