In my very brief preview of Oregon and Oregon St., I wrote the following:
The bad news is that Cal can’t really prove much this weekend either.
That's still generally true - Oregon and Oregon St. are both tied for last in the Pac-12 and will likely stay towards the bottom of the conference, so a home sweep was basically a baseline expectation. But that doesn't mean we learned nothing. I don't enjoy reminding you all again, but Cal actually lost to Oregon last year at home, so dominating the Ducks is at least a reminder that this year isn't last year, as painful as last week was. And though Oregon St. is likely in for a tough year, they're a disciplined, well-coached team that gave Stanford fits. It's not like Cal swept through CSU Bakersfield and Dartmouth this week.
This week saw a number of positive developments, including the following:
-Mikayla Lyles hitting four first half three pointers against Oregon
-Cal shooting a combined 12-35 from three, a downright respectable 34%
-A defensive effort that saw the Bears hold OSU and Oregon to .83 and .82 points/possession respectively, both below their season averages.
And while it's premature to start thinking about such things, ESPN released an updated bracketology that lists Cal as an 8 seed against Michigan*. An NCAA spot is there for the taking if Cal can continue to win the games they are supposed to win.
*On a side note: The closet first round tournament site to Berkeley is Spokane, and the 2nd closest is, I kid you not, Norman Oklahoma. The NCAA hates the Pac-12/West Coast basketball so much that even Stanford will be screwed over this year! (Until the Sweet 16, when they'll surely be playing in Fresno.) But I digress.
My observations will be limited because the Oregon game wasn't streamed and I stupidly attempted to watch the men's and women's games at the same time last Thursday despite repeatedly learning that I am completely unable to absorb any valuable observations when I try it. But there's good news on that front - next Sunday's game against Utah WILL BE TELEVISED! Be sure not to miss it if you're an out-of-area fan, because it's one of just two games to be televised before the Pac-12 tournament. Now, on to this week's observations:
-When Cal is playing well over the last few years I'm always impressed with their ability to effectively adapt their style to their opponent. That ability is always most evident when the Oregon schools come to town, because they are very different teams. Oregon is still the fastest team in the conference, and Oregon St. was the slowest team in the conference (newcomers Utah and Colorado have surpassed the Beavers at boring-ball).
This means that if you showed up at Haas you watched Cal play ugly boring-ball against the Beavers, then race to 54 first half points against the Ducks. They'll play your style, and they'll beat you at it either way. Through luck or planning, Cal now has a very deep, versatile roster. You've got quick bigs like Reshanda Gray, bruiser bigs like Talia Caldwell, speedsters like Eliza Pierre and Brittany Boyd, tougher guards/wings like Afure Jemerigbe and Lindsay Sherbert . . . it's a good mix.
-I'm not going to make a huge deal out of the three pointers Cal hit, other than to note that the Bears can hit them if they're left wide open. Cal went nuts from behind the arc in the first half against Oregon, then promptly started shooting too many and went 0-10 from deep in the 2nd half. I can't be sure if that's because Oregon actually played a little perimeter defense or because the law of averages took over, but it demonstrates that Cal can't get too far away from their strengths.
Still, teams will continually pack the paint against the Bears, and there will be a game or two later this year in which Cal will have to hit some wide-open 3s to win. Hopefully this is a confidence booster.
-Like Coach Gottlieb said in the video above: Gen Brandon, 17 points, 19 rebounds, 28 minutes. Meh. Just another game. Women's Basketball State says that she's the 2nd best rebounder in the country. I think she'll rise to first at some point this year. By eligibility she's only a sophomore. You know all of this already, but I like writing it up every week because it makes me happy.
Thursday: @ Colorado, 6:00 pm
Sunday: @ Utah, 1:30 pm, CSNBA/FSN
Colorado is a tough team to get a peg on. They are 13-1, but their schedule has been remarkably weak. Their best non-conference win is probably over 6-8 Creighton at home. Their best conference win is a 1 point road win over Washington State. And their only loss is a rather surprising 8 point loss to Washington, which is the only Pac-12 win thus far for the Huskies.
So there's ample evidence to suggest that Colorado has been skating by over bad teams. But Thursday's game will be Colorado's first ever Pac-12 home game, and they probably are circling the game as a chance to prove that their gaudy record isn't a fluke. And Cal played very poorly in Boulder last year in the WNIT. So I'm nervous.
Utah actually was supposed to be pretty solid this year, but they have disappointed to start the season and sit at 8-6 overall with just one conference win. That win was over Washington in a game that, from the looks of things, must have been absolutely hideous. It finished 49-36, an indication of just how slow Utah is willing to play. In fact, only once this year has the losing team cracked 60 in a game involving Utah, so brace yourself for ugly basketball if you tune in on Sunday.
According to the Sagarin Predictor, Cal should be slight favorites on the road. But playing at altitude presents its own problems and Cal hasn't exactly excellent on the road in recent years. How Cal performs this weekend might tell us if the Bears will spend the rest of the season playing for a better seed or playing for a place in the tournament period.