KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- No. 18 Cal takes on No. 21 Missouri in the championship of the CBE Classic Tuesday at the Sprint Center (ESPN2/ESPN3, 10 p.m. ET). The consolation game is between Georgia and Notre Dame (ESPNU/ESPN3, 7:45 p.m. ET). Here are five things to watch heading into tonight’s festivities.
1. Will the Golden Bears be overwhelmed by Missouri’s speed and athleticism? Missouri annihilated Notre Dame by 29 points Monday thanks, in large part, to its ability to beat the Fighting Irish down the court for easy baskets. A lack of true post players has forced the Tigers to employ a four-guard lineup, which certainly hasn’t been a bad thing thus far. “When you have guys out there that can handle the ball and are versatile, it makes the transition game a lot easier,” Missouri senior Marcus Denmon said. “You don’t have to look for a certain guard to make a play, because everyone is capable of making the play.”
2.Will Denmon be able to continue his torrid shooting pace? The 6-foot-3 Denmon is averaging 20 points a game and is shooting 56.5 percent from the field and 52.6 percent from 3-point range. Against Notre Dame Monday he connected on nine of his 11 shot attempts. Cal can’t afford to let Denmon get that hot. Look for Cal defensive stopper Jorge Gutierrez to do everything he can to slow down Denmon.
3.Will this game be won on the sidelines? Frank Haith is off to a good start at Missouri, but Cal’s Mike Montgomery -- the former Stanford and Golden State Warriors coach -- is regarded as one of the top tacticians in all of college basketball. Preparing for an unorthodox team such as Missouri would be tough for any coach, but expect Cal to enter tonight’s game with a good strategy. Executing it, however, may be tough for the Golden Bears, especially on what is basically a home court for the Tigers.
4.Is Cal the best team in the Pac-12? With UCLA struggling and Arizona and Washington less-than-impressive thus far, the experienced Golden Bears suddenly seem like an easy pick to win their conference. Still, Montgomery’s squad hasn’t been tested like it will against the Tigers, who may be more talented than any team Cal will face in the Pac-12. After four wins against lackluster opponents, we’ll know more about the Golden Bears after tonight.
5.Can Notre Dame bounce back? Fighting Irish fans certainly hope so following Monday’s horrendous 29-point loss to Missouri. Tim Abromaitis looked strong with a 22-point effort in his first game of the season, although only four of those points came in the second half. Otherwise, though, Notre Dame looked slow and soft defensively, and Missouri clearly rattled the Fighting Irish’s guards on the perimeter. This isn’t the same caliber of squad that finished second in the Big East last season behind the play of Ben Hansbrough, Carleton Scott and Tyrone Nash, all of whom are gone. Still, this squad has enough talent to be an NCAA bubble team if the pieces come together. It starts tonight against Georgia, which is rebuilding following the loss of Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie to the NBA draft.