Well, not going to lie, that was a tough loss last night. Cal battled and fought and scratched against an athletic Wildcat team. It came down to the last moments, but, unfortunately, Cal could not pull it out. But it was an enthusiastic crowd with a energized performance.
Hopefully, Cal can carry that energy and enthusiasm over into tomorrow's game against the Arizona State Sun Devils. Arizona State is, fortunately, not that good of a team. Cal should (emphasis on the should) beat them quite handedly. But there is a difference from "on paper" and "at Haas." I'll be out there cheering on our Golden Bears tomorrow afternoon and I hope you guys will, too. The atmosphere at Haas has been electric on this homestand and I hope it continues tomorrow.
To find out more about our Devilish opponents, I spoke with resident expert House Of Sparky. We did that classic Q+A where we give them questions and they provide answers. What more could you want? See their answers to our questions after the jump. Many thanks to House Of Sparky and GO BEARS!1) What percentage of the blame is Herb Sendek getting from ASU fans for all of the roster turmoil?
A note before I begin: I can be a bit of a bumbling character in some instances, so expect some long winded answers.
Unfortunately I will not be able to speak on behalf of the ASU fanbase, or even for the majority of my colleagues from the blog, so here's my take. The amount of blame of Sendek's shoulders concerning roster turmoil varies, depending on the context. For a case like Demetrius Walker, who's now in New Mexico, Walker has clearly stated that the style of play was what led him to the transfer, so no doubt that it was Herb's fault that his slow tempo didn't suit with Walker (to Coach's defense, though, Demetrius had no idea what he was expecting entering Tempe, long story short).
But other than that, I think that from this point on the blame on coach is only partial (give or take 50%). The other players who transferred out of the program were guys who played very little in their tenure, so their departures are more to do with playing time than anything else. Simply put, you don't play a lot when Rihard Kuksiks, Ty Abbott and Jamelle McMillan manning the perimeter, although that raises the question as to why the players transferred once that threesome left, since theoretically there are spots and opportunities. The blame could be blamed on Sendek, or it could be that those transfers realize that they won't play big minutes for a long while.
Then there are incidents when Herb really has little or nothing to do with the issues. Injuries fit this category, and are the key reasons why the team was struggling for the last two years. In 10-11, even though the stat sheet said that players didn't miss too many games, we used 11 different lineups and were never at full strength for over half the Pac 10 contests. Injuries are hard to pin on a coach. It's also hard to blame Sendek much when the NCAA ruled Carson ineligible and when King became a problem in the locker room, leading to the player's dismissal.
2) As a 2nd part to the previous question - does the roster turnover mean that Sendek deserves more time to show what he can do with a full, cohesive roster, or is he on very thin ice?
Well, right now, we don't have much of a choice in the matter. Coach Sendek recently had an extension that had him sealed up for a couple of years from now. On the one hand, the job security is there but the pressure is a bit higher. My colleagues stated that once a coach gets an extension the pressure on him to put a winning product on the floor grows. But even without the extension I think Herb deserves a chance. The last two years were brutal, especially on the injury aspect. I would love to see a whole season or two where the players stand pat and were healthy for all 30 games. If they are bad for those seasons still, I would be OK if coach gets axed. Sendek will start to be on thin ice once this season ends and when his teams fail to win despite having little injury and attrition issues (ie. from 12-13 and 13-14 seasons).
3) I would guess that if teams limit or even stop Trent Locket, that ASU has little to fall back on offensively. Is that accurate?
Good news for you Bears! Trent Lockett will not suit up for this game, so you don't have to worry about him! But as to the question, it depends on whether the whole team shows up. When that happens, we can play close with any opponent in the Pac 12 (ie. wins against Wazzu and Oregon State). However, when only half the team or no one shows up, we fall out a game almost immediately.
In the best case scenario, Carrick Felix will be the next guy to score a lot of baskets, though it's not an ideal situation. His production wavers on his shooting; if he makes some then the rest of his game comes in as well, but if he doesn't he just fades into the background. Gilling proved to be a servicable forward with multiple skills, especially shooting, so he should be in the mix as well. Up front, Jordan Bachynski is stepping up to be the interior anchor, defending the hole and scoring inside on the other end of the floor, while Ruslan Pateev is a serviceable backup. Chris Colvin can score in double digits from his slashing, and we can hope that Chanse Creekmur can get hot from the outside.
I don't think it's fair to say that we have little to fall back on, because the win vs. Wazzu showed that we have guys who can play. I think it's more accurate to say that we don't have enough to fall back on, especially in the context of facing you guys.
4) If the Sun Devils were to pull the upset, what would they be doing to make it happen? To rephrase, what do they look like when they are playing their best basketball?
ASU at its best plays like Herb Sendek's vintage ASU teams... sort of. On offense, we prefer the game to be slowed to the mid 60s and low 70s. Our set is a motion offense that is set for getting guys open looks from outside (a big reason as to why for a while Sendek has been branded with the "Princeton" label, and why we've been trying to remove it for quite a while), and to force defenses to become accountable we'll throw it down inside for Bachynski and Pateev for them to score there. Should the motion offense falter, we also use a flex offense for good measure. At our best, we shoot the ball well, especially from the perimeter, but that's where the similarities end. Unlike previous teams, we cough up the rock way too much. Expect us to be in double digit turnovers.
Defensively, the matchup zone is still going to be in effect, though expect some instances of man to man defense. At our best we can stop opponents (like how we slowed down and won against OSU), though we don't do that often. We don't have a really good perimeter defense, but expect Pateev and Bachynski to man up the middle well, blocking shots and altering many more. Kyle Cain will lead the rebounding committee. That's about it for our defense.
5) What are your predictions?
I don't like our chances. Our only road win in the Pac was against an equally snake-bitten USC. Our offense will sputter because of Cal's defense, forcing turnovers and bad shots. We'll be OK defensively until Crabbe and Guttierez get hot from the perimeter. The only bright spot is that Jordan Bachynski and Ruslan Pateev will hold their own against Kamp and Kravish.