The post-holiday brunch Cal has set out for itself beginning today in its annual Golden Bear Classic features three visiting teams without a win over a Division I opponent since Dec. 3.
Of course, this is the way these events go, but the Bears (6-4) want to polish their game and create some momentum with their Pac-10 opener against Stanford looming Saturday.
Cal's opponent in tonight's 7:30 tournament opener is Utah Valley (6-5), which was a junior college just seven years ago. But coach Dick Hunsaker's club upset Arizona State at Tempe four seasons ago, then lost 60-47 at Cal a year later.
This Utah Valley team claims four wins over non-Division I opponents and hasn't beaten a D-I foe since a Nov. 26 conquest of Alcorn State, which is 0-12 and ranked 346th nationally by the Sagarin computer.
The Wolverines, with no player in their regular rotation taller than 6-foot-7, are led by 6-6 junior wing Jordan Swarbuck, who averages 14.5 points and scored 30 in a loss to San Jose State.
UC Santa Barbara (4-4) and Furman (5-5), both riding four-game losing streaks, face off at 5 p.m. Game times are the same Tuesday, with Cal set to play in the late slot regardless of tonight's outcomes.
Jerome Randle, Patrick Christopher and Theo Robertson played against Utah Valley three years ago, totaling three points on 1-for-11 shooting. Things are different now, with the seniors combining to average nearly 50 points per game.
Cal is 5-0 at Haas, where it will play its next five games, including conference matchups vs. Stanford, UCLA and USC.
These two games could be of particular benefit to Robertson as he tries to rediscover a rhythm with his teammates. The De La Salle High grad missed six games with a foot injury, returned Dec. 9 to play at Pacific, then had 12 more days off for exams before scoring 13 points at Kansas.
Cal has gotten strong recent play from senior power forward Jamal Boykin, who had 15 points and 15 rebounds at Kansas and is averaging 16.2 points and 9.4 rebounds the past three games. Christopher is contributing 21.0 points and 8.7 rebounds over the same span.