Sunday, January 4, 2009

Notes from the Arizona-Cal game

Went to the Arizona-Cal game Friday night in Berkeley. Cal won, 69-55. [Here's the box score.]

Coach Mike Montgomery is a 5-man away from having an outstanding team at Cal. As the game went on, Cal picked apart UA's changing defenses. Defensively, Cal did a nice job of fronting 3/4 post-ups and had good weak side help on lob passes.

Cal's role players outplayed their counterparts at UA, which had just one point from the bench.

For Cal, three guys stood out:

Jerome Randle (introduced as "Bulldog") is an offensive-minded PG who needs to be a more consistent defender. He's playing more under control and shooting the ball better. He pushes the ball well and does a great job of splitting and getting in the lane for floaters off the middle pick-and-roll. [Good story about Randle here. And here's another.]

Cal 2-guard Patrick Christopher has a shooter's mentality and did a good job defending Chase Budinger. He also had possessions when he defended UA PG Nic Wise. Christopher had the biggest impact on the outcome of this game. Can go and get lobs, and finish. He was 9 of 18 from the field and was Cal's best player tonight at both ends of the floor. [Good piece on Christopher here.]

Theo Robertson is a 3-man with a great basketball body. He's a solid defender who plays within himself and can shoot the ball (I watched him in warm-ups and he has a great stroke).

Off the bench, Cal's Harper Kamp, a 6-8 forward, battled inside versus UA's Jordan Hill defensively. At the offensive end, he was a big key with his hi-lo passing against UA's zone defense. Kamp had five assists off the bench and led the Bears in both assists and rebounding.

Arizona has a trio of great college players in Wise, Jordan Hill, and Budinger.

Hill plays center at UA, but would be an NBA 4-man. He's been ranked by some as the Pac-10's best big man. Puts up big numbers at the college level (18 pts, 11 rebs). Had a big-time offensive tip-dunk and showed some ability to finish at the rim.

He has an NBA body -- athletic and active -- and runs the floor well. He also has decent hands and can catch the ball in traffic. He gets a lot of offensive touches, but surprisingly, had three of his shots blocked.

Should be a high NBA pick, and will improve with experience and strength.

UA small forward Chase Budinger handled on a pick-and-roll with Hill and got to the rim. Can run and finish at the rim. His game is better-suited as a pro than in college because of the open floor in the NBA. Defensively, he's a 3-man as I don't see him as an NBA off-guard.

He's bouncy, but had only two rebounds in this game. Really struggled to finish his mid-range shots (4-17 FG) and had zero FT despite 17 FGA.

PG Nic Wise is small and quick. He can really turn the corner on the pick-and-roll and can change directions with the ball. He didn't have a single FTA in this game, but when he's on the floor, the Cats are a different team.

Defensively, the Cats did a lot of mixing up their defense versus a Cal team that shoots the ball well in 3-point FG percentage.

Arizona, which has had big wins over Gonzaga and Kansas, opened in a 1-2-2 zone and mixed up full-court zones with a 2-1-2 full-court zone defense after made baskets and a 2-2-1. After timeouts, they came out in a 1-3-1 trapping half-court zone. The first possession of man-to-man defense came at the 15-minute mark of second half.

On offense, UA ran 5-out motion and 4-out 1 in with Hill as the post-up man. They also ran ("tap head") flex-cut offense, a 1-4 high with UCLA cut. In the second half, they ran a double-high pick-and-roll with Wise into a double-screen away for Budinger.

Key stat of the night: UA had zero FT in the first half. [Here's the first-half box score.]

Plenty of scouts and NBA people at the game.