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Cal Basketball exhibition vs. Carroll Preview and Gamethread

Rejoice! Cal Basketball is back and tips off the '15-16 campaign with an exhibition match against the Carroll Fighting Saints.

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Carroll is slimy, sleazy, and just the lowest of the low.  Carroll would steal a little girl's puppy just to sign a better recruiting class.  Carroll double-dips, backwashes, and would take the last French fry.  Carroll would cut in front of an old lady and park in a handicapped spot.  Carroll stole all the water from California.

Pete Carroll is quite ironically the farthest thing from a saint and will hopefully one day face karmic justice for his cheating ways.

Carroll, the private Catholic school, is located in Helena, Montana.  They are most known for their nationally-honored academics and their "Talking Saints" forensics team.  Last season, the Saints were a bubble team and one of the last ones left out of the NAIA tournament.

Coach Carson Cunningham may be a familiar name to old Blues. He was a freshman All-American running the point for Oregon State in the late 90's. He ultimately transferred home and played for Gene Keady's Purdue Boilermakers in two Sweet 16's and one Elite 8. After playing professionally for three years, he went back to school to earn an MBA from DePaul and a PhD in history from Purdue.

Under Coach Cunningham's tenure, the Saints have improved from two to nine to eighteen wins over the past three seasons. Last year, they were a top-20 defensive squad in the NAIA and 2nd in the nation in free-throw shooting. Although they only have three upper classmen on the roster, there's plenty of young talent with both the '13 and '14 conference Freshman of the Year winners on their roster. (Taylor and Carr)

What they don't have is much size. However, this will be a smart, disciplined squad who knows how to play fundamental basketball. Their calling card is defense, so expect to see a team that is sharp with its rotations and assignments. On offense, they know how to make the extra pass and will rely heavily on their jumpshots. We have to be aware that all of their bigs are capable of stepping out and hitting from beyond the arc.

As with most exhibition games, take what you see with a grain of salt. Just as great plays need to be measured against the quality of the competition, less than stellar performances may be a result of deliberate tinkering and experimentation. Without over thinking things, let's just enjoy that Cal Basketball is back and there will be no pick-sixes thrown tonight.

Projected Starters:

G Ryan Imhoff(So), 6'6 220 lbs, 18.8 ppg,
G Zach Taylor(Jr), 6'0 165 lbs, 20.8 ppg, 41% 3FG
G Kyle Nickol(*Fr), 6'0, 165 lbs, 3.3 ppg
F Jake Hollifield(Sr), 6'5 205 lbs, 8.0 ppg
F Match Burnham(Fr), 6'8 210 lbs, 8.0 ppg

F Oliver Carr(So), 6'6 205 lbs, 15.5 ppg
G/F Andrew Campbell(*So), 6'5, 193 lbs, 4.8 ppg
G Lorel Johnson(So), 6'1, 165 lbs, 8.5 ppg
G Ife Kalejaiye(Fr), 6'2, 168 lbs, 1.7 ppg
G Matt Wyman(Fr), 6'7, 180 lbs, 7.3 ppg

Key Players:

Taylor and Imhoff have been their 1-2 punch all year and can both flat-out shoot it. Oliver Carr comes off the bench as their uber-6th man, but without the criminal record. For the rest of the players, assume that everything is made up and the points don't matter.

Keys to the Game:

1) Outplay and outcompete, don't out-athlete.

To survive the Pac-12 and beyond, one on one ball just won't get it done.

2) Win the mental game.

In a ho-hum exhibition against an overmatched/undersized opponent, it will say something about our team's mindset if we come out focused or sloppy. Some of Monty's later teams were notoriously bad between the ears. Coach Martin has preached a more hard-nosed approach. Let's see it.

Go Bears!

Tip-Off: 7pm
TV: Pac-12 Networks