Here’s what we can expect Thursday night when the Bears face Oregon in Eugene: A close game.
Well, there’s a bold statement, right?
Eleven of the 15 games Cal has played in the Pac-10 have been decided by single digits, including the first matchup against the Ducks. Cal won that 85-77 last month in Berkeley.
One of the four decided by more 10 points or more — the only one of those the Bears have won — was an 85-57 rout of Oregon State, which Cal will visit on Saturday.
The Bears are actually 6-5 in games settled by single digits, but they had lost three close ones during the four-game skid prior to beating UCLA 76-72 in overtime on Sunday.
I won’t be surprised if each of Cal’s three remaining home games is tight, and the Bears’ ability to cope with that will dictate their seeding for the March 9-12 Pac-10 tournament and possible postseason eligibility. A winning record is required to play in the NIT.
Oregon, which has won seven of 10 games since opening the Pac-10 at 0-4, won’t be easy. Oregon State has lost seven of eight, but owns home victories over Arizona and Washington. And Stanford, whom the Bears face in Berkeley on March 5, pounded out a 14-point win when the teams opened the conference schedule back on Jan. 2.
“I think this group has generally speaking, given the circumstances we have, competed very well, given ourselves a chance to win almost every game,” coach Mike Montgomery said.
Montgomery suggested there are three to five teams that could finish as high as fourth place. He includes his team in that logjam.
“I think the league right now is actually pretty good. I think people have improved to the point where there actually are quite a few competitive teams: Stanford, ourselves, Washington State, Oregon, USC are all playing pretty good basketball,” he said. ”It’s better than it was early.”
“We’re probably anywhere from fourth to seventh at this point, maybe even eighth. But I think most everybody that I mentioned is in the same boat.”
OREGON SCOUT: The Ducks opened the Pac-10 schedule with four straight defeats, but are 7-3 since . . . First-year coach Dana Altman, formerly of Creighton, has the Ducks using a three-quarter court press from which they drop into a zone defense. He shuffles players in and out of the game, with eight players averaging more than 15 minutes per game . . . Senior forward Joevan Catron, limited to four games last season because of injuries, has seven contests of 20 points or more. He has 22 points, eight rebounds and five assists in the first meeting with Cal, but is shooting just 11 for 30 the past three games . . . Junior PG Malcolm Armstead is averaging 10.3 points and 7.5 assists coming off the bench the past four games. He had 13 assists in Oregon’s 82-63 win over Oregon State last weekend . . . Senior Jay-R Strowbridge had 26 against OSU and over a five-game span is averaging 14.5 ppg and shooting 14 for 29 from the 3-point arc . . . Sophomore E.J. Singler was held to two points on 1-for-8 shooting at Cal.
THE MATT: Cal will get its first look at the new Matthew Knight Arena, which has replace venerable McArthur Court as the Ducks’ home. Montgomery said he’s only seen it on TV, where he acknowledged that the mid-court line is nearly impossible to see. But he said he would reserve judgment on the facility and its “Deep in the woods” theme until taking it in himself.
“I’m not going to say anything bad,” Montgomery said. “It’ll get in the paper and everyone would boo me every time I walk around. . . . It’s unique.”
THE SERIES: Cal leads 77-55 and has won the past six meetings, including 85-77 in Berkeley last month.
ETCETERA: Oregon ranks second in the Pac-10 in free-throw accuracy at .736 and first in turnover margin at plus-3.5 per game. . . Cal is 2-5 in Pac-10 road games, while the Ducks are 4-3 in conference home games . . .
TIPOFF: 6 p.m. Thursday at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, Ore. TV: CSNCA. Radio: 910-AM.
Cal (14-13, 7-8)
|PF Harper Kamp||6-8||Jr.||14.7||5.9|
|C Markhuri Sanders-Frison||6-7||Sr.||11.2||7.3|
|SF Allen Crabbe||6-6||Fr.||11.8||5.5|
|SG Jorge Gutierrez||6-3||Jr.||14.6||4.3*|
|PG Brandon Smith||5-11||So.||5.7||3.8*|
|F Richard Solomon||6-9||Fr.||5.3||4.1|
|F Bak Bak||6-9||So.||2.5||2.6|
|G Jeff Powers||6-7||Fr.||5.4||1.4|
Oregon (14-12, 7-7)
|PF Joevan Catron||6-6||Sr.||15.5||6.5|
|C Tyrone Nared||6-8||Jr.||5.2||3.7|
|SF E.J. Singler||6-6||So.||11.2||5.6|
|SG Garrett Sim||6-1||Jr.||7.7||2.6|
|PG Johnathan Loyd||5-8||Fr.||4.8||2.1*|
|G Malcolm Armstead||6-0||Jr.||7.6||4.2*|
|G Jay-R Strowbridge||5-10||Sr.||9.6||2.4|
|G Teondre Williams||6-4||So.||5.2||2.1|