Arizona will put its conference best four game winning streak on the line against California on Sunday. The Golden Bears are coming off a relatively close loss to Arizona State Thursday. Cal fell behind early in the game and trailed by double digits most of the night, but fought back to within a single basket over the final minute.
The Golden Bears have been mediocre throughout the season. Aside from a tight home win against a fading Oregon team, they donít have a significant victory. To its credit, though, Cal has taken care of the lesser teams on its schedule. The only mildly surprising loss came against a Harvard squad that is better than you probably think.
Allen Crabbe is the indisputable heart and soul of Cal. The sharpshooting junior leads the Pac-12 in scoring at 19.3 points per game. He has always been a threat when left open from deep, but Crabbe has also added a stronger slashing ability to his repertoire. Justin Cobbs plays alongside him to form arguably the best backcourt in the conference. The two guards combine for 34 points, nine rebounds, and seven assists per game.
Unfortunately for Mike Montgomeryís crew, the talent level drops off considerably after the top two players. Richard Solomon is the third leading scorer at just 8.1 points per game. He mans the paint with David Kravish, and the two combine for more than 13 rebounds per contest. They should provide a solid but manageable test for Arizonaís inconsistent post players. Seniors stepping up:
Mark Lyons and Solomon Hill combined for 48 points, roughly two thirds of Arizonaís offense, in a victory over Stanford on Wednesday. Kevin Parrom also got in the act by scoring eight mostly clutch points. The trio of seniors was instrumental to the Wildcatsí late surge; they scored the teamís final 17 points over the last four minutes. Unusual contributions:
Parrom and Angelo Chol came up big, pulling down nine and eight rebounds respectively. The surprising output was a season high for both players and accounted for more than half of Arizonaís total rebounds. Chol had a particularly effective night, as he also chipped in six points. For perspective, consider that over the previous 10 games, Chol only contributed three points and six rebounds (and didnít even play in 3 of the match-ups). Outlook:
Cal showed in a one-point loss to UNLV that it can hang with good teams. The Golden Bears also beat Oregon and played well in the second half against ASU. Furthermore, Cal will have the best player on the court in Crabbe, so donít expect the Golden Bears to roll over.
Still, an upset is a long shot. The Bears have a thin roster and struggle to score the ball as a team. Calís highest offensive output in Pac-12 play is just 71 points. The Wildcats havenít been flawless, but they have enough firepower to outscore Cal over 40 minutes. This game will be a good measuring stick to see if Arizona can avoid a slow start and play at a consistently high level.