History on the Line When Jayhawks Come to Town

Kansas is highest-ranked non-conference opponent to come to Berkeley since the two teams squared off in 1956

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One win away from another milestone in a career rife with accomplishments, Mike Montgomery smiled when asked about the possibility of winning his 600th career game on Wednesday night.

"It'd be a nice Christmas present, wouldn't it?" Montgomery said.

Saddled with its toughest test of a difficult non-conference slate, the Cal men's basketball team would give Montgomery not only the landmark victory but his biggest win since he arrived in Berkeley if it beat No. 3 Kansas (10-0) tonight at Haas Pavilion.

The Jayhawks arrive in Berkeley for their first true road game of the season, having played all 10 of their games at either at home at Phog Allen Fieldhouse or at a neutral site. This is the first time that Kansas has come to Berkeley since 1956 when the legendary Wilt Chamberlain led the Jayhawks and there should be no shortage of people to watch. Haas Pavilion is expected to sell out for the first time this season when the game tips off at 8 p.m.

One of, if not the most tradition-rich college basketball program in the nation (the program's founder, James Naismith, is credited with inventing basketball), Kansas arrives with another great team that is expected to make a run to the Final Four come March. Despite losing their top three players (Cole Aldrich, Sherron Collins and Xavier Henry) to the NBA Draft last year, the Jayhawks feature another talent-rich squad whose most heralded player is a true freshman.

Labeled by pundits as the best first-year to enter Lawrence since the legendary Danny Manning, Josh Selby excited Jayhawk Faithful in his first game by hitting the game-winning three-point shot with 26 seconds remaining to defeat USC, 70-68, on Saturday. The Baltimore, Md., native finished his collegiate debut with a game-high 21 points on five for 11 shooting.

"As a premiere freshman, (Selby) is going to make them better," Montgomery said. "The first shot I saw him take was pure from deep. It looked awfully good and I know he's athletic."

Though Selby will almost certainly present Cal with problems, it is Kansas's depth that concerns Montgomery most.

"They'll continually run quality players at you," Montgomery said. "They have eight, nine, ten guys that all play hard, all know what they are doing and all defend very well. It may be difficult from the standpoint of attrition in terms of wearing us down."

While only two players on this season's Bears (Jorge Gutierrez and Markhuri Sanders-Frison) appeared in the 84-69 loss last season at Kansas, it was depth that buried Cal in that game. All five Jayhawks' starters, including returners Marcus Morris and Tyshawn Taylor, scored in double figures in last year's game that anchored the Jayhawks' victory.

The Bears' biggest challenge may come in the post, where Harper Kamp and Markhuri-Sanders Frison will face the unenviable task of defending and blocking off twin brothers Marcus and Markieff Morris. Standing 6-foot-10 and 245 pounds, Markieff leads the Big-12 in rebounding with nine boards per game and has recorded three double-doubles this season.

"They're both good players," Kamp said about the twins. "I've got to keep the defense that I always play. They've got a good system that they run with each other. They run a lot of pick and rolls and they like to go high-low. We've definitely got our hands full."

Cal marks the fourth Pac-10 team that Kansas has faced this season. Coach Bill Self's squad has already defeated Arizona, UCLA and USC, prompting Montgomery to joke that the Jayhawks are "first place in the Pac-10 right now." Those three games, however, have been the toughest that Kansas has played this year, beating the opposition by only 11 combined points.

And with this game being the first true road test for Kansas, Kamp and the rest of the young Bears will try to channel the spirit of St. Nicholas tonight for Montgomery's landmark victory.

"I don't have a gift for him yet, but that would be a good Christmas present for me, also," Kamp said. "I'd like to get him 600 wins against an opponent like Kansas. That would be great. But, just to get that win in general, would be a great feeling, and winning at home."


Gabriel Baumgaertner covers men's basketball. Contact him at [email protected]

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