Sorry I’ve been out of touch all day. As you all know by now, Omondi Amoke has been indefinitely suspended for violation of team rules and did not make the trip here to Jacksonville with the team.
I’ve been traveling most of the day, too, on a separate flight, but we posted a story this morning before I left that really is about all I still know.
Mike Montgomery has opted not to comment on the matter today (we will get the chance to talk with him at his NCAA press conference Thursday afternoon), and I was unable to reach Omondi Amoke for an explanation.
I do not know the reason for the suspension, but can only speculate it must be something reasonably serious for them to have left a starter home from the NCAA Tournament. Beyond that, it would be irresponsible to guess, so I won’t. I do not know if he will be back with the team.
Obviously, this presents several issues for the team:
— The distraction factor: A starter is left home (for whatever reason) two days before the most important game of the season. It’s a scenario ripe with the potential to mess with the minds of the players. This actually could be the biggest issue Cal faces on the subject, especially Thursday when players and coaches are made available at a press conference and in the locker room before their public workout session. It will be critical for Montgomery to handle this in a way that prevents his players from losing focus. They have four senior starters, and if experience is worth anything, those guys should circle the wagons and make sure everyone is thinking about one thing: Louisville.
— The starting lineup: Obviously, someone else will be starting Friday night. I actually wondered if they might make a change anyway, given that Louisville goes 6-9, 6-10 on its frontline. No way Amoke (6-6 1/2, 225) can defend 6-9, 260-pound Samardo Samuels (Jamal Boykin figures to take him), which would leave Amoke on 6-10 Terrence Jennings. Sounds like a difficult assignment. So maybe Markhuri Sanders-Frison or Max Zhang was going to see a lot of playing time in any case.
— The depth factor: One of the areas in this game that seems to favor Louisville is depth. Rick Pitino has 11 players averaging 10 minutes or more, eight of them averaging at least 13. Montgomery had shortened his bench anyway, and now there is one fewer player available. If Louisville’s press hurts Cal, it’s most likely it will have impact late in the game if fatigue becomes an issue. That’s more likely to be the case with fewer bodies.
— Strategy changes: Would Monty throw Louisville a curve and start Max in the middle of a zone defense? Montgomery doesn’t love playing zone, and isn’t convinced this team plays it well. But Max seems likely to be in there are times Friday night, and it’s in those situations Montgomery has used a zone, allowing Zhang to merely patrol the middle of the key rather than match up 1-on-1 with someone. It helps him minimize foul trouble, to which he’s prone. He also could go small and give more playing time to the likes of Nikola Knezevic, D.J. Seeley or Brandon Smith. I’m guessing Sanders-Frison starts and they will adjust from there.
Stay tuned. I’ll have more Thursday.