College Basketball Nation: Theo Robertson

Final: Duke 68, California 53

March, 21, 2010
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The first weekend of the NCAA tournament went about as smoothly as Duke could have hoped.

The Blue Devils didn't fall victim to a shocking upset and received hardly a challenge on their way to the Sweet 16. And given their recent tournament history, that's noteworthy in itself.

Duke methodically took down eighth-seeded California 68-53 on Sunday. The Golden Bears made one little run in the second half to get within seven points at 44-37, but the Blue Devils quickly extinguished that fire and kept the margin safely at double digits down the stretch.

It was an impressive defensive effort against a California team that lives to run-and-gun and shoots from anywhere beyond the midcourt stripe. The Bears went just 3-for-12 on three-pointers and their Big Three of Jerome Randle, Theo Robertson and Patrick Christopher were held in check, totaling just 35 points.

Duke's Nolan Smith led all scorers with 20 points and hounded Randle defensively. Brian Zoubek had 14 points and 12 rebounds, six of them on the offensive glass. The Blue Devils owned a 38-24 advantage on points in the paint.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The first batch of games here in Jacksonville lacked the drama that gripped some of the other sites. Three of the first four contests were decided by double digits.

But with Cornell, Duke, Cal and Wisconsin, I'd put this pod's SAT scores up against any other subregional. Here's a look at the games on tap for Sunday:

Cornell (12) vs. Wisconsin (4), 2:50 p.m.

Key to the game: Cornell can shoot it as well as anybody. Wisconsin defends as well as anybody. Sounds simplistic, but that's basically what this game boils down to. Cornell dissected Temple, another good defensive team, in the first round, getting pretty much whatever open looks it wanted. Wisconsin rarely allows anybody to feel comfortable, but its defensive philosophy of chasing shooters off the three-point line will be challenged by a team with four players capable of draining the long ball at any time.

"We have to try to take away their air space," Badgers forward Jon Leuer said. "When you have a guy breathing right down your neck when you come off a screen, it makes you think twice about shooting a 3. We have to make them put it on the floor and hopefully take some tough jumpers."

Player to watch: Wisconsin's Trevon Hughes. He makes the Badgers go, and his ability to penetrate and dish could cause problems for Cornell's defense. Louis Dale will be under a lot of pressure to slow Hughes down.

Who has the edge: Believe it or not, Cornell. Wisconsin has struggled shooting the ball lately, and the Big Red is riding a huge wave of confidence right now. They proved they could handle a deliberate, defensive-minded team in the first round and will be headed to the Sweet 16 if they play the same way today.

California (8) vs. Duke (1), 5:15 p.m.

Key to the game: The Golden Bears and Blue Devils meet in the tournament for the first time since Jason Kidd outdueled Bobby Hurley in 1993. Duke's trio of Kyle Singler, Nolan Smith and Jon Scheyer garner a lot of attention, but Cal has its own Big Three with Jerome Randle, Theo Robertson and Patrick Christopher. Emphasize the word "three" with that group, because all of them like to let it fly from way beyond the college arc, as Louisville found out Friday night. They give the underdog Bears a shooter's chance.

"We haven't played a team with this many weapons from the outside," Scheyer said. "It's all about being disciplined on defense."

Duke, though, has a major advantage in size, as Cal's only starter over 6-foot-6 is former Blue Devils transfer Jamal Boykin. And this is one of the best defensive teams, at least statistically, that Mike Krzyzewski has ever fielded. Duke will have to close out on shooters and prevent the Bears from getting runouts in transition like they did Friday against Louisville.

Player to watch: Randle. The point guard, whom Krzyzewski called "a blur," can change the game with his speed, deep range and near-automatic foul shooting. He'll be matched up against Duke's best on-ball defender in Smith.

Who has the edge: Duke. Cal had a nice performance against Louisville, but hasn't proved it can beat an elite team yet this season. The Blue Devils should be able to ride their length and depth to avoid the same second-round fate as fellow No. 1 seed Kansas.
Terrence JenningsBob Donnan/US PresswirePatrick Christopher finished with 17 points and eight rebounds in Cal's win over Louisville.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- We take it all back, Pac-10.

