The Breakdown: Iowa State @ Cal

Wednesday’s loss to Northern Iowa seemed to hit Cyclone basketball fans awfully hard. Iowa State has an outstanding opportunity to bounce back from two heartbreakers tonight when the Cyclones will travel to California to take on the 25th-ranked Bears, in the Big 12/Pac 10 Hardwood Series.

Will the Cyclones get back on the winning track? Let’s break this thing down.

Breaking down the Bears

The Cal Bears have been depleted with injuries so far in this young season. Theo Robertson (foot) and Harper Kamp (foot) with both miss Saturday’s contest with injuries. Three Bears are battling “illness,” according to a Cal press release. Those players are Markhuri Sanders-Frison, Omonid Amoke and Jorge Gutierrez.

It’s been a rough start to 2009 for a Cal team that many picked to win the Pac 10. The Bears have started off 4-3. Cal’s four wins have come against Murray State, Detroit, Jacksonville and Princeton. Their losses have come at the hands of Syracuse, Ohio State and New Mexico. Do the math. The Bears, like Iowa State, have yet to beat a BCS conference team.

Cal’s offensive firepower all starts with senior guard Jerome Randle. Randle is averaging 20.4 points per game with 4.4 assists. He’s also the 14th leading scorer in Cal basketball history. Senior forward Jamal Boykin is the hottest of all Bears right now. He’s scored 43 points, while ripping down 20 rebounds in Cal’s last two games alone. Cal has a legitimate third scoring option as well in senior guard Patrick Christopher. He’s averaging 14 points per game and tallied 23 against Jacksonville. Christopher is 16th on Cal’s all-time scoring list.

Both Christopher and Randle were on the Naismith preseason watch list.

Cal’s strength is in their backcourt. They’re experienced. They’re athletic. They’ll be a serious challenge for the Iowa State guards.

Cal’s Probable Starters

Jamal Boykin: 6-8 Sr. forward – 12.7 PPG, 7.1 RPG Markhuri Sanders-Frison: 6-8, 275-pound center – 3.8 PPG, 4.5 RPG Jerome Randle: 5-10 Sr. guard – 20.4 PPG, 4.4 APG Jorge Gutierrez: 6-3 So. guard – 5.9 PPG, 2.9 RPG Patrick Christopher: 6-5 Sr. guard – 14.0 PG, 4.1 RPG

Breaking down the Cyclones It’s been a rough week for the Iowa State basketball program. Two last minute losses to Northwestern and Northern Iowa have set the Cyclones back to a 6-2 record heading into tonight’s game.

Iowa State is 2-0 in the history of the Big 12/Pac 0 Hardwood Series. Both of Iowa State’s wins have come over Oregon State. This will be the fourth time that Iowa State and Cal have played in history. The Cyclones own a 2-1 advantage in the series. The last time these two teams locked horns was in the 1996 NCAA Tournament, when Iowa State won 74-64.

After the UNI loss, Iowa State head coach Greg McDermott talked a lot about “learning how to win.” That will likely come into play tonight as well for the Cyclones. Iowa State has had leads of eight and seven points with under 13 minutes to play in their last two losses.

ISU Key’s to Victory

– Get Craig Brackins the basketball. Iowa State’s All-American candidate didn’t have a field goal in the second half of the UNI loss.

– Rebounding – UNI dominated Iowa State on the offensive glass ripping down 15. That’ll have to be the opposite for the Cyclones to upset the Bears tonight. Prediction

Some see this as a brutal road game for a struggling Iowa State team. I see this as a giant opportunity for a hungry basketball team. The Northern Iowa loss really hurt members of this Iowa State program. You could see it in the players’ eyes after the game. I can’t guarantee you that the Cyclones will leave the West Coast with a win tonight, but I will promise you that a determined Iowa State team will show up and fight. In fact, I’m feeling optimistic today. It’s time to get a little nutty Fanatics. I like the Cyclones to win this one.

The Pick

Iowa State 70 California 67


Cyclone Fanatic