Q&A with Cal Golden Blogs' boomtho and Nick Kranz

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Our sister blog was kind enough to answer some questions in anticipation of today's game with the Huskies.

Thanks California Golden Blogs. We know you still are mad at us over Tosh but we are doing our best to make it up to you with these questions!

1.Last time the two teams matched up the Bears were able to shut down the Huskies defensively, what will their defensive approach look like Saturday?

boomtho: As countless (incompetent) commentators have reminded us this year, Montgomery mostly prefers to play man defense, only going to zone against certain teams or in desperation situations. Historically his teams were built on solid, fundamentally sound man defense with minimal switching and gambling. However, this year the switching has been ramped up, for reasons that are not entirely clear. Cal is also lucky to have two great interior defenders in Kravish and Solomon. In addition to being excellent rebounders and shot blockers, both move extremely well. The danger with them is picking up early fouls, as the big man depth behind them is relatively raw and untested.

Nick Kranz: You hit on a sore point for Cal fans at the moment. Cal had a great deal of success on defense against UW by switching on every single screen. That happened to work because Washington is a team full of wing scorers and they didn't have the personnel to take advantage of any potential mismatches. That screen switching strategy has stayed, even against teams that DO have the personnel to take advantage.

I suspect that Cal will stick with it, and I hope it works just as well. Lorenzo Romar should know what's coming, so it will be interesting to see if he can figure out a way to exploit it.


2. David Kravish and Richard Soloman combined to grab 23 rebounds in that game, do you see the same thing happening Saturday?

boomtho: If the Huskies play as fast as they did last game, then yes I do. These guys are great defensive rebounders and the likely faster pace of this game will only help them grab a ton of boards. The key for Cal will be other guards crashing down to help out, though – that has been a bit more inconsistent throughout the season.

Nick Kranz: Yes, mostly because Washington has one of the weaker front lines in the conference. No matter the opponent, Solomon and Kravish will get their boards on the defensive end. The question is if they can get traction on the offensive glass, which is somewhat rarer.


3.Senior Justin Cobbs has been leading the way offensively for the Bears, how would you describe his game?

boomtho: This is a total cliché but Cobbs is what you’d expect from a senior point guard. He’s got a little CP3 in him in the way he usually defers and orchestrates the offense in the first half and then flips a bit more to attack mode in the second half.

Offensively, he’s got an impressive blend of midrange shooting, ability get to and finish around the rim (thanks to his strength and quickness). His weaknesses are relatively few – the biggest one is probably his over-reliance on the midrange jumper instead of continuing to get to the rim. Last game against Wazzu, he took two terrible jumpers even though Wazzu was in the bonus.

Defensively, Cobbs is a solid defender. He’s a tad undersized but he doesn’t gamble (too much) and generally has solid on-ball positioning. His help defense can be lacking at times (a theme for this year’s Cal team), but overall he grades out at least average, if not better.

Nick Kranz: He's an excellent, reliable distributor, and he has the ability to take over as a scorer when his team needs it, mostly because he has the ability to get into the paint and make smart decisions when he gets there. He can occasionally be a bit more turnover prone than you'd like for a senior, and he falls in love with long 2 point jumpers more than I'd like, but those are relatively small nits.


4. Jabari Bird was the big name freshman heading into the season for Cal, how would you grade his season so far and what can he bring to the table on any given night?

boomtho: This may be a copout, but I think Bird grades as an incomplete for now. He still looks like he hasn’t recovered from his ankle injury towards the end of last year. Hailed as a sweet shooter, his percentages have not been very good this year – 38% on FG’s and 30% on 3P’s. In addition, he hasn’t shown much of the athletic burst that he was known for before he got to Cal.

On a good day, Bird should bring good-to-elite outside shooting, a nice midrange game, and good athleticism to finish in the paint. Hope he’s back to that soon!

Nick Kranz: The fairest grade is incomplete. He suffered a bad ankle sprain at about the worst time in the season, when he was finally getting into the swing of things. Missing a few weeks at the beginning of the conference schedule really set back his development on both offense and defense, and now the team can't afford to play him enough minutes to catch back up. It's still possible that he gets hot as a shooter in any particular game, but he's not a reliable threat.


5.The Bears are tied for 3rd in the Pac-12, where do you see their season finishing? Will they make the NCAA tournament?

boomtho: I have a feeling Cal will finish right where we are at 3rd in the Pac-12. We have pretty tough schedule to end the season, visiting the AZ schools and getting UCLA and Colorado at home.

Despite them doing everything they can to play themselves out of the tourney (home loss to ASU, home loss to Stanford, going to OT against Wazzu), I think we still make the tournament if we do in fact finish 3rd. We’ll have one of the best Pac-12 wins of the season (against UA) and a generally solid resume. The decision will be much closer than Cal fans expected back in October, though.

Nick Kranz: I suspect they will win the games they should (USC, Utah), lose they games they should (Arizona, ASU, UCLA) and make the tournament with a low seed, maybe win a game, and at best bow out to a much better team in the 2nd round. At this point we know what Cal is - a talented team that has trouble sustaining effort, particularly on defense.


6.What will be the keys if Cal is to win this game on Saturday?

boomtho: Defensively, Cal has to contain UW in transition. The team knows how dangerous the Huskies are on the break and they’ll have to be disciplined about not over-crashing the boards to get back. Cal fans would also love to see a little less switching defensively, though we haven’t gotten our wish yet this season.

Offensively, Cal will need decent outside shooting from the recently-returned Ricky Kreklow in addition to Jordan Matthews and whatever Jabbari Bird/Jeff Powers can give. In addition, we’ll need Solomon and Kravish to be their usual efficient selves from the field.

Nick Kranz: Justin Cobbs giving C.J. Wilcox a tough time again would be huge. I think the biggest question is if Washington can convert their shots in the paint. UW's lack of size meant that they struggled to finish over Kravish and Solomon, and if Cal can do the same this time around they well could escape Seattle with a win.


7.Who is a player Husky fans should look for on the offensive end? Defensive end?

boomtho: Offensively, I think the player to watch is Cobbs. Despite our offensive balance this year, Cobbs is really the only player capable of consistently creating shots for others. If UW finds a way to cut off his driving lanes or forces him into tough passes and/or TO’s, we may be in trouble. He also struggles a bit when his jumper is off, which has happened a few times this season.

Defensively, I’m going to say Kreklow, mostly because I can’t say Cobbs again. Kreklow is one of the best defensive players on the team and his absence really hurt the Bears, so Cal fans are all hoping that the defense will return to early-season form now that he’s back.


Nick Kranz: On offense, watch out for Ty Wallace, because when he's scoring Cal is typically pretty good. On defense, watch out for David Kravish, who is a deceptively good shot blocker considering how thin he looks in the post.

Big Thanks guys! Huskies are gonna kick the snot outta ya!

All credit for the questions goes to Erik Erickson. I just got the pleasure of copying, pasting, formatting and bolding along with using the best smack talk I have ever heard.

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