Sure, all year we held our noses while looking at your standings. Maybe we scoffed at your lack of marquee wins or ranked teams. We said some things we regret, like you were one of the worst major leagues in recent memory and that you only deserved one NCAA Tournament bid this year.

Our bad.

Clearly, you must still know how to play a little basketball. Washington knocked off Marquette on Thursday, and then here in Jacksonville on Friday night, California stomped Louisville 77-62. That's Marquette and Louisville from the Big East, supposedly the king of all conferences. Before this week, the Pac-10 had scored only one first-round win over the Big East in NCAA tournament play since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985.

So go ahead. Crow a little bit.

[+] EnlargeJerome Randle
AP Photo/Steve HelberRandle finished with a team-high 21 points.
"I've been listening to a lot of things that have been said about the Pac-10, and honestly I feel like we have great players and great teams," Cal senior guard Jerome Randle said. "Just because we didn't have any Top 25 teams, people were trashing our league. But we were competitive every night. Luckily, Cal and Washington got in, and we were able to send a message in the first round."

Some had wondered if the Bears even deserved to make the field. Despite winning the Pac-10 regular season title and boasting a high RPI, they didn't have any great wins this season. They felt they had something to prove as a No. 8 seed.

"No matter what people were saying about the league, we still felt like it was a tremendous accomplishment to win the conference," forward Theo Robertson said. "We wanted to come out here and show the nation, really, that we're a good basketball team."

It didn't take Louisville long to find that out. The Bears opened with a blitzkrieg, scoring the game's first 12 points and racing out to leads of 22-4 and 30-12.

"I was a little upset that Obama didn't put us in his bracketology," Randle joked, referring to the president's own Pac-10 doubting picks. "So I just wanted to come out strong."

What Cal lacked in big bodies and physical play -- a strength of the purportedly superior Big East -- it more than made up for with speed and shooting. When the Cardinals tried to press, Randle zipped right by them. When Louisville made two serious runs to get within striking distance, Randle, Robertson and Patrick Christopher made key shots to keep the lead afloat.

"Just bang, bang, bang," coach Mike Montgomery said. "We shot the ball and probably caught them off guard, which we do occasionally."

Montgomery doesn't have a deep team, and his bench was shorter than normal after the suspension of starting forward Omondi Amoke. Randle played all 40 minutes, while Robertson and Christopher logged 38 minutes each against Louisville's constant full-court pressure defense. Yet it was Cal that ended the game on a 12-2 run over the final six minutes.

The small rotation and lack of size figures to be a factor against top-seeded Duke on Sunday. But the Bears are still carrying the Pac-10 banner.

"Now we want to prove to people that we are capable of wining more than one game," Randle said.

We promise not to doubt you anymore, Pac-10. Can we be friends again?

Final: Cal 77, Louisville 62

March, 20, 2010
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- To say California vs. Louisville was a game of runs is like saying the ocean has a few waves.

The Bears opened the game with a 22-4 lead, then saw Louisville get it back to single digits late in the first half. After Cal built a 14-point edge in the second half, the Cardinals stormed back to get within four points with seven minutes left.

But Cal had the last run and the last laugh, advancing to play Duke on Sunday with a 77-62 win.

The end came for Louisville when the Cardinals were called for an intentional foul with 2:43 left after coach Rick Pitino yelled for his team to foul. Pitino argued and was slapped with a technical, giving California four free throws and the ball.

Really, though, the Bears won with their outside shooting. Every time Louisville got close, a Cal shooter would hit a big jumper. Jerome Randle, Theo Robertson and Patrick Christopher combined to make all eight of the team's 3-pointers and scored 59 points together.

The Cardinals, on the other hand, got very little from their backcourt outside of Edgar Sosa. Starting guards Jerry Smith and Reginald Delk and top reserve Preston Knowles were a combined 3-for-17 from the floor.

LOS ANGELES -- The Pac-10 tournament final Saturday between Washington and Cal saw 22 lead changes and 12 ties, and mirrored the constantly fluctuating season the downtrodden conference had. The way both teams played, however, belied the national perception the league was only sending one team to the NCAA tournament.

