Look at this guy. You already know who he is, and you’re already hearing his voice in your head. This freakin’ guy, am I right? William Hung. The guy who tried to teach America that you can totally get ahead in life by completely sucking. Well, this Cal-Berkeley alumnus can run home to his precious Golden Bears and let them know that this Thursday, Syracuse looks like a flower and stings like a bee, and…wait, that’s not right. Let’s just tell him to go tell his Bears that Syracuse is coming, and hell’s coming with us.
There, that’s much better. Look, Cal, you’ve got a great reputation and have produced some outstanding people. Gregory Peck? Man, who doesn’t love Gregory Peck? But let’s not go overboard here, because I should also point out George Takei transferred from Cal to UCLA. You should probably feel pretty ashamed about that, ya know? I mean, Sulu didn’t think you were good enough, Cal. Try and live with that. And now, we’re left sitting here, mocking you about William Hung. I hope you’re happy about this, Cal. Don’t even get me started on how you’re presented in the television version of “Parenthood.”
But we’re not here to talk about pop culture, or William Hung, or people trying to get famous without having any talent. If we were, I’d post a photo of the Kim Kardashian butt photo, which required more grease than exists inside the entire engine of a Sherman tank.
We’re here to talk basketball. And, because apparently it’s a requirement that Syracuse and Cal play as often as possible, the two teams will once again be squaring off in an early season tournament on Thursday night in Madison Square Garden. Seriously, didn’t we just do this?
Yes, in fact we did. We actually played Cal twice in 2013, first in the NCAA Tournament, and then in the Maui Invitational. And now, we’ve go them again at approximately 9:00 p.m. Eastern on Thursday, on ESPN2. Because apparently schedule makers have no idea how to get even the slightest bit creative with match-ups.
So who are the Cal Bears this season? Well, they’re a team that’s started the season 2-0, surpassing the 90 point mark in each of their first two games against Alcorn State and Kennesaw State. Yes, that’s the same Kennesaw State team that the Orange decimated last Friday. Cal topped Alcorn 91-57, and then beat up on poor Kennesaw Mountain Landis by almost the identical score, 93-59, on Sunday while the Orange were taking on Hampton.
This is the first real test of the season for this young Syracuse team, as Cal entered the 2014-2015 campaign pegged as the seventh best team in the Pac-12, behind Arizona, Utah, Colorado, UCLA, Stanford, and Washington. Basically, they’re picked as a middle of the road team in what has been arguably the weakest power conference in recent years. But let’s not allow that to make us overly confident. This is still a team to be very wary of, and that could give Syracuse some trouble.
Some of the players of note for Cal include Tyrone Wallace, who was named the Pac-12 Player of the Week after averaging 20.0 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 5.5 assists in the team’s first two games of the season. Wallace is a 6-foot-5 junior who doesn’t shoot a ton from outside, but has hit two of his first three this season.
Overall, the Bears have opened the year shooting lights out from deep. Cal is hitting 47.2% from beyond the arc, and 55.8% from the field overall. Yes, the inflated field goal percentage can be chalked up to playing against inferior opposition but you can never dismiss a team that’s hit 17-of-36 threes, no matter the competition. Any team that can hit nearly 50% from deep is one to be feared, at least to an extent. It’s particularly noteworthy in contrast to Syracuse, which has played similarly poor competition to open the year but is hitting at just over 27% from three point range.
Other players of note for the Bears are Jordan Mathews and Jabari Bird, while Dwight Tarwater has come off the bench to hit 5-of-8 from deep to open the year. Tarwater’s name should be familiar to folks in Central New York, as he’s a graduate student transfer from Cornell.
Mathews is a 6-foot-3 guard who’s hit six threes this season, and Bird is a 6-foot-6 wing who’s third on the team in scoring through the first two games. This Cal team is certainly perimeter oriented on the offensive end, with their guards and wings doing most of the damage, so it’ll be a battle of contrasting styles as Syracuse continues to figure out exactly what its identity is, particularly as it pertains to its perimeter players.
If you’re looking for match-ups in the post, David Kravish is most likely the guy who’ll be tasked with battling Rakeem Christmas. Kravish is a 6-foot-10 senior who enters Thursday’s game averaging 9.5 points and 4.5 rebounds. Speaking of interior play, however, one thing should be noted about the two early games for Cal, and how perimeter oriented they are: through two games, Wallace has taken 12 of the team’s 39 free throw attempts. Kravish, by contrast, has only taken four. See where I’m going with this?
One of the issues Syracuse has been faced with, particularly in the Hampton game, is keeping our big guys out of foul trouble. It certainly can’t hurt our chances of keeping Christmas and Chris McCullough on the floor if Cal’s big guys so rarely draw fouls. In fact, outside of Wallace, no one has attempted more than six free throws for the Bears. Like I said, this is a perimeter oriented team, and at least in terms of keeping our best big guys on the floor that could play to our advantage, especially since Syracuse has been outstanding with its perimeter defense so far this year.
The bottom line is that this is going to be a difficult game for Syracuse, but if this team is who we think it can be, it’s absolutely winnable, and possibly the kind of game that the Orange could/should win by 10-12 points. It just all depends on the things that Syracuse can do, more so than what Cal can do. If the Orange start knocking down jumpers and can keep Christmas and McCullough out of foul trouble, this is a game that Syracuse can, and probably should win.
Basically, let’s go out there and Simon Cowell this bitch.