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Archive for February, 2009

Basketball: UCLA game thread

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FINAL SCORE: UCLA 72, Cal 68. Hi all, many apologies. The wireless system at Haas Pavilion crashed over and over tonight and I had no chance to return to this until now. Obviously, you all know what happened. So here are a few postgame observations and tidbits:

– The Bruins (22-7, 11-5) take over sole possession of second place, a game-and-a-half behind Washington (22-7, 13-4), which clinched no worse than a tie for the title with its win over Arizona.

– Cal (21-8, 10-6) drops into a tie for third place with Arizona State, which lost at Washington State.

– The Bears play Thursday at Arizona, then Saturday at ASU. Mathematically, they can still climb to as high as a No. 2 seed for the Pac-10 tournament, and the way I figure it, they cannot realistically drop any lower than a No. 4 seed. Even if they finish in a tie for fourth with Arizona at 10-8, the Bears would win the tiebreaker because the two teams split, and Cal swept first-place Washington. The only exception would be if Cal finished in a tie for fourth with Oregon State (which swept Cal), but that can only happpen if the Beavers win at UCLA and at USC. Unlikely. 

– Best game atmosphere of the season . . . maybe in a couple years. The Bears’ first sellout of the Mike Montgomery era, and he said afterward he hopes it becomes a more regular thing, but added the program has to earn this kind of response.

– The difference in the game, besides the seven-point play late in the first half, was UCLA’s poise and experience down the stretch. Particularly point guard Darren Collison, who looked every bit a player who’s been to three straight Final Fours. He scored 11 of his 22 points in the final 8 minutes, including two terrific baskets in the final minute-and-a-half. Montgomery and Jerome Randle both had high praise for Collison.  

– Montgomery had no complaint with the intentional foul call that led to UCLA’s seven-point play, but admitted it was tough to overcome and changed momentum. Aside from that play and 12 turnovers, Cal clearly outplayed the Bruins in the first half. But the Bears’ lead should have been bigger, and because the Bruins stayed close, they gave themselves the chance to take advantage later.

– Monty was pleased with the performance of Randle, who had 20 points and eight assists. Patrick Christopher added 16 points and Theo Robertson scored 14, 12 of them in the second half.

– This was a tough defeat for the Bears to swallow, but they played pretty well against a team that knows how to win big games.

– UCLA coach Ben Howland praised Cal afterward, saying he is convinced the Bears are an NCAA Tournament team that no one would want to face in the first round.

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Posted on Saturday, February 28th, 2009
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Basketball: ESPN exposure a boost, Monty says

No doubt about it, Mike Montgomery said. Playing tonight’s game vs. UCLA on ESPN is a potential boost to the Bears’ program.

“We are not a program that has been on national television very much,” he said this week. “It helps people to see you. Gives you some visibility. It’s sold out. It would help, obviously, if we played well.”

For potential recruits out there, this is a chance to introduce the program.

“They just don’t know,” he said. “You turn on the television seven nights a week and there are teams you see every single time. Kids can’t help but be drawn to that.

“Exposure has always been a major issue in college basketball. It isn’t equal across the board, for sure. If we can go out and do a good job and the campus does a good job and the weather’s nice, it could be very positive for us.”

Point guard Jerome Randle isn’t worried as much about the weather as the Bears’ performance against UCLA.

“The world is really going to see that game,” he said. “You don’t want the world to see you get beat. It’s really a big deal.”

Posted on Saturday, February 28th, 2009
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Basketball: College Gameday at Haas

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The picks: UCLA at Cal — Hubert Davis and Digger both pick Cal. (Knight and Bilas, calling the game tonight, abstain).

Rece Davis calls the Cal crowd “one of the best we’ve ever had for Gameday.”

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The picks: Az at Washington — Hubert Davis goes with UW, Digger picks Arizona, Knight and Bilas both Washhington.

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The picks: Here’s a surprise — Digger Phelps picks Notre Dame to beat UConn. Digger would pick the Irish over the Lakers.

