First, the important stuff. If you follow international affairs, you know that Saturday was Filipino Heritage Night at Haas Pavilion.
As you can see, included in the experience with the Tinikling, Lupang Hinirang, and an appearance by Pinoy Brandon Chauca, was a free t-shirt commemorating the grandeur of the Asian/Spanish/American mix of cultures that encompass Filipino heritage. The t-shirt, especially, was likely the primary attraction for the 9,347 in attendance. (No mention of free lechon kawali anywhere in this promo. Surely a missed opportunity to sell out the arena formerly known as Harmon Gym.)
If you follow Cal twitter, you know the saga I am about to recount. Unretired (or unsabbaticaled) former football head writer and controversial basketball preview artist Scott Chong, was turned away from the t-shirt giveaway. Even more egregiously, his young bear cubs were taught that patience is not, in fact, a virtue, as their wait in line ultimately ended in disappointment. A perennial upset victim in CGB Hall of Fame balloting, Chong is no stranger to heartbreak. However, when it comes to his bear cubs' happiness, he evidently does not go down as easily as he does in CGB polls.
Chong mounted a vigorous twitter campaign, believing that the world needed to know about this grave injustice.
.@dmoneyfor3 @CalAthletics They promoted this game as Filipino heritage night. Free shirts. We came early for the kids. "Not eligible"— Scott Chong (@kodiakcgb) December 19, 2015
.@dmoneyfor3 @CalAthletics My girls waited in line patiently. Were sent away. Season tx holders don't get shirts. Sad kids. Empty gym.— Scott Chong (@kodiakcgb) December 19, 2015
Well, in the end, all is well that ends well. Somehow finding several t-shirts among the thousands that were quickly up on eBay as collectors items, Cal Athletics righted the very real wrong that had occurred, and a new generation of Cal basketball fans and Filipino heritage afficianados was born.
Now I've got happy girls. Thanks for going out of your way to make kids smile @CalAthletics pic.twitter.com/QnaKaQQfpE— Scott Chong (@kodiakcgb) December 20, 2015
And Brandon Chauca got six minutes of playing time, delivering two assists to Steve Kerr's son. If that had come in 40 minutes of playing time, Chauca would have had THIRTEEN assists and Kerr would have fallen two threes short of the NCAA record.
As it happened, the starters played most of their normal rotation minutes working against Coppin State's 2-3 zone, and they overmatched the Eagles easily. What was a 21 point lead at halftime ballooned to 33 by the end of the game, and the Bears headed to Virginia on a red-eye with an easy 84-51 victory.
This is the space where I'd usually break down the game and try to provide a little more insight, but in this case I have little more to say. Cal's defense held Coppin State to a paltry .73 points per possession, while managing 1.20 themselves. That will win a lot of games. Meaningful high-post entries continued to be a struggle in our zone offense, three point shooting continued to be sub-standard (unless you count Nick Kerr), and Ivan Rabb remains inhumanly efficient. But Coppin State is a bottom 10% team in both offense and defense in the nation. They are about 100 spots worse than the Cal State Bakersfield team that beat us last year, in what has been characterized as the worst loss in Cal basketball history. There was no chance this game was going to be competitive, and in a lot of ways the Bears would face a stiffer test if they held an intra-squad scrimmage.
To the Bears credit, coming off final exams, they hit the court with more energy than we've seen out of them when they've faced inferior competition. They applied steady ball pressure throughout the game, and continued to be a team that forces opponents to take and miss a lot of bad two point shots. (For the record, this is an indication that the defense is probably better than its numbers indicate, and is just experiencing some bad luck on opponent threes.)
But I'm tired of writing about the same old stuff over and over again. It's about a third of the way through the season, and this team has not shown us a heck of a lot. We've played a weak schedule, won nine games in uneven fashion, and fallen apart in two road tests against good but not great competition. Meanwhile, UCLA has beaten Kentucky and Gonzaga, Oregon has beaten Baylor, USC has beaten Wichita State, Utah has beaten Duke, and Arizona has beaten Gonzaga.
Well, it's time. On Tuesday we lace it up against what is, in my opinion, the best team in the country. We will be decided underdogs. That's fine. Those are the arenas where opportunity waits. Where teams form their identities. Where young men play not down to the level of competition, but up to the level of their true abilities. Where seasons are made and where legacies are built.
How far have we come? We'll find out on Tuesday night. Carpe diem.