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Cal vs. Arizona: Q&A with Arizona Desert Swarm

An outside look at Saturday’s match-up.

NCAA Basketball: Arizona State at California Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

After a loss to Arizona State, the Golden Bears turn their attention to this Saturday’s game against the Arizona Wildcats in hopes of securing their first Pac-12 win of the season.

We teamed up with Scott Moran of Arizona Desert Swarm to gain a better idea of what to expect come Saturday. You can view the Q&A that I answered over there right here.

Now, onto our Q&A with Scott.

This season is lost. Give us some hope for the future. From an outsiders perspective, what do you like about Cal’s basketball program?

I think the most promising sign for California basketball has to be how recently they were successful. Ivan Rabb and Jaylen Brown may have led a couple of underachieving teams, but even having that level of talent on the roster is a huge victory, and Cal was still a 4-seed in the 2016 tournament. Obviously the coach is different with Wyking Jones there, and he hasn’t shown many signs of life yet, but there’s a blueprint for Cal to succeed. Recruiting hasn’t been a disaster under Jones from my point of view, and players like Damian Lillard and Gary Payton have come out of Cal’s home turf. If Jones gets those Bay Area players to stay home, and proves he can develop them without underachieving as Cuonzo Martin did, Cal can start bouncing back sooner rather than later.

Though you guys are not ranked, as has pretty much become an expectation under Sean Miller in recent years, you guys are still 11-4 at this point. What is your outlook for the season?

It has been a WEIRD season in Tucson. Thanks to the FBI drama, particularly the DeAndre Ayton phone conversation that has yet to be substantiated, Arizona’s recruiting went from astronomical to just average this offseason. Worse, our entire starting five, plus some key bench players, were leaving, so massive turnover plus a disappointing recruiting class meant this was always going to be a rare rebuilding season here. The non-conference wasn’t always pretty, particularly a home loss to Baylor where we were outrebounded 51-19.

Sean Miller’s really proven why he’s considered one of the best in the game, even if Arizona fans are fickle and lots of people point to his disappointments in March. He’s had to outcoach opponents instead of running at them with a bunch of one-and-dones, and this team’s show the grit to get tough wins. For the rest of the season, I expect some ups and downs, but this season is certainly good timing for a downturn, as the rest of the conference looks less than stellar to put it lightly. I think the Wildcats make the tournament again, and while I don’t expect much in March, it’ll be a positive way to end a nightmare season and turn to our high expectations for 2019-20.

What player does Cal have to watch out for most?

Brandon Randolph has really become a fun player to watch these past few months. Arizona’s inside presence is laughable, especially compared to last year with Deandre Ayton and Dusan Ristic, but that’s been overcome by stellar play on the wings. Randolph is a big reason why, as he’s hit a ton of vital threes, and is an amazing foul shooter too. Arizona is great at ball movement, and since all of its starters are roughly the same skill level, that leads to a lot of one-on-ones. Expect a lot of pop-outs or a couple of reverses to Randolph, and expect him to hit a fair amount of those shots.

What’s your score prediction for the game?

I really don’t like the idea of this team playing in Berkeley, even if Cal is having a spectacularly down year. Arizona needed a ton of luck to beat Stanford, and I think it’ll be closer than most expect, especially since Justin Coleman could sit out with a shoulder injury. I think Arizona wins, probably something like 78-69, but fans on both sides shouldn’t write this game off.

Whom do you most want to punch in the face?

So many options. A lot of my fellow Tucsonans would pick Mark Schlabach, who broke the FBI wiretap story and then seemingly vanished without a trace of evidence. Bobby Hurley would be a common answer, but he’s just doing his job, and doing it well I must admit. I think I’m gonna go for an off-the-wall and mostly ironic answer and say Texas A&M quarterback Nick Starkel, since he roasted both our future football messiahs in Grant Gunnell and Boobie Curry and Tucson’s beautiful Southwestern architecture in one go.

What do you think Cal fans? Can we pick up the win?