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Game-changers: Jay Bilas picks Arizona’s Jordan Hill vs. Washington. Rece Davis goes with WSU’s Taylor Rochestie vs. Arizona State. If they’re right, Cal would benefit from losses by UW and ASU.

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State Farm halfcourt shot for $17,500 — Rece Davis suggests the shooter channels his inner Jerome Randle. The shot: an airball.

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Reaction to UConn coach Jim Calhoun’s explosive response to questions from an activist/reporter about his salary: Knight suggested the question was out of place in a post-game setting.  Bilas took a shot at the state’s legislature for trying to take action against Calhoun. Hubert Davis hit it on the head, noting the story is a week old and there are better things to talk about.

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ESPN gets an “All-Access” pass to Kentucky in preparation for the Wildcats’ game at South Carolina. Zzzzzz . . .  There went 5 minutes of my life I’m not getting back.

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The vote was even at 2-2, so Rece Davis cast the tiebreaker, going with VaTech on the basis of playing in a tougher conference (ACC) than Michigan (Big Ten). Michigan: out. Gameday’s final hypothetical NCAA spot goes to the Hokies.

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Digger is arguing for Michigan, prompting Bilas to wonder if the Wolverines just hired a former Notre Dame player to its coaching staff.

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Providence: out

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Siena: out.

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The Gameday crew is using a large grease board, flanked by Cal cheerleaders, to show their possible last four entries into the NCAA Tournament field: Virginia Tech, Providence, Michigan and Siena. They’re picking one.

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Rece Davis pays tribute to the late Pete Newell, mentioning his titles at Cal and the Olympics, and his Big Man’s Camp.

Knight: “I don’t think anybody in the history of the game had a better grasp of the game than Pete Newell had. And I don’t think anybody was more unselfish with his knowledge than Pete. I had a great relationship with Pete, and I think it was one of the two or three best relationships I’ve had in my life. Pete was a great friend.”

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Knight just told the TV audience that the key to Cal’s chances tonight against UCLA will be guard play. You think?

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Knight just explained why he is wearing a red sports shirt under his sweater in blue and gold territory.

“In the immortal words of Clark Gable, frankly, I don’t give a damn.”

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No, I didn’t climb out of bed at 5:30 a.m. today to get to Haas Pavilion — I’m sitting comfortably in my living room. Haas tonight, but we’ll take in ESPN’s College Gameday from the sofa.

The place looks packed, the cheerleaders are there, Oski’s in the house. And so are Bob Knight, Digger Phelps, Jay Bilas, Hubert Davis and Rece Davis, the ESPN crew.

Haas is loud.

“You know, I can’t hear a word you’re saying,” Knight said to Rece Davis, laughing.

Posted on Saturday, February 28th, 2009
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Basketball: More pre-game reading

Here’s my story from this morning’s editions on Cal’s game tonight vs. UCLA, including what ESPN analyst Jay Bilas thinks of the Bears.

Posted on Saturday, February 28th, 2009
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Basketball: UCLA scouting report

UCLA coach Ben Howland hopes tonight goes better than Friday evening.

“We’re stuck in traffic here in Oakland,” Howland said by cell phone on a media teleconference call.

When it was suggested the Bay Area was just trying to make him feel at home, where the L.A. traffic is legendary, Howland said, “This is worse than that. This is literally bumper to bumper, going nowhere.”

By tipoff tonight, Howland’s concerns will turn to disarming Cal’s offense.

He said the Bruins ran through a brisker-than-usual walk-thru Friday, trying to familiarize themselves for what he counted to be 27 different offensive sets the Bears run.

“You can’t do them all,” Howland said.

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Posted on Saturday, February 28th, 2009
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Basketball: Lunardi boosts Bears to No. 6 seed

ESPN “bracketologist” Joe Lunardi updated his NCAA Tournament projections today, moving Cal to a No. 6 seed in the South Region, matching the Bears against No. 11 Florida in a first-round game at Miami. Now what kind of advantage would that be for the higher seed, playing a team from Florida in Florida?

Of course, with UCLA looming Saturday evening, Lunardi’s projection for Cal is certain to be different by Monday.

