Coming off a hard fought road win, Arizona should be soaring with confidence heading into its matchup Saturday night against Cal.
The Bears on the other hand are anything but confident, having lost five in a row including a historic 79-44 defeat to ASU on Thursday night. Cal shot 33 percent in its worst home loss since 1979.
If basketball is a game of momentum, then all signs would point to Arizona blowing out the Bears in a dominant victory. Then again, college hoops rarely plays out as it’s intended.
For Cal to play the Wildcats close, it will take an offensive performance that the Bears haven’t shown their capable of. In those five straight losses, they have broken 60 points just once.
But right now, practically the entire team is in a cold slump. Leading scorer 0-6 from the field vs ASU. Jordan Matthews, the Bears’ best threat from deep, is doing a little better. Meanwhile, Jabari Bird still doesn’t look fully healthy after missing ten games with a foot injury.
Once a team that looked like it could challenge for the Pac-12 crown, Cal is currently sitting at 1-5 in conference play. And even with all the motivation they can muster for Arizona, there just isn’t enough talent to stop the Wildcats’ increasing multitude of weapons.
The biggest story might come down to how many minutes Matt Korcheck plays after giving his team a needed energy boost in the second half against Stanford. The Tucson native entered the game and immediately made an impact on both ends, capped off by a ferocious slam.
With Kaleb Tarczewski and Dusan Ristic both struggling, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if Korcheck saw as much if not more time on the court Saturday, especially if Arizona takes a comfortable lead.
Of course, it will be Stanley Johnson who the Wildcats will once again rely on to break the game open offensively.
Considering the foul trouble Arizona faced in a hostile environment, Johnson may have had his best all-around game on Thursday by scoring 19 points including a pair of enormous three-pointers. Johnson took all the right shots and didn’t force much, as he had been prone to do earlier in the season.
With Bird still getting back into form, it’s safe to say that Cal doesn’t have anyone who can slow down Johnson. Then again, no one seems to have an answer for the future NBA lottery pick right now.
Unless Arizona combines a total breakdown on defense with a scorching hot Cal shooting night, Johnson and the Wildcats should return home from the Bay Area with a road sweep and command of the Pac-12.