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California Golden Bears Open Thread

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The Huskies seek their 1000th career win in Hec-Ed

NCAA Basketball: Arizona State at California Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

The Essentials

Date: Saturday, 1/19/19

Tip-Off Time: 2:00 pm PT

TV: Pac-12 Networks

Streaming: Pac-12.com/live

Radio: KOMO 1000 AM/97.7 FM and TuneIn

Location: Seattle, Washington

Betting Line: Washington -16.5

California 2018-19 Statistics

Record: 5-12 (0-5)

Points For per Game: 71.9 (193rd)

Points Against per Game: 80.2 (318th)

Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 106.2 (117th)

Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 113.6 (337th)

Strength of Schedule: +3.68 (58th)

California Key Players

F-Andre Kelly, Fr. 6’8, 260: 8.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 0.7 bpg, 59.6% FG, 66.7% FT

Kelly doesn’t have the ideal height to play center but he’s got a wide frame and his rebounding and shooting percentages are solid for a freshman big man. However, his post defense has been well below average and opponents are shooting 64.3% when posting him up (calling Noah Dickerson). 7’3 freshman Connor Vanover has been slowly stealing his minutes since conference play started.

F- Justice Sueing, So. 6’7, 215: 14.4 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 1.6 apg, 41.3% FG, 32.4% 3pt, 86.2% FT

Sueing absolutely torched the Huskies in Seattle last year and he remains Cal’s best 2-way player. He’s one of only two Cal players to rank above average in defensive points per possession while also leading them in points and rebounds per game. Sueing is well above average spotting up, in isolation, or in transition but he struggles more when required to play a 2-man game.

G- Matt Bradley, Fr. 6’4, 220: 10.9 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 1.4 apg, 45.2% FG, 52.2% 3pt, 74.1% FT

The freshman Bradley was Cal’s highest rated recruit this year and it’s easy to see why from his early play. Bradley has made 8 of 9 uncontested 3’s which is why he’s 9th in the country in 3-pt percentage. If he gets open looks then he’ll make the Huskies pay all night. But he’s also literally the worst pick and roll defender in the country so he’ll give Washington back plenty of those points on the other end.

G- Darius McNeil, So. 6’3, 182: 12.0 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 1.1 apg, 39.9% FG, 36.4% 3pt, 81.8% FT

McNeil is Cal’s highest volume 3-pt shooter as about 2/3rds of his shots come from behind the arc and he’s shooting a pretty good percentage. The Huskies will close out aggressively when he gets the ball because he is not a willing passer and is unlikely to do more than pass it around the perimeter if he finds a hand in his face.

G- Paris Austin, Jr. 6’0, 185: 13.2 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 4.8 apg, 46.9% FG, 35% 3pt, 71.6% FT

A transfer from Boise State, the hope was that Austin would be a transformative leader for this insanely young Bears team. The offensive numbers are solid and he’s one of Cal’s better defenders despite the lack of height but it hasn’t resulted in wins so far. Despite being Cal’s best passer, Austin is actually at his best as an isolation scorer where he’s made 14 of 20 shots to this point in the season.

The Outlook

When Cuonzo Martin jumped ship from Cal to Missouri there was a concern that this might be a tough rebuild for whoever inherited the job. But what has actually played out in Berkeley is worse than anyone imagined as Cal is the worst power conference team in the country so far this year and it isn’t particularly close. It doesn’t help that they’re 342nd in KenPom’s experience ranking which is in the general range of where the Huskies were in both 2016 and 2017.

It all starts on the defensive end where the Golden Bears have been absolutely abysmal. Let me put it into context for you. In 2016 when the Huskies went 2-16 in Pac-12 play leading to Lorenzo Romar’s dismissal, UW was 224th in adjusted defensive efficiency. So far this year Cal is an astounding 337th in that metric which immediately trails schools such as Elon, Rice, Cal State Northridge, and Siena. This is quite literally one of the worst defenses in the country.

That starts with the shooting percentages where Cal ranks in the bottom 20 teams in the country in opponents’ 2-pt FG%, 3-pt FG% and FT %. FT% is a little bit random but it does suggest that Cal is prone to fouling guards rather than big men who generally shoot better from the line. However you slice it there are going to be wide open looks all over the court for Washington. Cal has only held one opponent to fewer than 76 points this season and it was at home against Cal Poly who has the 321st ranked offense per KenPom.

With a defense that bad you would hope their offense is at least passable and the Golden Bears are in fact a decent scoring team. Cal ranks in the top-75 nationally in 3-pt%, FT%, and offensive turnover percentage. Those numbers bode well for Cal in trying to score points against the Washington zone. The part that will be difficult for them to overcome though is their lack of overall ball movement.

The Golden Bears are 334th in assists per field goal made and they really excel either in transition or in isolation. Considering how bad their defense is I would expect Washington to have their zone set a good amount of the time which should limit transition opportunities. And it’s pretty hard to try to score in isolation against a zone defense particularly with Matisse Thybulle roaming to help should you successfully find a crack. And while Cal shoots a high percentage on their 3-pt attempts they don’t take all that many of them and prefer to drive to the hoop. If they’re able to keep it close it’s either because they shoot an absurd percentage on shots beyond the arc or they get every UW big man in foul trouble.

Robert Franks returned for the Washington State game on Thursday but Cal lost by 23 points on the road in Pullman. The closest they’ve come to a win in Pac-12 play is a 9 point defeat at USC in the conference opener and every other loss has been by at least 14 points. Washington is currently leading the conference in both offensive and defensive efficiency through the first 2.5 weeks of Pac-12 play. There is no reason why this shouldn’t be a blowout in UW’s favor. And if it isn’t then either the entire team contracted terrible food poisoning before the game or the Huskies will have played down to their competition like never before.

Prediction

Washington Huskies- 86, California Golden Bears- 59

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