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Cal Basketball: Arizona Wildcats Preview With AZ Desert Swarm

Contrary to public opinion, Cal men's basketball's 2010-11 season did not end yesterday. We still have a few important dates to fulfill, like finishing the other 17 games of the Pac-10 schedule. That starts with our annual road trip to Arizona, and our yearly horrorfest at McKale Center against the Arizona Wildcats. Cal has won here once since 1995, and it required a Jerome Randle barrage to make it happen. To make matters even more awesome for us, Arizona lost to bottomfeeder Oregon State this weekend, meaning the Wildcats should be playing mighty steamed this evening.

We discussed tonight's game with uofafanatic at Arizona Desert Swarm, the Arizona SB Nation site. Our answers to his questions should appear on their site sometime today, his answers to our questions appear below. (These interviews were conducted before the transfer of Gary Franklin, which is why we don't broach the subject.)

1.  What happened against Oregon St.?

Well, that was the result of several factors.  First, lets not downplay the ability of Oregon St. G Jared Cunningham.  He looked great in that game.  That being said, I believe the major factors were Arizona's poor three point shooting and free throw shooting.  Both were well below average for the Wildcats, and a slight bump in either category would have pushed the Wildcats on to a win.  This seems like one of those bumps in the road, that every rebuilding team has to deal with.  I'm not overly concerned, and I think the 'Cats will be stronger for it.

2.  Should Cal fans be extra freaked out against Arizona, coming off of that OSU loss?
Yes.  While the 'Cats didn't get blown out, they lost to a team they were expected to beat and played well below their level.  With several days to think about that loss, and a sure-to-be-rowdy home crowd at their backs, Arizona should be firing on all cylinders against the Bruins.
3.  What player on Arizona should Cal fans be most worried about?

Derrick Williams.  He will surely be in the NBA sometime in the next two years, and is the engine that keeps Arizona running.  When he is on, he is capable of just about anything.  Highlight reel dunks, three pointers, anything it takes to get the job done.  Other than Williams, I'd pay attention to Momo Jones.  His game was elevated against the Beavers, and if he plays that way again it will be a long night for the Bruins.

4.  What Cal player or players are Arizona fans most worried about?

Harper Kamp stands out as the guy to watch, but I'll also be keeping my eye on Jorge Gutierrez, he seems like a player that could come up huge on any given night.

5. Basketball-wise, who would you like to punch in the face?

Hah, nobody really.  That's actually been one of my gripes lately about the Pac-10.  No great, white knuckle rivalries right now.  Sure we all have our 'regional' rivals, and I promise you Arizona fans are frothing at the mouth for some payback on those dirty Sun Devils, but other than that most of the intrigue surrounds how the conference will shake out.  Some would say the focus on competition is a good thing, I'll just say that playing a team that you genuinely dislike is great television, and can produce high levels of play from stagnating players.

6. Has Arizona recovered from the Lute Olsen retirement/non-retirement/retirement?

Sort of.  Do I think Arizona is as good as it was before Lute Olson began taking time off?  No.  But this is a good team, with a shot at an NCAA tournament berth, and the incoming recruiting classes look amazing.  I'll say that Arizona is 70% recovered, and will be close to 100% next season, with the arrival of three stud recruits.

7. As one of the pillars of the Pac-10 over the last 20 years, what would you guys attribute the current down cycle of the Pac-10 to?
That is tough.  With USC being caught red-handed paying a player and losing their head coach, and Arizona losing a hall of famer head coach, two top programs tumbled for a few years.  Add to that the fact that several other Pac-10 teams lost talent to the NBA, and this simply seems like a lull, that I feel will be remedied in the next year or two.  The larger problem may be that the loss of those coaches and players has given the east coast viewers the opinion that the entire conference is soft and rebuilding.  The Pac-10 needs to shake that perception as soon as possible.