The seventh game of Cal’s Pac-10 schedule — Saturday night at USC — is also its fifth on the road.
Does that explain the Bears’ 2-4 conference record?
Not entirely, of course. Maybe not even close.
But it’s a factor.
“It’s always been a home and away deal,” Cal coach Mike Montgomery said, “except the very best teams.”
That would be Washington, whose first-place record of 6-1 includes three road victories.
“The very best teams are not affected by the home and away deal,” Montgomery said. “As long as I’ve been around, home and away makes a big difference. It’s a plus-minus thing.”
Montgomery has long prescribed to a point system which awards one point for each road victory and deducts one for each home defeat. By the end of the conference season, when each team will have played every other team home and away, we’ll know the Pac-10’s best team.
And it probably will be Washington, perhaps followed by Arizona.
The Bears lost by two points each on the road to Arizona and UCLA. But also by 21 at home to Washington. Seven of their final 11 conference games are at home.
How much does that alter the equation? Where do the Bears fit in?
Montgomery is eager to find out, but he understands he won’t know for sure until March 5.
“There’s some teams that at the end of this week will have had five home games. We’ve had two,” he said. “And maybe the people they’ve played are more of the beatable quality.
“A lot depends on who you play, where you play ’em. That’s why it’s an 18-game schedule.”
Washington St. 4-3
Oregon State 3-3
Arizona St. 1-5
Washington +3 (3 road wins, 0 home losses)
Arizona +1 (1 road win, 0 home losses)
UCLA +1 (2 road wins, 1 home loss)
Washington St. +1 (1 road win, 0 home losses)
Cal 0 (1 road win, 1 home loss)
Stanford 0 (1 road win, 1 home loss)
Arizona St. -1 (1 road win, 2 home losses)
Oregon St. -1 (0 road wins, 1 home loss)
USC -1 (0 road wins, 1 home loss)
Oregon -3 (0 road wins, 3 home losses)
USC SCOUT: Second-year coach Kevin O’Neill has no more depth than Cal and four starters play an average of more than 32 minutes per game. But that’s been his trademark since his stint at Arizona, and the Trojans seem to be coping . . . Junior Nikola Vucevic, the reigning Pac-10 rebound leader, leads the conference with 11 double-doubles and missed two more by just a single rebound. He teams up front with senior Alex Stepheson, who has seven double-doubles . . . Junior PG Jio Fontan, a transfer from Fordham, has scored at least nine points in all nine of his games since becoming eligible . . . Maurice Jones, a 5-7 freshman from Saginaw, Mich., had games of 29 and 20 points early in the season, but has scored a bit less since Fontan began playing . . . Senior Marcus Simmons is the club’s defensive specilist. He limited Stanford’s Jeremy Green to five points on 2-for-9 shooting on Thursday . . . Trojans are allowing just 62.2 ppg and are coming off a 65-42 rout of Stanford, in which the Cardinal shot 22 percent.
MONTGOMERY ON THE TROJANS: “They might be the best defensive team in the league when they’re on. Part of the reason is they’re so big and physical at the post. They’ve got the two most experienced physical big guys, so that allows them to play their own guy without having to help at all. Simmons is maybe the best defender in the league interms of a guy that that’s always been his role. Two quick guards. It’s pretty obvious with Stanford getting 42 points that they came out and really defended. It’ll be a real challenge.”
SERIES: Cal leads 127-119. The teams split the two games last season. Cal is winless in four tries at the Galen Center.
TIPOFF: 8 p.m. Saturday at the Galen Center, Los Angeles. TV: CSN Plus. Radio: 910-AM.
Cal (9-9, 2-4)
|PF Harper Kamp||6-8||Jr.||14.2||5.5|
|C Markhuri Sanders-Frison||6-7||Sr.||10.1||7.9|
|SF Allen Crabbe||6-6||Fr.||11.4||5.6|
|SG Jorge Gutierrez||6-3||Jr.||12.2||4.1*|
|PG Brandon Smith||5-11||So.||4.5||3.2*|
|F Richard Solomon||6-9||Fr.||5.8||4.2|
|F Bak Bak||6-9||So.||2.3||2.3|
|G Emerson Murray||6-3||Fr.||0.4||0.6|
USC (11-8, 3-3)
|PF Alex Stepheson||6-10||Sr.||9.9||8.9|
|PF Nikola Vucevic||6-10||Jr.||16.6||10.0|
|SG Marcus Simmons||6-6||Sr.||5.1||3.4|
|SG Maurice Jones||5-7||Fr.||10.2||2.9|
|PG Jio Fontan||6-0||Jr.||13.0||3.2*|
|G Donte Smith||5-11||Sr.||9.5||1.5|
|F Garrett Jackson||6-7||Fr.||3.5||1.7|
|G James Dunleavy||6-6||Jr.||0.3||0.0|