Nov. 16, 2009
BERKELEY - No. 13 California heads to New York this week for the championship rounds of the 2K Sports Classic Benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer. The Golden Bears will be returning to Madison Square Garden for the first time since their NIT Championship in 1999. Cal faces Syracuse on Thursday, Nov. 19, at 4 p.m. (PT). Head coach Mike Montgomery answered questions from the local media this afternoon.
On facing Syracuse
They're a big, physical group of kids. They do a great job in the zone. They'll stay with it and cause you problems on late contests. Balls are typically shot deep because of the zone, they're rebounded deep and they like to run out. They do a great job of getting the ball below post. Their players are strong at 6-9 and long, weighing 250-260 pounds. Their guards are 6-4. The zone is something they do very well because it's what they've always done. They're not a team that gets out of it when you make a basket or two. They'll stay in and they're going to play hard for 40 minutes. They'll continue to shoot the ball over the zone. They are a solid basketball team.
On the Syracuse zone play being an opportunity for the Cal players
Every game we play is an opportunity. Our players have seen teams that can shoot the ball well and they'll make the necessary adjustments. It's not like a normal zone where you decide, 'we better play a zone on these guys because we can't play man-to-man on them.' This is a zone team, and they do that 24-7. They will trap corners. They will trap penetrations and deny the ball back out. It will be a very difficult zone defense to play against.
On trying to emulate the Syracuse style of play in practice
They know how to run the zone and that's what they do. That's what makes it hard because they're going to play it for 40 minutes. They know what they're doing. They [Syracuse] cover back on zone. They play zone on lays. It's what they do for a steady diet.
On the benefit of playing such tough competition at the start of the season
Whenever we play Syracuse in New York, we would be playing an extremely quality opponent with really good athletes that have had a great deal of success regardless of when you play them. I don't think any of us are going to be as good as we are going to be later on, a month or two from now. It's early in the season, but I don't know if we played anybody of this quality in back-to-back games in the preseason last year. It will be fun to play in Madison Square Garden. It's obviously a great event because it's Coaches versus Cancer, which is the charity that the Coaches Association has chosen to support. There's a lot of real pluses with this game. I think for us, the ability to compete with this level of people 3000 miles from home is going to be important for us.
On the team's excitement towards playing Madison Square Garden
I don't know if any of them have played in the Madison Square Garden before, but early on in practice, it was very spirited. They are excited about it, as they should be. It's an interesting place. It's all the things that you've read and heard about. I think it should be fun for the kids.