Bears finish with ASU, Wildcats
By the time the Cal men’s basketball team leaves Haas Pavilion on Saturday, they should know their post-season fate, despite the fact that the NCAA Tournament selection committee won’t release their decisions until Sunday. The Bears need at least one victory this weekend against Arizona State or Arizona to lock in a tournament berth.
Head coach Ben Braun’s squad will host the Sun Devils on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. The Bears already own season sweeps over the other four Pac-10 weaklings, and will look to continue their domination of the lower half of the conference. The game is also their best chance to reach the 20-win plateau, as Arizona has been playing well of late and could easily overpower Braun’s boys.
“This is a huge weekend. Our next game versus ASU is a huge game for us,” Braun said earlier this week.The Sun Devils are riding a two-game winning streak, as they swept the Oregon schools last weekend. After enduring a seven-game losing streak to start conference play (including a 82-67 loss to Cal in Tempe), they have come on strong, winning five of nine. But they have yet to beat any of the Pac-10’s top five.
“Their confidence is up now. They’re shooting the ball better than they were earlier in the year,” Braun said. “At the beginning of league, they had a tough schedule. They’ve improved as the year’s gone on.”
The Bears, on the other hand, are fresh off of a disastrous road trip to southern California, where they were beaten soundly by UCLA and USC. A win over either team could have sealed an NCAA bid.
If the Bears can beat Arizona State, they can head into Saturday’s matchup with the Wildcats not needing a win. If they lose Thursday, however, they will have a tough time getting that 20th win.
Since being upset by Oregon on Feb. 1, Lute Olson’s bunch have won seven of eight and have broken 100 points twice, including a 104-65 revenge win over the Ducks last Saturday. The ’Cats are playing as well as any team in the country, and have apparently shaken off their early-season woes.