A number of my friends are off earning graduate degrees at high-powered institutions, which impresses girls in bars and will someday make them a lot of money. Due to my spending far more time at Cal games with the band than I did at the library, I won’t be attending grad school anytime soon, so girls, money, prestige, and self-respect will have to wait. Still, don’t shed any tears for ole’ CBKWit, because my current occupation comes with benefits even better than Veteran’s day or dental (though I have these too, and they are nice): working Cal pregame events for tickets (any ladies out there who think this is cooler than a Ph.D. in physics? email me.). On Saturday, I was working just such an event at the Alumni House and acted as fly on the wall while Sandy Barbour spoke to a group of Old Blues.
According to Sandy, our chances of Tha1 returning are "not great," but "he is thinking about it" (which I took to mean that he is honestly considering staying in school, instead of just giving it usual cursory consideration), and "we’ll know very soon." Mack’s name was not mentioned, but he’s thinking about it too, as reported by Okanes. I ran into Mack following the SC game at the Bear’s Lair, and after heaping on a good amount of praise, I asked him if he was coming back. "Don’t know, we’ll see," was his reply. I think Riley’s performance will give him some incentive to return, and don’t rule out the prospect of him moving to left tackle; Cal experimented with this last spring, in an effort to get back-up center Chris Guarnero on the field as well. This year, they don’t have all pac-10 tackle Mike Gibson returning, although Chet Teofilo looked pretty decent in the Armed Forces bowl (Gibson was out with a concussion). If you move Mack to LT, you probably have a stronger starting 5 with Guarnero on the field instead of Teofio, and Mack gets the big left tackle bucks when he graduates the following year. It’s win-win!
On the stadium, Sandy maintained that the latest step by the judge (a nice summary about her demand for expert testimony can be found here) is a good sign for us in the athletic department’s eyes. The city et al will probably successfully delay the expert testimony, on the grounds that they haven’t had enough time to prepare. Delay, as she said, is of course their primary goal, since they cannot prevent the project from (eventually) being built. She also mentioned that once the SAHPC is completed, Cal may complete two of the stadium retrofit phases at the same time, provided financing is in place. The campus is considering this option as a way to expedite the process, because the project has already been delayed for more than a year. The downside to this is plan is that it would necessitate one season being played at another location - she didn’t mention any name, but the Oakland Coliseum seems an obvious choice.
Assistant men’s basketball coach Mike Roberts was next; he said that Theo Robertson has been practicing, but it’s been 1 day on, 1 day off, and there’s a big difference between this and the 4 practice, 2 games per week schedule during pac-10 play. They haven’t made a decision yet on whether to redshirt him, but he admitted that it gets more likely every week. Similarly, no decision has been made regarding freshman wing Omondi Amoke.
The highlight of the event was not all of the insider info - it came when Ryan Anderson’s parents walked in the door. I started awkwardly heaping praise on their son, which they took very gracefully. They said that Ryan’s accomplishment’s were "all his own creation; we are musicians!" This gives me hope for future little CBKWits. I also slyly tried to get a feel for whether or not he’ll be back next year ("we all love Ryan and we hope he’s coming back"), but they parried it completely. I think it’s worth noting that with his parents in attendance, Anderson had his worst game of the season. Don’t worry Ryan, we all have performance anxiety in front of our parents.
Why UCLA sucks:
Every year since Howland arrived, when UCLA bball is cruising along and winning 9 out of 10 games, I grudgingly give them respect and overlook my innate annoyance with their school. Then I watch them play Cal and, win or lose, remember why I hated them last year. When UCLA is on defense, they foul you. On nearly every possession. You probably wonder why Anderson, Hardin and our other posts miss so many point blank shots; it’s because they’re being hammered whenever they have the ball down low. It’s thugball that relies on a very simple premise - the refs are incompotent, and they won’t call a foul on every play. The NBA used to be like this in the Heat-Knicks glory days of the 90s, but they fixed the problem and now have a much cleaner product. Pac-10 teams will continue to get pummeled by UCLA until they start doing the same thing, and we’ll basically have rugby scrums underneath the basket while the refs call ticky-tack hand checks on the perimeter. Great.
On offense, UCLA is built (with the exception of Love, who is good enough on his own) on another subtle tactic: moving screens. Watch Abooya and Mbah a Moute when Cal plays UCLA at Pauley, and you’ll realize why the UCLA wings were burying wide open 12 footers all day. Randle is a fast dude (you have to be to play D1 ball when you’re 5′9", and Randle is a very generous 5′9"; he’s shorter than I am, and I’m a generous 5′8".), but Collison was getting very, very open running around those screens.
I don’t mean to say that UCLA is a bad team; on the contrary, they’re obviously a very good team, and they do a lot of things very well: ball pressure, cutting off passing lanes, denying the post, weak-side doubling, keeping their poise, moving without the ball, passing into the post, and I could go on. Howland is a great at substitutions, keeping his players fresh and the energy high, as well as killing opponents momentum with timely time-outs. They are more talented, deeper, and have a better coach than Cal. All true. But it doesn’t mean that these aforementioned tactics should be lauded, as they often are (I get tired of hearing how "physical" UCLA is when they’re just mugging guys down low), nor does it mean that their style of play is at all good for the health of Pac-10 basketball. Nor does it mean that they don’t suck. Because they do.