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California Game Preview & How to Watch

The Huskies are looking for just their 2nd road win of the year against lowly Cal.

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

How to Watch (and bet)

Date: Thursday, 2/23/23

Tip-Off Time: 6:00 pm PT

TV: Pac-12 Networks


Location: Berkeley, California

DraftKings Betting Line: Washington Huskies -6


California Golden Bears 2022-23 Statistics:

Record: 3-24 (2-14)

Points For per Game: 58.7 (361st)

Points Against per Game: 70.1 (86th)

Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 98.8 (295th)

Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 106.7 (215th)

Strength of Schedule: 26th


California’s Key Players:

G- Joel Brown, Sr. 6’3, 192: 6.2 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.9 apg, 40.0% FG, 24.3% 3pt, 50.0% FT

Brown is kind of the Jamal Bey of Cal except there are no other options for Cal given all the injuries they’ve had at the guard spot. He has career 42/30/48 shooting splits as a point guard with a 2.7/1.7 assist to turnover ratio. Fortunately for Cal he has realized he’s not a great shooter and drives the ball much more frequently and can still be a pest on defense. Overall though he prefers to be the 5th scoring option on offense.

1st Game Against UW: 12 pts (4/8 FG), 5 ast

G- Sam Alajiki, S0. 6’7, 230: 5.9 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 0.7 apg, 37.1% FG, 34.6% 3pt, 55.6% FT

Injuries to Devin Askew and DeJuan Clayton have opened up time for Alajiki to join the starting lineup. I thought he was due for a breakout season but it’s hard to say anyone has been good when the team is 3-24. At this point he’s a “3 and D” wing shooting a very good 38.6% on 3’s during conference play.

1st Game Against UW: 4 pts (1/4 FG, 1/4 FT), 2 reb

F- Grant Newell, Fr. 6’8, 220: 7.9 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 0.8 apg, 40.4% FG, 29.8% 3pt, 67.4% FT

For the 301st ranked player in the 2022 class it has been a solid true freshman campaign so far especially considering the talent surrounding Newell. The 21 point double-double he had against UW is still by far his best game of the season. Expect the Huskies to mix up their strategy against Newell to deny him that midrange jumper opportunity.

1st Game Against UW: 21 pt (9/14 2pt), 10 reb, 3 stl

F- Kuany Kuany, Sr. 6’9, 200: 9.2 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 0.8 apg, 38.6% FG, 32.5% 3pt, 83.7% FT

It has been a breakout season for Kuany so far as he has hit career highs in efficiency. During conference play he’s 10th in free throw rate while making over 80% of his FTs and also making 35% of his 3-pointers. He scored in double digits in each of Cal’s last 2 games despite the Bears getting slaughtered in L.A.

1st Game Against UW: 9 pts (2/3 3pt), 3 reb, 2 stl

C- Lars Thiemann, Sr. 7’1, 260: 9.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 0.7 bpg, 49.5% FG, 73.6% FT

Thiemann has had to be the glue holding this team together and he’s not quite equipped for that role. He’s a good offensive rebounder and has adequate moves in the post but he’s not exactly an all-conference option. His rim protection in particular is underwhelming for someone over 7-feet as it is in line with Nate Roberts totals.

1st Game Against UW: 13 pts (6/12 2pt), 7 reb


The Outlook

Back in January the Huskies were a sliver away from suffering an incredibly embarrassing loss at home to a Cal team that was 3-14. Washington came back to force overtime and escape with the win. There was at least a bit of hope that Cal might be a little better than previously thought. They had won 3 of 5 coming into that game and then of course lost in overtime. That notion has been thoroughly dismissed as Cal is on an 11-game losing streak including losing at the L.A schools by a combined 72 points last week.

This was a bad roster from the get go but injuries certainly haven’t helped things. The expected starting guard duo was Kentucky transfer Devin Askew and Jalen Celestine with DeJuan Clayton transferring to help bolster depth. Instead, Celestine still hasn’t played, Askew is out for the season, and Clayton has played just 9 total games. He missed both of Cal’s most recent contests for undisclosed reasons.

Given their record it should be no surprise that Cal is last in the conference in both offensive and defensive efficiency during Pac-12 play. They narrowly beat out Oregon State on the offensive end and are one of the worst scoring teams in all of D1 basketball. There’s not really a redeeming quality to the offense. They rank 353rd in 2-pt shooting and 327th in 3-point shooting. During Pac-12 play the long range shooting has been better than that but except in that game against UW they are basically incapable of scoring inside the arc.

If you’re really trying to search for bright spots around Cal’s offense you could talk about their performance from the free throw line. They’re merely average nationally in drawing fouls and capitalizing once they get to the stripe. A Cal win probably involves 20+ free throw attempts, 33%+ 3-point shooting, and winning the turnover battle by 5 or more.

The defense is better than the offense but it’s still bad. None of Cal’s top-9 players in minutes per game has a block rate better than 3.1% (the same as Nate Roberts last year for context). Lars Thiemann is 7’1 but doesn’t play like it so there isn’t much if any rim protection to worry about. The Bears are 6th in the country in average height with basically only one player shorter than 6’7 in the rotation. That length could lead to plenty of UW turnovers but for the most part it hasn’t so far this season.

Even if Washington is the 10th best team in the Pac-12 there’s still a wide chasm between them and teams 11 and 12. That didn’t stop UW from losing by 1 at Oregon State and getting taken to overtime by Cal at home. On an off night the Dawgs are capable of losing to just about anyone. The propensity for off nights increase for UW on the road. Washington is 1-8 in true road games with the lone one coming over Colorado. There’s a reason that the Huskies are favored despite all of that but it wouldn’t be a shock to see UW fall flat in this spot given their history.

Washington’s conference schedule was mostly front-loaded. Their final 5 games are all against teams ranked 6th or worse in the league standings with 3 at home. UW has started out 2-0 against this easy stretch and if Mike Hopkins wants any chance at keeping his job this needs to become a 3-game winning streak tonight. The path is there for Washington to scrape their way back to .500 in the Pac-12 standings but it absolutely requires them to not fall apart with constant careless turnovers and defend the middle better than their last game against Cal.


Max’s Record this Year: 20-8 Straight Up, 15-12-1 Against The Spread

Washington Huskies- 68, California Golden Bears- 58