[+] EnlargeQuincy Pondexter
Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesQuincy Pondexter led Washington with 18 points on Saturday.
While Washington (24-9) earned the conference’s automatic bid with a 79-75 win, there is no question Cal (23-10) is just as deserving. After splitting the season series, both seemed to split baskets from the opening tip in what was easily the best game of an otherwise forgettable tournament played in front of a mostly empty arena the past four days.

As maligned as the Pac-10 has been this season, it at least saved its best performance for a national television audience. It would be hard to find a better tournament final from start to finish than the one Washington and Cal put on at the Staples Center.

Elston Turner's five straight points, including a 3-pointer, put Washington ahead for good, 71-68, with 3:22 remaining.

After depending on the play of leading scorers Jerome Randle and Patrick Christopher all season, the Bears were forced to look elsewhere as their talented senior duo had combined for just 10 points with 9:30 left in the game. Fellow seniors Jamal Boykin, who finished with 20 points and 14 rebounds, and Theo Robertson, who had 25 points, were the only reasons Cal was in the game.

“He got two fouls early which is a little unusual,” said Cal coach Mike Montgomery of Randle. “We had him [Randle] out of the game for a fair portion trying to get him back and forth and not get a third foul. He’s small so they can post him with a variety of different people. It caused a problem, no question.”

Washington guard Isaiah Thomas, who was named the tournament’s most valuable player, scored 16 points and smiled when asked about guarding Randle. The Huskies made it known they believed Washington forward Quincy Pondexter, who scored 18 points, should have been named the conference’s player of the year over Randle.

“I feel [Pondexter] should have won player of the year and I feel like we should have won the Pac-10 championship,” said Thomas. “We brought all the motivation we could to get this win.”

This was the marquee final the Pac-10 had hoped for in the preseason when Cal and Washington were ranked in the top 15 in the country in both polls. As the season progressed it became impossible to predict which teams would play in the Pac-10 tournament final.

“Some of the losses we got early on in the league hurt the perception,” Montgomery said. “Washington just really lost Brockman from last year. They’re pretty good. I don’t know how there could have been any question about Washington getting in. But if there was, it’s obviously erased. Now we just have to wait and see if they give Arizona State a tumble.”

As much as the Huskies felt they deserved to be in the NCAA tournament, if they had not beaten Cal on Saturday, there was a fairly good chance they would be sitting home next week.

After the game, Pondexter smiled as he hugged the Pac-10 tournament trophy.

“I’m going to be able to sleep tonight finally,” said Pondexter. “I’ve been going to sleep watching 'SportsCenter' every night hearing if we’re in or out, or on the bubble or off the bubble. ... We told each other if we handle business we don’t need a committee to decide if we’re good enough.”

Halftime: Washington 41, Cal 37

March, 13, 2010
LOS ANGELES -- The precarious bubble Washington sat on heading into the Pac-10 tournament final against Cal became even shakier before the game began. Houston’s upset win in the Conference USA final over No. 25 UTEP, not to mention big wins by fellow bubble teams Minnesota and Mississippi State over ranked teams, means Washington may be in a position where it must win the Pac-10 tournament in order earn an NCAA tournament bid.

In the first half, the Huskies have done everything in their power to keep the decision out of the selection committee's hands, taking a 41-37 lead. Quincy Pondexter has 12 points, half of them coming at the free-throw line.

In a back-and-forth first half that saw 16 lead changes and eight ties, Cal was able to stay in the game thanks to Theo Robertson, who scored 16 points. The Bears also scored 12 points off eight Washington turnovers. California, which shot 70.8 percent in the second half of its win over UCLA will likely shoot better than the 37.1 percent it did in the first half. The Huskies can also expect Jerome Randle and Patrick Christopher, who combined for only 10 points in the first half, to find their stride in the second half.

At the very least, if Washington continues to battle Cal the way it has in the first half, and the eye-ball test still means anything to the selection committee, the Huskies -- who split the season series with the Bears this season -- have proven they are on par with Cal.

Cal seniors end UCLA's season

March, 13, 2010
LOS ANGELES –- The disparity in talent was apparent each time the teams huddled on the court. On one end, Cal was lead by a quartet of seniors who had combined to score 5,536 points during their careers and collectively averaged 60.1 points per game this season.

