To get a Cal point of view on Sunday's match-up against the Golden Bears in Boulder we sat down with California Golden Blogs for a quick Q&A.
Who is the Cal player on offense that CU fans should know about?
LeonPowe: Alan Crabbe is an all Pac-12 performer and the best player on the Cal team. His shooting, ability to score inside and out makes him our best player and an almost certain next level player. But - it's a broken record for me - our most important player is point guard Justin Cobbs. If he's playing well, it gives us a good chance to win. If he's not (and he hasn't been since . . .well since before Christmas) we will struggle. At his best, he can get to the rim and finish, he's a good passer and is strong with either hand off the bounce and shoot the mid range as well as historically being an excellent 3 point shooter. Sometime right around the break, he lost his mojo. He's had trouble picking his spots of when to call his own number and when to get people involved. He's certainly very talented - maybe it's fatigue? His back-up is a freshman swing guard who also has started a lot due to injuries - I am too lazy to look at the stats, but I'd guess he's playing over 30 minutes a game.
Kodiak: Although Allen Crabbe is leading the conference in scoring, Justin Cobbs is the guy you should keep an eye on. When he's on his game, he can shoot, drive, and create. When he's off, he dribbles into trouble, forces bad passes, and was in a month-long shooting slump. Without Cobbs playing well, it's too easy for teams to just focus on shutting down Crabbe.
Who is the Cal player on defense that CU fans should know about?
LeonPowe: A lot of these Cal player capsules have to with potential and not consistency. If Richard Solomon comes to play - he can be a defensive force. He certainly possesses the tools - long, bouncy, with great athleticism and timing, he doesn't always have his head in the game. He can be frustrated very easily and can also commit fouls, but when he's playing well he can defend the rim and the paint space and make people take mid and long range shots only which aids our defense considerably.
Kodiak: We're not very good defensively. Our best shot-blocker is Richard Solomon. However, he's prone to lapses in judgement where he'll leave his feet or get out of position and give up easy baskets.
What does Cal have to do to win this one?
LeonPowe: Both Crabbe and Cobbs have to play to their ability. The pace can't get too high and we need to stay out of foul trouble - our team wasn't deep to begin with - but after losing marginal players Brandon Smith (concussion) and Christian Behrens (ACL) to injury, Montgomery has added previous deep bench players Bak Bak (energy with an ok 15 foot jump shot) and Jeff Powers (University of Denver transfer - he can shoot the deep ball . .. and he works hard) to the playing rotation. While they've played decently in their time on the court, the reality is that they're not really Pac-12 level players. Which means that we realistically have: Crabbe, Cobbs, frosh Tyrone Wallace, Solomon, David Kravish and former walk-on Robert Thurman as our playing rotation. Not deep. That would give us a chance to win - and I haven't even considered how well CU is playing now.
Kodiak: We'll need to start with a strong effort defensively and on the glass. Your defense is tough, so we'll need our guys to be patient offensively and convert when we get decent looks. Generic stuff, I know. We just haven't played well this year, so it's tough to be specific when you'd like to get better all across the board.
This Cal team is 2-4 over their last six games. Is that just a function of the schedule or is this team in a slump?
LeonPowe: Slump. We've lost some winnable games - starting with Harvard, then through Creighton and UNLV - each of those was winnable. And then in conference play, I felt like a couple of bounces and a run or two we would be at least in the mix at the end of the UCLA or Stanford games. But we're so thin that we need all those bounces to go our way to win.
Kodiak: We're in a slump.
Last season, Cal struggled in their game in Boulder, falling 70-57. How worried are you about the combination of the altitude and the Buffaloes growing home court advantage on Saturday?
LeonPowe: That, plus the better Buffalo play of late and the thinness of the Cal team AND the downward trend our team has been on this year. Yeah, I'm worried.
Kodiak: Not worried at all. We already expect to struggle. Tad Boyle knows how to stop Monty's favorite sets on offense...and that was when we had Jorge Gutierrez and Harper Kamp. I just don't see enough toughness or fundamental basketball from our guys to pull this one out on the road. I'd love to be wrong.
Considering where expectations were heading into the season, how are fans feeling about Cal's performance this year?
LeonPowe: Slightly disappointed, really. I don't know that we're improving enough or playing smart like a Montgomery team should or even like the players on this team have proven they can play in the past. I think they have regressed from last year and the beginning of this season - maybe its the fatigue again. I think even realistic fans thought that if things went our way, we could at least make it back to the tourney as a lower seed, but barring a late season charge or Pac-12 tourney run, I think NIT is more realistic.
Kodiak: Depressed. It's the first bad year under Monty's tenure. Recruiting misses have really caught up with him. Also, it's unexpected for us to see a team that just doesn't play smart and isn't fundamentally sound. It doesn't look like a Mike Montgomery-coached team.
Where do you see yourselves with regards to the post-season?
LeonPowe: It's not too late for this team to turn it around - but they need to start now, especially with Oregon making a lot of noise unexpectedly. We need to get on a winning streak, posthaste. Otherwise, it's a lower level tournament.
Kodiak: At home eating chips.