2017 Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament quarterfinals preview: No. 4 Utah vs. No. 5 Cal
When: Thursday, March 8 at 2:30 p.m. PT / 3:30 p.m. MT
Where: Las Vegas, Nevada
TV: Pac-12 Network, Bay Area and Mountain
On the call: Roxy Bernstein, Don MacLean and Jill Savage
Live Stream: Pac-12.com/now
LAS VEGAS – The Golden Bears nearly suffered an upset in Wednesday’s opening round but were able to fend off No. 12 seed Oregon State and earn a 67-62 victory. Coach Cuonzo Martin labeled his team’s win as a “rusty” one, but he’ll take it.
Now the next task will be to try and slow down No. 4 seed Utah, who earned a first-round bye after sweeping the Bay Area schools at home this past weekend. The Runnin’ Utes might have won 74-44 last Thursday, but Cal took a 77-75 double-overtime victory against Utah in Berkeley on Feb. 2.
“It’s not added motivation,” said senior Jabari Bird of Cal’s recent blowout loss to Utah. “It’s a game in March that we need to win, so that’s enough motivation right there. But Utah’s a great team and I like I said before, we’re looking forward to the challenge.
No. 4 seed Utah (20-10 overall, 11-7 Pac-12)
Coach Larry Krystowiak’s bunch is looking to pad its resume for the NCAA Tournament selection committee in Las Vegas. Utah has some nice momentum going after finishing the regular season strong but it will be interesting to see how they adjust to playing Cal, which already has its tournament legs and is familiar with T-Mobile arena.
Utah has had its fair share of Pac-12 Tournament success lately. The Runnin’ Utes have been to the semifinals each of the past two years, reaching the finals in 2015. Utah has also won at least one Pac-12 Tournament game four years straight.
— Utah Basketball (@Runnin_Utes) March 8, 2017
Players to watch
Kyle Kuzma, F, Junior
Height/Weight: 6-9, 221
Key stats: 16 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 49.5 FG%
The rangy swingman has carved out a starring role for himself this season after serving as more of a role player in previous years. Kuzma is the team’s leading scorer and frequently raises the energy of his game with his play. In his two games against Cal, Kuzma has averaged 17.5 points.
Lorenzo Bonam, G, Senior
Height/weight: 6-4, 189
Key stats: 12.7 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 58.1 FG%
Utah’s lone senior made the most of Senior Day on Saturday, as he scored a career-high 26 points on 9-of-11 shooting, including 3-of-4 from long distance, in a 67-59 win over Stanford. He might not be the greatest athlete, but Bonam is a smart player who has a gaudy field goal percentage (58.1) for a guard.
No. 5 seed Cal (20-11 overall, 10-8 Pac-12)
The Bears can ill-afford to come out slow against the Runnin’ Utes on Thursday. Cal entered the tourney after losing five of their previous six games and had to shake out some cobwebs against the Beavers.
“Coming into Vegas, everybody’s 0-0, so we had to put that behind us and move forward,” Bird said. “I’m just happy we got the ‘W’ today and look forward to tomorrow.”
More importantly, the Bears would like to have at least one more win to put on their resume before Selection Sunday.
Prepare for TAKEOFF.
— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) March 9, 2017
Players to watch
Jabari Bird, G, Senior
Height/weight: 6-6, 198
Key stats: 14.2 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 2.4 3pg
Bird rose to the occasion on Wednesday and performed when his teammates needed it most. With less than a minute remaining and Cal clinging to a two-point lead, Bird went to the rim for a menacing dunk and threw it down despite being clipped on the way up. Once he made the free throw, Cal was able to close out the contest.
Ivan Rabb, F, Sophomore
Height/weight: 6-11, 220
Key stats: 14.3 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 50.2 FG%
The super sophomore was sneaky good in Wednesday’s win, posting 12 points and 13 rebounds after getting off to a slow start. The Pac-12’s leading rebounder should have an advantage when he lines up against the Utes frontcourt on Thursday.