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Cal MBB Confronts Ultimate Evil

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Go Bears. Beat Trees.

NCAA Basketball: Washington at California Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

In the beginning, there was no land, no water, no creatures. And then there were donuts, and Jerod Haase made it his mission in life to eat every last one of them. Re-wind the clock to ages ago, to a more innocent time when the not-yet-zaftig Haase was but a wee lad, and still could fit into shorts without multiple “x’s.” The year was 1993. We had witnessed one of the greatest teams and greatest post-season runs in modern Cal basketball history. Alongside legendary names such as Kidd, Murray, Grigsby, and Hendricks, Jerod Haase started for most of the season as a true frosh en route to tournament victories over LSU and Duke for a berth in the Sweet Sixteen against Kansas. Following Cal’s hard-fought loss, the young Mr. Haase made the decision to transfer to play for those same Jayhawks. Two-plus decades later, my rational mind understands that athletes should have the right to play wherever and for whomever they chose. (*If you’re reading this column for my rational mind, you’re not even remotely close to barking up the wrong tree. That’s a rusted old street pole and you’re scaring the neighbors.)

My irrational much-younger self was heart-broken that one of my favorite players had elected to leave. It did not help seeing him star on a Kansas team in the Final Four just a few years later.

Announcer: “Wow baby. Woooooow. Jerod Haase would take a charge from a train, baby!”

Irrational Me: “....mutter...mutter....And I’ll pony up for Amtrak tickets.”

Announcer: “...It’s such a shame. You can really see how that wrist injury is affecting his ability to shoot the three-ball.”

Irrational Me: “....grumble...probably hurt the thing flagging down a bus out of town.”

I, perhaps, was not in a good place at the time. But as they say, time heals all wounds which permits me to continue this preview with the impartial professionalism you have all come to expect.

After an unsuccessful stint modeling for The Simpsons, the feckless Round Mound of Rebound For Another Team spent a little time blubbering and then rolled his talents into coaching.

As a player, Jerod Haase was known for being Tough and Gritty. Thus, it is with no small part of diabolical glee that long-suppressed Irrational Me notes it is somewhat poetic for Coach T&G to join a program long renowned for coddled privilege. Welcome to the helm of the SS Entitlement crewed by a bunch of whiny mouth-breathing brats who complain if the thread count of their work-out towels is below standard. The second biggest question for Coach Haase was whether he could adapt from donuts to croissants and even more dauntingly, to bizarre croissant-donut hybrids. Judging from his considerable sideline presence, he has taken to pinkie-raised fare with aplomb. In fact, one might even say that he is exceeding expectations although the transition has likely been facilitated by the ample availability of his favorite breakfast, Eggs Benedict.

Moving on to the XX’s and O’s, CGB Hoops Expert Reef has glumly noted that the Big H already has shown more coaching chops than Cal fan-favorite Johnny Dawkins. Out of the bowels of absolute mediocrity, the (11-9, 3-5) Furds are solidly below average on both ends of the court. Which, of course, earns them A’s from their fan.

Offensively, Stanford rates somewhere between a hot mess and Kellyanne Conway’s make-up artist. They are the worst three-point shooting team in the conference, but also take the fewest number of attempts from deep. As all long-suffering Cal fans know, I’ve just jinxed the living heck out of Juju and variance. Where they do lead the conference is in tempo. They’re third, but hey, grade inflation + #Spicerfacts. With a team of transition athletes, it was somewhat inexplicable yet very explicable that former Coach Dawkins directed the Furds into a turnover prone plodding morass. Coach Haase, on the other hand, has this team out and running. Not him personally, of course. It plays to their relative strengths on the glass as well as focusing on feeding...two capable scorers in Travis and Pickens.

On defense, they mix up zone with man and actually rate towards the upper half of the conference in overall efficiency. Although they are foul-prone, they do also cause their share of havoc via blocks and steals. At the very least, their new coach has them exerting some semblance of effort which is a marked change from their so-called academic studies.

For those who believe in transitive value, the Furds were much more decisive in their victories over Wazzu, UDub, and Oregon State than our own sturdy Golden Bears. But to heck with the eye test, they are evil and it is our solemn duty to smite them.