On the other end, UCLA was led by a senior who had scored 981 points during his career and was thrust into a leadership role this season as one NBA draft pick after another left Westwood early following the school’s three straight trips to the Final Four.

As the clock ticked down on Cal’s 85-72 win over UCLA in the semifinal of the Pac-10 tournament, Michael Roll put his hands over his head and looked up at the Staples Center ceiling and exhaled. This wasn’t the way Roll was supposed to end his collegiate career. Not after the way it began with three straight trips to the Final Four and 30-plus win seasons. But that’s what happens when you are a solid role player forced to become a leader on a storied program now full of role players and no real stars.

Roll finished his career scoring a career-high 27 points while the only other active senior for UCLA, Nikola Dragovic, scored eight points and hit just 1 of 8 shots from 3-point range. Senior forward James Keefe, who was averaging 2.2 points, had season ending surgery on his left shoulder last month.

While the Bruins lacked playmaking seniors all year, Cal has been brimming with them this season.

Jerome Randle, who was named the Pac-10 Player of the Year, surpassed Sean Lampley on Friday as the all-time leading scorer in Cal history after scoring 24 points. Patrick Christopher leaped over Kevin Johnson and Joe Shipp into fourth place on the school's all-time scoring list after scoring 16 points. Theo Robertson, who is the school’s all-time leader in 3-point shooting percentage, added 20 points, including three from beyond the arc, and Jamal Boykin, who was named all-conference second team this season, rounded out the Cal seniors by scoring 10 points.

Cal’s four seniors scored 70 of the Bears’ 85 points against UCLA and sparked the team’s comeback in the second half.

“When you look at their seniors, they have scored 5,600 points combined between the four guys, I think the next closest in the Pac-10 is about 2,500 points for graduating seniors,” said UCLA coach Ben Howland. “Those guys are special.”

Howland understands he too could have had a special group if he was able to keep his players from leaving school early. In a perfect college basketball world, where players stay until they graduate, Roll would have been the fourth option in a starting lineup that would’ve featured Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook and Jrue Holiday.

“It’s always tough when you lose players early,” Howland said. “But that is the current climate in college basketball and that won’t change in the foreseeable future.”

Cal’s senior leadership was evident early in the second half when Robertson scored seven straight points, including a 3-pointer to give Cal its first lead of the game. The Bears shut down UCLA defensively and hit nearly every open shot, shooting a staggering 70.8 percent from the field in the second half and outscoring UCLA 50-33.

“We adjusted on Roll, who is hard to guard,” Cal coach Mike Montgomery said. “Roll ended up with 27 but he had 16 at the half and for the first 10-12 minutes he didn’t score which I think was the key for us to be able to get back in it. It really helped that we did a job on the key guy who was Roll.”

As Roll’s career came to a close, he sat on the bench and put his head down, raising it from time-to-time to acknowledge the fans chanting his name and giving him a standing ovation. On the other end of the court Montgomery was also giving the senior a standing ovation. The Cal coach went up to Roll after the game to tell him how much he respected him as a player and how well he played during his career.

Meanwhile the college careers of Montgomery’s seniors continued as they shattered any notion that a Pac-10 tournament championship wouldn’t mean anything to the regular-season champs.

“This group is really close, having played together for the last four years and having been through a lot of games,” Robertson said. “We want to win this tournament. There wouldn’t be a better feeling than winning tomorrow. We understand in the postseason its win or go home so that’s in the back of our minds. We really enjoy playing with each other and we’re not ready for it to end.”

Cal's Montgomery back on top

February, 27, 2010
BERKELEY, Calif. -- Confetti rained down from the rafters at Haas Pavilion, as a historic day for Cal happened to coincide with coach Mike Montgomery’s 63rd birthday party.

[+] EnlargeMike Montgomery
Jason O. Watson/US PresswireCoach Mike Montgomery and his Cal Bears earned at least a share of the Pac-10 title on Saturday.
The Bears clinched at least a share of the conference title with a decisive 62-46 win over Arizona State, marking the first time in 50 years they have been able to call themselves champions. As for Montgomery?

