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California Game Preview & How to Watch

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Washington looks for a clean sweep of Cal and an extension of their winning streak

NCAA Basketball: California at Washington Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

How to Watch (and bet)

Date: Thursday, 2/3/22

Tip-Off Time: 8:00 pm PT

TV: Pac-12 Networks

Streaming: Pac-12.com/live

Radio: Huskies Gameday App

Location: Berkeley, California

DraftKings Betting Line: Washington Huskies +2

California Golden Bears 2021-22 Statistics:

Record: 9-13 (2-9)

Points For per Game: 64.2 ppg (305th)

Points Against per Game: 65.5 ppg (59th)

Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 102.8 (168th)

Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 98.4 (90th)

Strength of Schedule: 35th

California Key Players:

G- Joel Brown, Jr. 6’3, 192: 5.0 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 3.0 apg, 42.9% FG, 28.6% 3pt, 42.4% FT

We’re on year 3 of the Joel Brown point guard experiment and he has shown virtually no growth as a player in that time. He hates to shoot the ball, isn’t all that efficient when he does, and has about a 1.5:1 assist to turnover ratio. His defense is above average at least and he’ll likely get the Terrell Brown Jr. matchup. Brown didn’t play in the last game against UW.

G- Jordan Shepherd, Sr. 6’4, 190: 14.3 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 2.5 apg, 37.9% FG, 30.8% 3pt, 79.4% FT

It’s not quite the same as Brown for UW but Shepherd has come in from Charlotte (and Oklahoma before that) and become the unquestioned lead guard for Cal and is putting up a career high in points per game. Just like Brown he’s not a great 3-pt shooter although he unlike Brown he puts up 4+ attempts per game. Shepherd’s saving grace is that he isn’t turnover prone and is quite good and driving to the hoop and getting fouled. He had 12 points on 4/7 shooting against UW this year.

G- Jalen Celestine, So. 6’7. 220: 6.4 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 0.9 apg, 42.3% FG, 40.8% 3pt, 84.6% FT

Celestine is pretty much what you want in a 5th option role player. He doesn’t take a lot of shots but when he does shoot he’s fairly efficient. He can knock down an open shot from the perimeter and also cut to the basket. The rebounding/steal numbers are fine for someone his size but definitely not overwhelming. He had 8 points and 2 steals against UW this year.

G- Grant Anticevich, Sr. 6’9, 230: 10.2 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 1.1 apg, 38.6% FG, 33.7% 3pt, 94.4% FT

At this point in year 5 we pretty much know what Anticevich is. He shoots about 35% from the 3-pt line and is more comfortable as a jump shooter than a true post player despite being 6’9. He’s hit a career high in rebounding but he doesn’t really block shots and struggles at times with turnovers. Perhaps the best marker of Anticevich’s consistency is that per KenPom the most similar season to his current one is...his season last year. He had 7 points and 5 rebounds against UW this year and is averaging just under 8 points per game against UW over the last 3 years.

C- Lars Thiemann, Sr. 7'1, 255: 3.7 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 0.3 bpg, 55.4% FG, 76.0% FT

The Bears are likely to be without leading rebounder and starting center Andre Kelly (13.4 ppg, 8.4 rpg) who suffered an ankle injury earlier this week. Thiemann is a solid backup center who has managed to cut his turnovers almost in half this year to really improve his offensive value. Last time around against UW in 9 minutes he scored 6 points on 3/3 shooting although he also turned it over twice.

The Outlook

It’s always interesting to re-enter the stats in these preview articles and see how things have changed since the last time they squared off. When Washington played Cal the first time in Seattle they had just lost a pair of tough games to the L.A schools at home but those teams were both in the top-ten of the national rankings and so it was to be expected. But then the Huskies beat Cal and the tailspin has continued as they have lost 5 in a row to go from 2-3 to 2-9 in conference play.

It should be noted still that California has played a very tough Pac-12 schedule. There are 4 teams in the conference ranked in the top-35 at KenPom and Cal is 0-6 against them and 2-3 versus everyone else. The defense isn’t quite as stingy as it was at the beginning of the year but they are still capable of dragging teams into rock fights.

The question is how will Cal hold up long-term if Andre Kelly is unavailable. Kelly is 2nd on the team in scoring with 13.4 points per game and leads them in rebounding. He injured his ankle on Saturday against USC and had to leave the game and then also didn’t play in a 57-50 loss to Stanford. With this game happening just 48 hours later it seems unlikely he’ll be able to go and if he does he may not be at 100%. Kelly got into foul trouble against UW and played his worst game of the season but even so it’s still a blow to Cal if he can’t play.

All season the strategy for Cal has been to try to limit possessions by playing just about the slowest pace possible. That can work as long as you take care of the ball. Granted, Cal was without starting point guard Joel Brown in the first game against Washington but the Huskies ended up with 14 steals. That allowed plenty of fast break opportunities which helped counter their relatively stingy defense and slow pace.

Washington should win the turnover battle given the relative strengths and weaknesses of each team which means this game could pivot on rebounding. Cal is one of the best defensive rebounding teams in the country and one of the worst offensive. That’s because they don’t try to push the pace and instead use all 5 players to try to secure rebounds on defense and conversely are willing to give up offensive rebound chances in order to prevent opponent fast breaks. UW handily won that battle in the first game and now Cal is down their best rebounder.

That means in order to win this game Cal is going to have shoot dramatically better from the field to overcome a possession disadvantage. So far Cal has only gotten to 70 points in conference play twice and shot over 40% from 3 in both of those games. That’s requirement #1 for them to defeat UW tonight. But overall Cal is 10th in Pac-12 play shooting just 30.6% from deep so that would definitely be an aberration.

Washington is playing on the road so there are absolutely no guarantees. But if Kelly is indeed out it would take an off night from UW combined with an uncharacteristic hot shooting night from Cal for them to turn the tide. I’m going to say that doesn’t happen and Washington gets it done in what will not be an aesthetically pleasing contest.

Prediction

Washington Huskies- 59, California Golden Bears- 55