Our ever-helpful computer overlords predict a 76% Cal victory. Throw in Nick Kranz’s trademarked “Cuonzo-Ball Gravity” effect and who knows...although gravity may impede Coach Haase more than most.

Projected Starters:

G Robert Cartwright(So), 6’2, 180 lbs, 7.7 ppg, 3.4 apg - Inconsistent jumpshot, but uses his quickness as a set-up guy.

G Marcus Allen(Sr), 6’3, 190 lbs, 4.94 ppg - Known as “Tweedledum” to differentiate him from his chained-to-the-bench scrub twin, “Tweedledumber.”

G Dorian Pickens(Jr), 6’5, 217 lbs, 13.4 ppg, 3.9 rpg - This year’s candidate to be The Most Hated Furd. Which is like saying ugliest Furd cheerleader, most pathetic Furd Band performance, or stupidest Trump tweet. Dangerous outside threat with some slashing ability. Previously known for indifference on D.

F Michael Humphrey(Jr) 6’9, 245 lbs, 8.9 ppg, 5.7 rpg - He’s the Pepsi One version of Evil Reid Travis. Just one calorie, not quite evil enough.

F Reid Travis(Jr) 6’8, 245 lbs, 16.6 ppg, 8.9 rpg - *Might be injured for the umpteenth time. When healthy, he’s a rugged low-post presence with a knack for drawing fouls and hitting the offensive glass. Hence his ironic nickname, “Mr. Glass.”

Bench:

C Josh Sharma(So), 7’0, 220 lbs, 4.0 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 1.2 bpg - Follows in a long line of ugly Furd beanpoles. Rail-thin arms will occasionally collide with a shot.

G Marcus Sheffield(So), 6’5, 180 lbs, 7.3 ppg - 6th man plays more minutes then their starter. Solid shooter from deep, much less dangerous inside the arc.

G Christian Sanders(Sr) 6’4, 192 lbs, 3 ppg, 3.2 apg - Veteran distributor has a lot of experience at missing shots.

Keys to the Game:

1. We Need Emotional Content: Transition Defense/Loose balls/50-50 Plays - We’re great when set, but we’ve been lax at times with running hard to get back. It’s cliched, but giving up easy baskets to a poor-shooting team is a recipe for foul trouble and near-disaster. See Cal-Wazzu, 1/14/17. One of the more disturbing trends of the season is slippage in our once elite defense from a lack of effort. We’re simply not good enough to take the court without being locked in.

2. It’s like a finger pointing away to the moon. Concentrate on the finger, and you miss all that heavenly glory: Selectively embrace the zone - It’s Martin’s least favorite defense, but it might be a good match-up against a team that doesn’t shoot much from deep. It might also help us deny dribble penetration at the point of attack. However, the flip side is that we’re good at our style of man that forces teams into low-percentage two-pointers, so why go away from our strengths against a team that can’t shoot? Pickens might be the guy to key on; when he sits, so does the bulk of their shooting.

3. Mistakes are forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them: Don’t lose it at the foul line - They’re an above-average foul-shooting team that likes to draw fouls. We’re one of the nation’s leaders in charity clanks. As Nick Kranz’ better half eloquently put it, “Ehhhh. They could do better.”

Fortunately, we’ve steadily improved throughout the season at limiting our fouls. This is again where it will be important for our guys to expect them to push tempo. Lazy transition defense can lead to reaches and fouls from being out of position.

4. I’m not in this world to live up to your expectations, and you’re not in this world to live up to mine: Feed the Rabbolution - No more of these long stretches without touches or shots. Even if the Furd bigs are the strength of their team, Ivan can and should destroy them all.

5. If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you'll never get it done. Make shots. Lots and lots of shots. Bury them under a beautiful avalanche of angst-ridden unrequited variance. This is the game where Dom and Rog both go for double digits. You read it here first. And probably only here. Thank Oski for Prop 64.

Go Bears!

Time: Sunday, Jan 29th, 5:30pm PST

TV: ESPNU