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California Golden Bears Game Preview & How to Watch

Washington looks to avoid a 2nd straight road loss to a California team with a bear nickname

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

How to Watch (and bet)

Date: Thursday, 1/18/24

Tip-Off Time: 6:00 pm PT

TV: Pac-12 Networks

Streaming: Pac-12.com/live

Radio: Huskies Gameday App, Sports Radio KJR

Location: Berkeley, California

Betting Line: Washington Huskies -3

California Golden Bears 2023-24 Statistics:

Record: 6-11 (2-4)

Points For per Game: 75.4 ppg (107th)

Points Against per Game: 76.6 ppg (270th)

Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 109.9 (89th)

Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 106.4 (195th)

Strength of Schedule: 38th

UCLA Key Players:

G- Jalen Cone, Sr. 5’11, 175: 14.2 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 2.4 apg, 32.9% FG, 31.7% 3pt, 80.7% FT

Throughout his career Cone has generally been a volume scorer which translates to someone who takes a ton of shots but probably shouldn’t be taking that many shots. It looked like that turned around last year at Northern Arizona for him when he shot 41% on 3’s but he has reverted now that he’s back at a power conference program. He’s pretty much exclusively a 3-point shooter at this point but has made just 23% in conference play this far. Although he’s nails at the free throw line when he gets there.

G- Keonte Kennedy, Sr. 6’5, 190: 10.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 2.5 apg, 41.1% FG, 26.5% 3pt, 65.5% FT

Kennedy also set a career high in 3pt% last year at Memphis at 38.1% but has regressed back past the mean this year. He’s a good defensive player who doesn’t turn the ball over which means he still has plenty of value when his outside shot isn’t falling.

G- Jalen Celestine, Jr. 6’7, 215: 7.5 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 0.6 apg, 44.8% FG, 47.4% 3pt, 80.0% FT

Celestine was expected to be a big piece of last year’s team but missed the entire season due to injury. He doesn’t take a lot of shots as the clear #5 option in the starting lineup but has been great at knocking down wide open 3’s when they’re available. Other than that he doesn’t show up very much in the stat sheet.

F- Jaylon Tyson, Jr. 6’7, 215: 20.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 3.1 apg, 50.9% FG, 37.7% 3pt, 80.0% FT

The NCAA originally denied Tyson’s waive to play right away which would have been a disaster for Cal since he and Keion Brooks Jr. are putting up nearly identical numbers except Tyson also leads his team in assists per game. He’s doing everything for the Bears and has scored put up at least 20 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists in each of Cal’s last 6 games. He’s an efficient scorer from everywhere on the floor, gets steals, rebounds, and can play make to top it all off. He does it all.

C- Fardaws Aimaq, Sr. 6’11, 245: 15.1 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 0.9 bpg, 50.0% FG, 35.7% 3pt, 61.6% FT

There have been a few times where it looked like the BC native would return to the PNW at Washington but instead he reunited with his old college coach at Cal and has been once again one of the best rebounders in the sport. He doesn’t take a lot of 3’s but is capable of making them and is shooting a career best 52% on 2’s as well. The one nitpick with Aimaq is that he isn’t a great shot blocker but he can do it occasionally.

The Outlook

Washington no-showed on Sunday for what should’ve been an easy chance at their first conference road win and will get their next best shot today against Cal. The advanced numbers say that the Bears aren’t very good but they’re certainly not anywhere close to as hapless as they have been in recent years under Mark Fox or Wyking Jones before him.

The non-conference slate was a disaster for Cal with home losses to #343 Pacific and #258 Montana State plus neutral slip-ups against UTEP and Tulane but 3 of those 4 losses were by exactly 3 points. Another pair of Cal defeats to solid opponents (SDSU and Butler) happened in overtime. Now, Cal has won 2 of 3 including an upset of Colorado and even in their most recent loss at Oregon held an 18-point lead at one point on the Pac-12 leading Ducks.

The big issue for California this year is depth. They have one of the best 2-man combos in the conference and almost certainly the best frontcourt with Texas Tech transfers Jaylon Tyson and Fardaws Aimaq. That duo is combining for nearly 36 points and 18 rebounds per game.

Unsurprisingly, that means that Cal is a very good rebounding team. They rebound nearly 1/3rd of their own misses and keep opponents to just 1/4th on the other end which helps create a bit of a possession advantage. The offense is solid just about all the way around which in the end results in a good but not great squad on that end. Cal shoots between 145th and 200th nationally on 2’s, 3’s, and FTs but they take a ton of shots from beyond the arc which means they don’t do a ton of scoring in the paint. That also means they don’t take a ton of free throws.

The problems lie mainly on the defensive end where teams are able to beat them in 1v1 situations. They rank 40th in the country limiting assists but opponents make nearly 37% of their 3s (325th nationally) and 51% of their 2’s (195th) against the Bears and they don’t force turnovers to make up for it.

I mentioned the depth issues for Cal and they play essentially a 7-man lineup with one backup center spotting a few minutes for Aimaq whenever he needs a breather. If any of their stars get into foul trouble it results in a massive drop-off in production so officiating should play a big role in this one. Washington needs to attack the rim and get Aimaq in foul trouble to open up rebounding opportunities and the chance for extra possessions.

This is a game the Huskies absolutely should win. They also absolutely should have won at UCLA on Sunday and are 1-3 on the road so far with the one win coming in 2OT against Seattle U. Washington has to show me that they can win one away from home without Franck Kepnang before I’m going to pick them to actually do it again. If the Dawgs play like they did against UCLA then they absolutely can go down to this team.

Prediction

My record this year: 12-5 Straight Up, 5-11-1 Against the Spread

Washington Huskies- 68, California Golden Bears- 73