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Cal Men's Basketball vs. the Denver Pioneers Preview and Open Thread

We all knew the five game winning streak and undefeated season would come to an end eventually. However, I don't think many of us expected or predicted that the "L" would come super-sized and include starring on the wrong side of the Sportscenter highlight reels.

After almost everything went right in our semi-finals victory over Georgia, just about everything went wrong in the loss to Missouri. Besides catching up with studies and getting a little rest, we hope our Bears were served a heavy dose of self-reflection with their traditional Thanksgiving sides.

Next up, here come the Denver Pioneers representing the Sun Belt conference for the last time before moving to the WAC next year.

If all that turkey and carb-loading weren't enough to put you in a near-coma, the next four syllables ought to finish you off: Prince-ton off-ense. Sadly enough, Denver's coach, Joe Scott, was a former assistant for the near-legendary Pete Carril. You might just want to grab a few adult beverages and brace yourself for endless perimeter passing, a hail of 3's, and an occasional backdoors cut. And before we feel good that this is just another mid-major chump to pad our record, keep in mind that the Pioneers just knocked off St. Mary's on the road. That's no easy feat.

After the jump, let's take a closer look at the matchups:

Projected Starters:

F Chris Udofia(So), 6'6, 194 lbs, 16 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 5 bpg
F Rob Lewis(Sr), 6'7, 225 lbs, 8.0 ppg, 3.3 rpb
G Chase Hallam(Jr), 6'5, 210 lbs, 6.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg
G Travis Hallam(Sr), 6'5, 220 lbs, 3 ppg, 2 apg
G Brian Stafford(Sr), 6'4, 188 lbs, 20 ppg, 2.6 rpg

Key Reserves:

F Royce O'Neale(Fr), 6'5, 202 lbs, 8.3 ppg, 4.6 rpg
G Brett Olson(Fr), 6'5, 170 lbs, .6 ppg, 1.3 apg


Although Denver lacks any semblance of frontcourt beef, their guards all do have decent size. Like any good Princeton wannabe, the Pioneers live and die by the trifecta and just about everyone on the team can hit from the outside. Brian Stafford is the top returning 3-pt shooter in the Sun Belt Conference and leads them with 20 points per game. Chris Udofia is their primary inside threat and a freak athlete who provides a serious shot-blocking presence. As you might expect, Denver is somewhat woeful on the glass, but shoots the ball well.

Key Matchups:

1) Cal's Perimeter Defense vs. Denver's Outside Shooting

Can we lock down a team of veteran shooters who know how to move without the ball and will force us to play defense for the entire shot clock? It'll be an interesting test of discipline to fight through screens, prevent open shots, and still keep an eye on backdoor cuts. Fortunately, Brandon Smith, Jorge Gutierrez, and Justin Cobbs all have shown the ability to play solid perimeter defense so far this year.

2) Cal's Offense Against Their Zone

As a complete change from Missouri's fierce on-the-ball pressure, we'll likely face a zone played by slower, shorter players. We'll need to avoid the temptation to take quick shots and be patient enough to work it inside where we can take advantage of our size. Our bigs will need to be ready for double-teams. Richard Solomon will need to convert a higher percentage of opportunities inside than he's shown so far this year. This matchup might be the perfect situation to help Allen Crabbe bust out of his slump.

3) Montyball vs. Princeton

Will our guards be able to dictate the flow and pace of this game? We already know that we should have a significant advantage in athleticism across the board. But instead of simply out-athleting them, I'd like to see a bounce-back effort where we also out-play them; crisp ball movement, limit turnovers, and patience with shot selection.

Go Bears!

Tip-off: 2pm (PST)

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