“Getting old,” he mused, concluding his press conference with a false claim that he had turned only 56.

Winning, however, never really did go out of style with Montgomery, who only six years ago captured the last of his conference titles with rival Stanford.

He resigned to take the Golden State Warriors job after that 2004 championship. Two years in the NBA resulted in an under-.500 record and the Warriors parting ways with Montgomery. Two years at Cal led to Montgomery standing at the top of a ladder with scissors in his hands and a hoarse voice while addressing the crowd.

“Honestly, we’ve been under the gun,” Montgomery said. “The stress has taken its toll. My voice started to give up yesterday. It isn’t from yelling.”

The old veterans at Cal bought in and did it together. Celebrating Senior Day, guards Patrick Christopher (14 points) and Jerome Randle, along with forwards Jamal Boykin (14 points) and Theo Robertson (13 points), each helped gradually wear down Arizona State.

Christopher held Ty Abbott, the Sun Devils’ leading scorer, to eight points on 4-of-13 shooting. Randle was limited himself to seven points, but was more than satisfied with wearing the net around his neck and cutting off a strand of it to keep as a memento.

“I’ve never been that high up anywhere,” the 5-foot-10 point guard said.

“Different things from different people, that’s the key,” Montgomery said. “His focus was totally on winning this game. We wasn’t worried about who was scoring. He was just worried that we were scoring.”

ASU led at halftime by a point, but Cal went on an 18-4 run to finish the game and surrendered only two field goals in the final 11 minutes. The Sun Devils were only 3-for-22 from 3-point range.

Cal has fielded teams with more talent, but no team had won a conference championship since Pete Newell’s Bears took the Athletic Association of Western Universities title in 1960.

With the win, the 20-9 Bears also clinched the top seed in the Pac-10 tournament and have hopes of making an NCAA tournament run.

“This team can accomplish so much,” Boykin said. “All the feelings will kick in when this season is over.”

Montgomery declared that the Pac-10 was not a one-bid league, stopping short of saying the conference crown should give the Bears at least an at-large berth into the NCAA tournament.

“Not too concerned about that,” Montgomery said. “Other people make that decision. They can’t take this away.

“To me, the conference championship is the crown jewel. It’s the thing that means the most.”

Cal 62, Arizona State 46

February, 27, 2010
BERKELEY, Calif. -- Cal fans stormed the court amidst confetti, as the Bears clinched at least a share of the Pac-10 title for the first time in 50 years. Cal also gets the first seed in the conference tournament. Classy move by senior Jamal Boykin, who didn't join the party on the court until going down the line to shake hands with Arizona State. The Bears then cut down the net.

  • Boykin was matched up against the taller Eric Boateng on defense, and it was a constant battle down low between the two Duke transfers and former roommates. They had a long hug after the game.
  • A big swing came with 8:40 left. Ty Abbott missed a wide-open 3-pointer that might have cut the lead to four. Instead, Theo Robertson corralled the rebound and ended up scoring on the other end and completing a three-point play to extend the lead to 10.
  • Arizona State's Jerren Shipp scored a season-high 14 points. One of his most important baskets came off an inbound pass coming out of a timeout, and the layup stopped Cal's 6-0 run to open the second half with 17:02 left.

Arizona State 30, Cal 29 at halftime

February, 27, 2010
BERKELEY, Calif. -- If Arizona State is going to ruin Senior Day at Cal and take first place in the Pac-10, it's getting off to a great start.

Derek Glasser and Ty Abbott are doing an excellent job defending the perimeter and pestering Cal's Jerome Randle, who made only one of his first six field goal attempts.

Those 3-pointers from way downtown just aren't there right now.

But Randle, always difficult to stop, scored Cal's final five points of the half to cut the Sun Devil lead to a point.

He has seven on the game after getting emotional during Senior Day ceremonies, and for good reason. Check out Andy Katz's feature on the diminutive guard from Chicago.

Two other Bears seniors, Patrick Christopher and Theo Robertson, have seven points apiece as well.