Posted on Friday, February 27th, 2009
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Basketball: Wooden recovering from pneumonia

UCLA coaching legend John Wooden has been hospitalized with a bout of pneumonia for two weeks, the athletic department said Friday, but is expected to make a full recovery.

Coach Ben Howland, whose Bruins visit Cal on Saturday, said he was happy to hear the 98-year-old icon is doing better. “Honestly, I didn’t know about it until today. They’ve kept it very quiet,” Howland said. “I  called and left him a message.”

Posted on Friday, February 27th, 2009
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Basketball: ESPN descends upon Berkeley

The ESPN entourage has been trickling in the past few days. The big “Game Day” program will be held at Haas Pavilion on Saturday morning, from 8 to 9 a.m. Admission is free for fans who want to catch a glimpse of Bob Knight or Digger Phelps, and Cal is serving breakfast snacks for the first 500 and plans giveaways. Doors open at 6 a.m.

ESPN will broadcast the Cal-UCLA game at 6 p.m., with Dan Shulman joined by Knight, Erin Andrews and Jay Bilas.

I talked Friday with Bilas, who said he has done games at Haas Pavilion in the past and looks forward to his return visit. His day begins early with the “Game Day” broadcast, but also includes the game itself.

“A long day. A good day, though,” he said. “It’ll be a lot of fun.”

Posted on Friday, February 27th, 2009
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Cal football: Introducing Andy Ludwig

I was able to have my first conversation with new offenisve coordinator Andy Ludwig a little earlier today. Here is some of what he had to say:

(On taking the Cal job): “I have some family history in the Bay Area (he is from Danville originally). And I’ve know Coach Tedford for several years now. We’ve talked at different times about job opportunities. When this one came up, I felt like it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”

(On leaving Kansas State after only being there two months): “It was very difficult to leave the way I did. This is where I wanetd to be, but It was a tough circumstance. I knew I would have to work through that.”

(On the change of philosophy from Utah to Cal): “At Cal, they have a style of play that I haven’t been involved with the last couple of years. But I think Coach Tedford and I have a common philosophy. It’s more about the players than the plays. You put together an offense that highlights the guys’ skills and abilities.”

(On bringing the winning culture from Utah to Cal): “Cal had a lot of success over the same time frame I was at Utah. Last year was just another year of experience. Some things might come up where I reflect back on how the situation was handled at Utah, but also at Oregon and Fresno State.”

(On how much he’s been able to evaluate Cal’s personnel so far): “Quite a bit. A big part of learning the system is studying the plays on tape. But it’s more about the players than the plays.”

(On his opinion about Cal’s personnel): “I have an appreciation of the athleticism on the offensive line. Obviously, at the tailback position, we are very skilled. We have good speed on the perimeter. There are other spots where we still need development.”

(On Kevin Riley): “I think Kevin has shown a lot of promise. Like I said, there are some positions on the field where there needs to be some development. The quarterback position is one of those. Kevin has a great opportunity ahead of him in spring practice, as does Brock (Mansion) and Beau (Sweeney).”

(Is it possible to fairly evalute Brock Mansion yet?): “I really can’t. I really haven’t had a chance to see him throw except for a couple of practice video tapes and when he came into games in a clean-up role. He did soem good things. He’s a young guy with a bright future. There is some development ahead.”

(Describe the past two months for you): “It’s something I’ve never been through and never want to again. The Sugar Bowl and the undefeated season seems like two seasons ago now. Right now, I’m just anxious to keep grinding with the offense and keep working with this system. I’m getting acclimated to Cal and Cal football. I’m looking forward to getting on the field two weeks from tomorrow.”

Posted on Friday, February 27th, 2009
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Basketball: Big win means zip in latest RPI

Cal’s 81-78 overtime win vs. USC on Thursday night vaulted the Bears from No. 31 all the way to . . . No. 31 in today’s RPI computer ratings.

Of course, that beats USC’s downward path from No. 47 to No. 53.

And it beats what happened to Saint Mary’s College, which won by 13 points on the road against Pepperdine and dropped two spots to No. 52.

Posted on Friday, February 27th, 2009
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