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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Cal closes in on depleted league title

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Michael Ignatov
Michael Ignatov / Arizona Daily Wildcat University of Arizona meets University of California in an NCAA men’s basketball game at McKale Center, Tucson, Ariz., Jan. 31, 2010. California up 34-32 at the half.

The leader of the Pac must take the heat.

First-place California men’s basketball coach Mike Montgomery fielded questions Tuesday in a teleconference that aired the Pacific 10 Conference’s frustrations from the entire season.

They ask what it’s like to be ranked a preseason top-15 team. The Golden Bears are barely a bubble team for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament if they win out.

“”I don’t know if that had anything to do with how we played,”” Montgomery said. “”We’re not paying attention to that.””

They ask what’s different for first-place Cal about preparing for Saturday’s matchup against second-place ASU. The conference is so fragile at the top.

“”That game is not a factor for either of us if we struggle on Thursday,”” Montgomery said.

They asked if a conference title meant the same in a season without any ranked teams. If the Bears win out, they’ll have the worst-ever overall record for a Pac-10 title team.

“”Every question you ever ask anymore starts with a negative, so I don’t know how to answer those questions mostly,”” Montgomery said.

As the conference’s brutal year takes a homebound stretch — and “”coach speak”” dissolves into emotional responses — the Bears have a one-game lead in the loss column against ASU.

Despite their drop from national recognition, which reflects the rest of the conference, the Bears and Wildcats have one last primetime game on ESPN tonight at 7.

“”I look at them as the most experienced team in our league, very organized, very well-coached in their approach,”” Arizona head coach Sean Miller said. “”To me, nationally, they’re one of the best offensive teams in college basketball.””

According to ESPN.com’s “”Bracketology,”” Cal is projected to be a No. 10 seed with an automatic bid from winning the conference tournament.

And that’s it.

That’s the Pac-10’s lone representative. Ten other conferences have multiple bids, including the Colonial Conference.

The Bears’ four nonconference road losses came against top-10 teams, including Kansas, Syracuse and Ohio State.

A sweep this weekend would put California in prime position to outright win its first Pac-10 title in 50 years.

“”We’re in the best position we’ve probably been in for a while,”” Montgomery said. “”I still think 18 games against the same opponents is the best measure you can possibly have in terms of competitive environment.””

The headline on Cal’s athletics Web site reads: “”We need every seat in Haas Pavillion to be full for these two games.”” The players don’t care if this league title comes in one of the worst seasons.

“”It’s everything,”” senior forward Jamal Boykin told Bay Area media Tuesday. “”It’s history. You’d come back to school 10, 20 years from now and you’d be the team, the first one to win the Pac-10 championship.””

Randle looks to join club

 

Could Jerome Randle be No. 10?

That is, perimeter players to score 24 points or more against the Wildcats this season.

Randle only scored 15 points in the Bears’ 76-72 loss in Tucson earlier this season.

He averages 19.2 points per game this season.

“”He’s a good player. He’s been here for four years,”” said freshman guard Momo Jones. “”He’s been through the bumps in the road, he’s been through the battles. He’s a good guard.””

Added Miller: “”Jerome Randle, you look at the career that he’s had at Cal, I believe he has the chance to be the all-time leading scorer … just from an offensive perspective he makes their team so difficult to defend. He’s just such a great player.””

UA guards have given up as many as 49 points to a single player (BYU’s Jimmer Fredette in a McKale Center record) this season, including Pac-10 matchups against Quincy Pondexter (30 points) Ty Abbott (28) Theo Robertson (27) and Jeremy Green (25).

“”In our first game, Northern Arizona, they had a player go for 30,”” Miller said. “”We’ve worked hard to get better. We’re a man-to-man defensive team, and part of the deal is you have to work and get through games, make it so that someone like Ty Abbott, who runs off screens, doesn’t have that room, just can’t get shots.””

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