The Sun Devils were led by Jerren Shipp, who had 10 points off the bench. Shipp's brother, Joe, starred at Cal, a program that desperately wants what would be a historic win.

A big Pac-10 game

February, 27, 2010
BERKELEY, Calif. -- It's Senior Day for Jerome Randle, Jamal Boykin, Patrick Christopher and Theo Robertson as a veteran Cal lineup has a chance to end their careers at Haas Pavilion with at least a share of the school's first regular season title in 50 years.

The storyline is there, but will the fans show?

Here's how public address announcer Eddy Kleinhans described the Cal student section in Saturday's student newspaper, the Daily Cal:
The student section is nearly empty through tip-off and our ops crew invites fans to come sit in the student section. Really? Even though we've sold almost 1,500 student tickets, we can't fill-up a 1,200 seat student section for a team that's trying to win Cal's first Pac-10 crown in 50 years? Students, where are you?

But it looks like today will feature a packed house against Arizona State. As of yesterday, the game was actually nearing a sellout.

So yeah, it's as big of a game as it can get in the Pac-10.

UPDATE: The game is indeed sold out, according to a Cal spokesman.

Cal eyeing Pac-10 title

February, 12, 2010
Jerome Randle pointed to the area on his chest where he took a blow in the second half of Cal's 93-81 win against Washington.

It sent him to the floor, and he said he couldn't breathe as he was helped to the bench.

[+] EnlargeJerome Randle
Jason O. Watson/US PresswireCal's Jerome Randle scored 33 points against Washington.
By the end of the night, while listening to Jamal Boykin talk about the possibility of a conference championship, Randle had his breath taken away again.

"Whooo," he said just at the thought of it.

The 5-foot-10 guard was marvelous on Thursday, scoring 33 points to lead Cal to a home win that puts it in the driver's seat for the Pac-10 title.

Randle said the guy who got his knee banged up and meekly managed 5 points in a loss at Washington last month wasn't the real Jerome Randle.

"I just let it go," Randle said of the first matchup. "I just wanted to lead my team and be aggressive."

This time, he got back up and delivered the blow, finishing the night 12-of-19 from the field.

"I was very inspired by Jerome tonight," Boykin said. "That's what a leader does. You can't knock this man down."

"He probably had added motivation," Washington's Quincy Pondexter said.

The Huskies, meanwhile, fell to 0-7 in games away from Seattle, and coach Lorenzo Romar had already half-jokingly told reporters that he might have to bring a psychologist in if things continued to sour on the road.

But this loss wasn't so much about UW not showing up. The Huskies held their own in the early going, and Romar's main beef was that they got out-boarded 37-30.

"I don't know what it is about Washington, but it seems like they rebound better at home," Boykin said. "They seem to rebound harder at home. We wanted to hit them first here."

Cal simply declared itself the better team. Five Golden Bears scored in double figures, including Boykin's 20, while Theo Robertson added 12 plus a great defensive effort on Pondexter. Collectively, they shot 51.7 percent from the field.

Washington, the defending conference champion, no longer controls its own destiny in this race and is all but conceding that it'll have to get in the NCAA tournament by winning the league tournament after falling two games behind Cal.

Arizona and Arizona State are only a game behind Cal, and they'll each have to go through Haas Pavilion if they want to take the title.

Randle said he will be waiting.

"I smell a championship."

Halftime thoughts from Cal-USC

February, 4, 2010
LOS ANGELES --- Arizona has the best young talent in the Pac-10.

But it shouldn’t be close as to which team has the most experience.

Cal is still the pick to figure out a way to win the Pac-10.

No other team has as experienced a pair of guards as Jerome Randle and Patrick Christopher with Theo Robertson as the third option.

Of course depth is an issue with the Bears, but there’s no reason why Cal shouldn’t find a way to win the regular-season and be in play for a bid.

Or is there?

Well, as the first half was unfolding here at the Galen Center it became clear once again that the Bears have to make perimeter shots or they don’t win.

That has been the issue for this squad. Like some other higher-profile teams that were supposed to be more consistent (like North Carolina or Connecticut) the Bears can’t have an off night and expect to win.

Cal took a 30-27 lead into the half but the Bears had to grind it out as has been the case in the Pac-10.

