Unblemished CAL Heads to Las Vegas for Two Thanksgiving Tests

Jabari Bird is one of five Golden Bears averaging double figures (photo by Tony Avelar)

By Connor Buestad | Connor@Section925.com

In keeping with preseason hype and expectations, the 2015-2016 Golden Bears basketball team has not disappointed through the first four games. They’ve played a cupcake schedule thus far no doubt, but reassuringly, the Bears have yet to show any chinks in their armor en route to a flawless start in Berkeley.

Still yet to play on the road, Cuonzo Martin’s collection of youthful talent has breezed through the likes of Rice, Santa Barbara, East Carolina and Sam Houston State, none of which ever seemed to pose much of a threat. Martin’s starting five of Tyrone Wallace, Jordan Mathews, Jabari Bird, Ivan Rabb and Jaylen Brown have shared the ball beautifully thus far with each of the starters averaging double figures.

Wallace has led the Bears in scoring with 20-a-game, followed by future first rounder Brown. Wallace has racked up the assists as well, mostly due to the fact that weapons constantly seem to be open for the senior guard to pick and chose from.

Now with time under their belts to take off the training wheels, the ultra-competitive Martin is chomping at the bit to put his team up against some formidable competition. He’ll get to do so on Thanksgiving night at the Orleans Casino-Arena in Las Vegas versus San Diego State.

Thursday night’s Turkey Day special will air on Fox Sports 1, and pit upstart Coach Martin against 70-year-old Steve Fisher. Fisher has been at San Diego State for well over a decade now, but still is best known for his Fab-5 teams during his days in Ann Arbor. The Aztecs were picked to win the Mountain West a few weeks ago, but losses at Utah and at home to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR) have some wondering if Fisher is finally losing his edge. Regardless, Martin insists he’s seen SDSU play (see interview below) and expects them to be “physical, athletic, and long,” especially on defense. Malik Pope and his signature flat-top seems to be a sure-fire first round pick. Expect more than a few dunks in this one to accompany your pumpkin pie.

Assuming the Bears win on Thursday, CAL will match up with Bob “Huggy Bear” Huggins a day later in the two day tourney’s championship game (assuming WVU beats Richmond). A member of the very tough Big-12, the Mountaineers have nobody on their roster over 6’9." It’s safe to expect a run-and-gun affair in this one against the Bears’ equally small lineup, so take the over if you’re in Sin City giving thanks over the weekend.

“Press Virginia” as people like to call Huggy’s squad made it to the Sweet 16 last year, before bowing out to Kentucky. Devin Williams in an inside-outside threat, Jevon Carter is a pest on defense and Esa Ahmad was Ohio’s High School Player of the Year. Perhaps most importantly, Huggins will feel right at home screaming his head off on a Las Vegas sideline.

Expect the Bears to return to the East Bay with a 6-0 record, along with a Las Vegas trophy to add to the case. Enjoy Thanksgiving, but save some room for the Bears.