Time: 7 PM PT/10 PM ET
Video: Cal Bears All-Access ($)
Stream: Post links in comments (I believe Channel Surfing had a scoreboard link last year)
What better way to cool off from the heated Big Game festivities with a nightcap at Haas Pavilion with our men's basketball team? Cal looks to improve on their sturdy opening season win against Cal St. Northridge and they'll be looking to show they can at least be consistent on their homecourt.
Last year Cal went into the Pit and narrowly lost despite nearly all their starters being sick or injured in some shape or form. This season they get New Mexico at home, but they won't be any easier to deal with. New Mexico is currently ranked 60th in Ken Pomeroy's projections (and has them narrowly losing to Cal in his predictors, which means this game is essentially a toss-up) and the Vegas line has us dealing in a pick'em. The Lobos beat Detroit and then handily dispatched an Arizona St. squad that is definitely in the mix for an NCAA tournament bid. They will be a tough task for a team that's still learning to play the game at the Division I level, but thankfully Cal is at home and should have a boisterous crowd that has their back.
New Mexico is in a similar boat as Cal; coming off an impressive season, they are trying to replenish a unit that lost many critical seniors. The ever-reliable Jeremy Mauss of MWC Connection has more.
This years team is still very young as the only senior is Dariese Gary and he should be the teams go to player. Last year, he averaged 12.7 points and 3.9 assists per game; expect his numbers to go up and be the team leader.
Size was something that the Lobos needed and they were able to pick up freshman center Alex Kirk who is 6-11, 230-pounds. He is a local product from Los Alamos (N.M.) High School and was rated as the 97th-best overall prospect, and seventh-best center entering his senior season by ESPNU He was a wingspan of 7-2 and in high school averaged 23.8 points, 12.7 rebounds and 6.7 blocked shots per game as a senior. So, yes he is a big man and is expected to contribute right away for the Lobos. The transition from high school to college will be much different, so we will see how quickly he can adjust.
The back court will be filled with freshman and newcomers. Three freshman that are expected to see significant time is Tony Snell who can play both inside and outside. Snell is also being mentioned as a young Darrington Hobson. The other two are 6-9, 230-pound freshman forward Cameron Bairstow and 6-3 freshman guard Kendall Williams.
The Lobos were projected to finish third in the Mountain West, but they are receiving votes in both the AP and coaches polls. New Mexico will be good, but it just depends how good they will be with the infusion of young talent. An NCAA tournament bid is expected and anything less would be a disappointment.
Gray is currently leading the Lobos in points (13.5 per game) and assists (5.5 per game), but he does have 11 turnovers in his first two games. Kendall Williams appears to be the backup point and secondary ball-handler, collecting 11 points per game and four assists per game to go with 2.5 steals per game (it's a two game sample, but nonetheless the young frosh seems to be the second strongest producer. Jorge Gutierrez should have a fun battle with Gray while the mish-mash of Gary Franklin, Brandon Smith and Emerson Murray do battle with Williams and the backups. We've seen in the first two games that Cal's perimeter defense needs some polishing, so don't be surprised to see the Lobos try to light it up from downtown.
If Cal has any advantage, it's inside with Harper Kamp and Markhuri Sanders-Frison. Although Kirk is talented, UCLA's transfer Drew Gordon won't be eligible for this game. Although Gordon didn't perform well last season under Ben Howland, he's still a talented player and could cause more trouble than is necessary underneath. With only Kirk as the main guy in the middle, Sanders-Frison should really take it to the young fella and either get to the line or pick up some points. Kamp draws A.J. Hardemann, who looks very similar in body type (6-8, 225) although his production is a bit down from Kamp's (eight points and seven rebounds per game to start the season).
However, as we saw a few nights ago, New Mexico has the talent to play with the best of them. The Lobos held Ty Abbott to 2 of 9 shooting, RIhards Kuksiks to 2 of 6 shooting, and Jamelle McMillan to 2 of 7 shooting; if New Mexico's perimeter defense is that good, then I fear at what they'll do to guys like Allen Crabbe, Franklin and Gutierrez, none of whom you'd consider elite jump shooters. This could turn into a drive-and-foul fest if Monty thinks that's what Cal needs to do to earn the victory. The Bears will probably have to win the battle inside to earn the victory.
We'll see what the young'ins are capable of tonight. GO BEARS!