Randle can be a streaky shooter as can Christopher, but they both can find a way to get into the seams of the Trojans’ defense for layups.

Some other quick thoughts:

  • Mike Montgomery must be constantly perplexed by some of the quick shots that the Bears take either from the perimeter or inside. Monty had been such a disciplinarian at Stanford for shot selection.
  • USC’s Mike Gerrity is still a calming presence, but isn’t dominating the games in the Pac-10 the way he did when he first became eligible.
  • USC manager Stan Holt is back on the bench. He was reinstated after an ill-timed technical at Oregon led to a Ducks’ 10-0 run and ultimately a USC loss in Eugene last Saturday. Kevin O’Neill said he believes in second chances. Holt looks like he doesn’t want to do anything wrong. He's ready with the timeout chairs and sprints out to deliver them.
  • Cal’s Jamal Boykin has really improved his face-up game, hitting a few jumpers. If he continues to do this, the Bears will have a shot to win the Pac-10 tournament at the Staples Center next month.
  • Monty is playing zone to mess with USC.
  • I'm impressed by the crowd on a Thursday night to see Cal play a Trojans’ team that isn’t going to the postseason.
  • USC athletic director Mike Garrett is in the front row on the end line. It’s amazing how he has survived a number of controversial hires and multiple NCAA investigation. The Heisman is a powerful trophy.
  • USC has spunk and doesn’t quit. That’s a sign of an O’Neill coached team. There is actual noise here at the Galen Center. I still contend that this could one day be quite a home court.

Nic Wise does it again

January, 31, 2010
Arizona's young players are blossoming under the direction of coach Sean Miller, but when the game is on the line, the Wildcats turn to senior Nic Wise.

Wise, who twice hit buzzer-beaters earlier in the year, scored 30 points on Sunday in a 76-72 win against Cal that pulled the Wildcats into a first-place tie in the Pac-10 with the Bears at the midway point of the conference schedule.

In the closing minute, Wise drew a foul while making the bucket and completed a three-point play with 26.3 seconds left to put Arizona up by two. His two free throws with 10.7 seconds left made it a two-possession game and essentially sealed what had been a back-and-forth game.

Cal (14-7), looking for its first Pac-10 road sweep of the Arizona schools, missed a golden opportunity to separate itself from the rest of the league and add to its résumé with a win at the McKale Center.

Theo Robertson scored a career-high 27 points to lead the Bears.

Hoyas have grown up

December, 12, 2009
Georgetown coach John Thompson III put together this week's schedule to re-create a Big East-like week.

Mission accomplished.

The Hoyas beat Butler in New York at the Jimmy V Classic on Tuesday, then stayed on the road and went West to Anaheim, where they dismantled Washington at the Wooden Classic.

The Hoyas weren’t in an exempted tournament like Syracuse, Villanova or West Virginia. If Georgetown was going to prove it was a Big East title contender it had to come this week.

Beating Butler and Washington on neutral courts doesn’t mean the Hoyas can knock off the aforementioned three, but at least it proves the Hoyas have matured from a year ago. Sophomore center Greg Monroe is playing like a deserving lottery pick, a player that won’t just be placed their on potential, but rather on what he has earned. The depth of the bigs on Georgetown’s roster is also going to give the other big three in the Big East pause during scouting. The guard play has also been solid.

As for Washington, this was not only a discouraging loss for the Huskies but also for the Pac-10, as it whiffed again on beating a ranked team. The Pac-10 fell to 5-17 against teams from the other five power-six conferences and 0-10 against ranked teams. Washington has one more shot to beat a ranked team and that comes next week at home against Texas A&M.

The Pac-10 will be shut out of the Top 25 this week, or at least it should as Washington hasn’t done enough to be ranked. They dropped to 6-2 without a win they can shout about. Cal is not the same team without Theo Robertson and Harper Kamp. Getting Robertson back will at least give the Bears a shot.

The Pac-10 title race is still likely going to be between Cal and Washington, with Arizona, Washington State, Oregon State, UCLA, Arizona State, Oregon and USC following in some order. An order that will find a few of them likely in the NIT or CBI, not the NCAA.