Cal Mens Basketball Returns Home to Take On UC Irvine

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Fresh off a not-so-restful trip to Maui, our Cal Bears return to Haas to face one of their biggest challenges of the young season. Literally.

We cannot confirm nor deny that he was recruited while being unemployed in Greenland, but the fact remains that our next opponent features the tallest player in college basketball.

Despite offers from more prominent programs, center Mamadou Ndiaye chose to attend UC Irvine. And lest you immediately dismiss him as a probable stiff, he rang up _nine_ blocks, eight boards, and eighteen points in an upset win over UW in Seattle. Unlike most upsets, UC Irvine didn't go wild from the three point line. This was an 86-72 beat down with the Anteaters absolutely dominating inside. While Ndiaye was having his record setting block party, power forward Will Davis was near unstoppable with twenty-two points on 10 of 12 shooting. And if their starting front court isn't enough, their backup bigs stand 6'10 and 7'2.

I don't know about you, but I'm a little worried about the size of the ants that these Anteaters feast upon.

UC Irvine was one of the best defensive teams in their league last year and that was before adding Ndiaye to guard the paint. Have no doubt, Cal fans, this one is not a contest to take lightly. They're projected to win their league and challenge for a spot in the Big Dance.

Projected Starters:

C Mamadou Ndiaye(Fr), 7'6, 290 lbs,
F Will Davis(Jr), 6'8, 210 lbs,
G Alex Young(So), 6'1, 190 lbs,
G Chris McNealy(Sr), 6'4, 195 lbs,
G Luke Nelson(Fr), 6'3, 182 lbs


Bench:

Travis Souza(Jr), 6'5, 212 lbs
Dominique Dunning(So), 6'4, 212 lbs
John Ryan(Jr), 6'10, 248 lbs
Aaron Wright(So), 6'3, 198 lbs
Ioannis Dimakopoulos(Fr), 7'2, 255 lbs

Ndiaye is still adjusting to the speed of college ball and doesn't play heavy minutes yet. As one might expect, he's a bit raw offensively. However, his sheer size makes him a formidable shot-blocking presence. Will Davis was one of their best post players last year. He's very athletic and is known as one of the best shot-blockers in the conference. Alex Young set a school record for assists last year and was one of the national leaders in assist to turnover ratio. His shot was a bit shaky, but he's showing signs of being much more dangerous as a scorer this year. Chris McNealy is the steady senior leader who does a bit of everything well. Luke Nelson was a top high school player from England. He's heady player and is already showing signs of being their best passer.

Off the bench, Souza, Dunning, and Wright are all threats to score. John Ryan and Ioannis Dimakopoulos add more beef and length, respectively, to the front court.


Key Matchups:

1) Solo/Kravish vs. Davis/Ndiaye

The front court battle could very well decide the outcome of this game. The Anteaters shoot a very high percentage because they like to work the ball inside. Richard Solomon and David Kravish will have to be smart about avoiding foul trouble. (Yes, I write this every week.)UC Irvine could really create mismatch issues inside if either of our starting bigs has to sit for an extended period of time. On offense, we can't let fear of being blocked stop us from attacking the rim and finishing strong.

2) Deny dribble penetration

UC Irvine has several guards with the ability to penetrate, score, and distribute. Part of stopping their inside attack starts with denying them access to the paint and slowing down their drive n' dish game.


3) Focus and intensity

After playing a series of tough opponents in a nationally-televised tournament, it's tough to fight the tendency for a mental let-down. This is a game we should win decisively if we come out ready to play.


Go Bears!


Tip-Off: 7:30 pm
Television: Pac-12 Network
Radio: 560 AM

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