When: 7:30 PST
Radio: KNEW 910 AM
Streams: Calbears.com stream ($), check comments for free streams
The first game of the season! Hooray!!! We at CGB could try to give you a meaningful preview of UC Irvine, a team few, if any of us have seen. Or we can give you some questions answered by a UC Irvine basketball expert! We talked to David at zotcubed, a UC Irvine sports fan blog, and he gave us all of the great information you'll find below. You can see our answers to his questions here.
1. What do Irvine fans expect from Russell Turner's 2nd year in charge?
UC Irvine is the youngest team in all of DI college basketball this season (in terms of average years of experience per player), so I think everyone realizes that it’s going to be a rebuilding year. That being said, the eight freshmen that Turner has brought in comprise an exciting group, more athletic than any class in recent memory. Fans will accept some drastic ups and downs, but I think if we manage to surprise a few teams and conclude the season with a clear nucleus to build off of in following years, it will be a satisfying season.
2. After a quick glance at UC Irvine's stats and roster, it looks like the Anteaters have lost their three leading scorers from last year. Who's going to pick up the slack?
It’s hard to say with so many unproven freshman getting major minutes, but from the preseason it looks like forward Will Davis II and guards Collin Woods and Aaron Wright will be among the leading scorers. Returners Michael Wilder (look for his afro), Daman Starring, Chris McNealy and Adam Folker should all increase their PPG this season too. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about consistent scoring options this year.
3. Talk about UCI's defense. Man-to-man? Zone? Strengths and weaknesses?
Last year, Turner mixed up defensive schemes according to the opposing team’s style… 2-3 zone, match-up zone, and man-to-man are all on the table. Last year, they even used a "triangle-and-two" defense effectively, notably against UC Santa Barbara. Look for the full court press and the half court trap. Interior defense will probably be a weakness more so than guard defense. Because Folker is still recovering from an injury, freshman Mike Best is going to start at center; he’s 6’10, 200 pounds. I wouldn’t be surprised if Cal picked on him early—he’s been susceptible to foul trouble and being pushed around down low already.
4. How would you characterize your style of play? Run n' gun? Half-court? Motion? Do you look for the first open 3, or do you try to work it more inside-out?
Especially now that star forward Eric Wise has transferred to USC, the Anteaters are going to be an up-tempo team. Although run n’ gun might be a bit too extreme of a description, Turner preaches pushing the ball up court, trying to wear teams down and getting easy baskets. Last year, UCI led the Big West in scoring, but still finished with a losing record in conference play. Looking for the first open 3 won’t always be the case, but UCI does have an array of guys who aren’t afraid to shoot from long distance. On the other hand, their half-court offense wasn’t so hot last year. There would be a lot of passing around the perimeter until someone decided to take it one-on-one, or else someone would jack up a 3. Who knows what’s in store this year though, with the new cast of characters.
5. If you were Cal, how would you attack your defense and how would you try to shut down your offense?
On offense, I would pound the ball down low, getting guys into foul trouble early on. UCI doesn’t have much depth in the post, and what is there is mostly inexperienced. To shut down the UCI offense, I would just make sure that all my guys got back on defense quickly, and also not be afraid to rotate guys in and out so that everyone stayed fresh. I would also play zone and make UCI shoot, because I’m not sure they can do so consistently. At the same time, Cal shouldn’t have any problems matching up in terms of athleticism, so a man-to-man approach probably wouldn’t fare much worse.
6. Who wins in the obscure-but-awesome-mascot throw-down? The Anteater or the Banana Slug?
This one is a no-brainer—the Anteater in a landslide. Even if you haven’t Googled what a banana slug actually looks like, I’ll save you the time and let a sign outside of the UCI home floor speak for itself: "The Anteater is a shy and retiring beast, utterly inoffensive. But, when attacked, it will fight to the death to defend its honor."