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Pac-12 Tournament Preview: Cal vs. CU in the Quarterfinals

Can our sturdy Golden Bears sweep Colorado and tip toe our way back to the bubble?

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

We cannot confirm nor deny rumors that after hearing how Monty's laser tag outing re-invigorated the Bears, Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez mimicked this approach to re-kindle their schizophrenic romance. Coach Monty: future Hall of Fame Coach and Love Guru...who knew?

Since Cal came back to defeat the Buffaloes in overtime just last week, the original preview is largely unchanged.

Colorado is still a defense-first team with a penchant for going stagnant in the half court. And our Bears can be both electric and agonizing in equal measure.

Projected Starters:

F Josh Scott(So), 6'10, 245 lbs, 14.6 ppg, 8.7 rpg

F Xavier Johnson(So), 6'7, 220 lbs, 11.7 ppg, 6.0 rpg
F Wesley Gordon(Fr), 6'9, 225 lbs, 6.2 ppg, 6.1 rpg

G Askia Booker(Jr), 6'2, 170 lbs, 14.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg

G Xavier Talton(So), 6'2, 180 lbs, 4.4 ppg, 1.7 apg

F Dustin Thomas(Fr), 6'7, 220 lbs, 4.0 ppg, 2.7 rpg

G Eli Stalzer(So), 6'3, 190 lbs, 1.7 ppg,

G Jaron Hopkins(Fr), 6'5, 190 lbs, 5.3 ppg, 2.4 rpg

Taking a look at how last game's keys played out:

1) Show up and be watchable
Yes. I think a nine-point comeback in the second half to win in overtime qualifies. We still gave up a few too many offensive rebounds, but there was better energy overall.

2) Check their stars
Both Booker and Scott were held below their season averages. Cobbs drew the assignment on Booker and received plenty of help. Monty made an interesting decision down the stretch and put Kravish on Scott instead of Solo. He played Scott straight up on the perimeter and sent a quick double from Kreklow in the post to force Scott to give the ball up. On the flip side, Xavier Johnson went off for 24 points. However, the strategy worked overall because the Buffaloes went ice cold during stretch and frequently had the wrong players taking the big shots.

3) Win the turnover battle and the transition game
Only five Cal turnovers versus eight for Colorado, including the game-clinching give-away. With the exception of Booker's breakaway near the end of regulation, we did a good job of limiting their transition game.

4) Unleash our inner Buffalo
Yes, there were still some defensive breakdowns and we got lucky that they missed a few open shots. But overall, this was a step forward from what we've seen during the losing streak. Whether it was hedging or switching, guys were doing a much better job with their rotations.

5) Shot selection
Interestingly enough, Monty keyed the comeback down 9-0 by moving Cobbs off the ball. He had Wallace or Kreklow initiate and had Cobbs curl from baseline to elbow off a Kravish down screen. This resulted in a jumper and two free throws by Cobbs, then a beautiful screen and roll basket by Solomon from Kreklow.

Keys to the Rematch:
1) Dance with the girl
I actually don't expect Monty to go too crazy with the X's and O's in this one. Our struggles all year have been more mental than anything else. At this point, we feel good about ourselves and have some confidence. I'd lean more towards staying in our comfort zone than trying anything new.

Expect Monty to try to force Booker and Scott to give the ball up and let the other guys beat us. Solo did a great job handling Gordon or Thomas one on one, while Kravish was smart enough to slow down Scott with the help of intermittent double teams.

Xavier Johnson almost shot us out of the gym last game. But can he do it again? We're in Vegas and I'd lay odds Monty would take that bet.

2) Wing Play
Tad Boyle is a good defensive coach. When Monty moves Cobbs off the ball to generate more offense, expect Boyle to have a counter in his pocket. If he's able to force Cobbs to give up the ball, then one of our wings will need to be ready to hit the open shot, or make the right play that leads to a good shot.

3) Easy Baskets
With both teams capable of prolonged slumps on offense, getting layups may be the difference. Whether this is in transition or from an offensive rebound, the hustle plays will be key. With Colorado having played the night before, can we take advantage with fresher legs?

Go Bears!

For those of you interested, the entire bracket is here.
And this is the tournament's television schedule.

Game Time: Thursday, March 13th, 2:30 pm
TV: Pac-12 Networks
Radio: KGO 810