* 7:30 p.m., Haas Pavilion (Pac-12 Networks)
Will Cal play a zone defense tonight against Arizona?
Do the Bears really have a choice?
The top-ranked Wildcats (21-0, 8-0 Pac-12) arrive at Haas Pavilion as one of the biggest, best-rebounding teams Cal (14-7, 5-3) will see all year.
The Cats lead the Pac-12 in rebounding margin (plus-12.9) and offensive rebounds (12.8 per game). Their starting front line is a matchup nightmare: 7-foot Kaleb Tarczewski, 6-9 Aaron Gordon and 6-8 Brandon Ashley.
Gordon, the freshman from San Jose, is a dynamo on the boards.
“Gordon’s a great player,” Cal coach Mike Montgomery said. “He’s going to be a pro in one year. He’s going to be a lottery pick. He’s a monster.”
What makes Gordon one of the nation’s top freshmen?
“He plays his (butt) off. He plays hard, goes after everything. He just plays,” Montgomery said. “He gets rebounds, drives to the basket and dunks. He’s a phenomenal athlete.
“He’s a mini-version of Blake Griffin. His impact is a lot like Jason Kidd’s was — he’s just a bundle energy.”
Cal no doubt will play zone defense at least part of the time, if not throughout. Further encouraging that approach is the fact that Arizona is not a great 3-point shooting team, meaning that’s the poison most opponents pick.
Arizona’s perfect record is built on far more than its rebouding prowess. The Cats play fierce defense — they are first in the conference in field-goal percentage defense (.372) and points allowed (56.6) and second in 3-point FG percentage defense (.293).
In 21 games, only two opponents have scored more than 68 points against Arizona, and 14 have been held to 60 points or fewer.