I know what some of you are thinking… what’s EMFMV doing covering basketball!?! These are football guys right?
Yeah, we’re football guys, there’s no doubt about it. You haven’t heard a word about the basketball team so far this season. But once football season is over, there’s no harm in covering basketball, right? OK, the truth of the matter is that I’m traditionally not a big fan of basketball, particularly pro-basketball. But last year I covered a handful of games for cal.rivals.com and saw just how different college basketball is from the NBA. You know, things like team work and defense and egos small enough that their heads would fit through the hoop should they try. So, while I’ll always be a football guy, you’ll see more basketball coverage these days.
Back to the game…
Cal played what many believed to be a critical game last night for their chances to make it to the tournament against USC. It breaks down like this: Everyone believes it takes 18 wins for a Pac-10 team this year to make the tournament. Cal went 9-2 in non-conference play losing to Kansas St. on the road in a fairly tight game and to Utah at home in an EXTREMELY tight game. Kansas St. gets a lot of respect and is expected to be a tournament contender. Utah, although not great, has played good ball against a lot of good teams. What all of that means is that Cal’s non-conference schedule is good enough that an 18 win season seems like it’ll get the job done.
What that means is that Cal has to go 9-9 versus Pac-10 teams. Said another way, for every team Cal loses to twice (for the un-initiatied, in basketball each team plays every conference opponent twice, once at home, once on the road), it must beat another team twice. Breaking that down, the best teams in the conference are WSU and UCLA, so one has to assume that Cal loses to each of them twice. Oregon St. and one of Arizona St. and Washington are likely candidates for Cal to beat twice. The rest are in the middle. That means that Cal has to go 1-1 against the rest. All 4 of the remaining teams, USC, Arizona, Oregon and Stanford are definitely beatable, but winning at home will be key for Cal. That makes those 4 home games potentially critical games.
All of that is a long way of explaining that Cal needed a win against USC last night in their Pac-10 opener against USC at home. Boy did the Bears deliver in the 2nd half, winning 92-82. With just over 7 minutes to play, Cal had a tight 66-65 lead when Eric Vierneisel busted two consecutive 3-pointers to open the game up and start a 15-3 run that was the difference maker in the game. The final notable part of the game was how well Cal did with rebounding in the 2nd half, particularly during that run.
It’s great to see Vierneisel doing well. I interviewed him last season and he’s a very unassuming and almost shy guy. He’s also a guy that you don’t ever see being very popular with the fans, in part because of his demeanor. But he seemed to have a good head on his shoulders and had insightful things to say about the game and his teammates. Here’s hoping he continues to play well on the court to become a fan favorite!