USA TODAY Sports
Still smarting from last weekend's heart-wrenching loss at the buzzer, our Cal Bears have to steel themselves for a visit from the #16 Creighton Bluejays.(9-1) As a team, the Bluejays shoot the ball very well. Although not physically imposing, they've also out-rebounded their opponents in every game this year except for their lone loss to Boise State. And, of course, their trump card is 1st team All-American forward Doug McDermott who is essentially unguardable when he's hot. On a neutral court, Creighton out-shot, out-boarded, and out-played the same Wisconsin squad that destroyed Cal two weeks ago. They followed up that game by dismantling the Arizona Sun Devils. Most recently, they blew out a ranked Nebraska team on the in Lincoln. Equally comfortable in an up-tempo or half-court game, the Bluejays are well-coached team whose calling card is a versatile and explosive offense. Having gone 0-2 thus far during the toughest segment of our pre-conference schedule, this is a cliched must-win game if we're going to gain any semblance of post-season respect. Naturally, it's also the most daunting foe that we've faced to date.
F Doug McDermott(Jr), 6'8, 225 lbs, 22.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg
F Gregory Echnique(Sr), 6'9, 260 lbs, 10.5 ppg, 7.1 rpg
G Jahenns Manigat(Jr), 6'1, 175 lbs, 4.0 ppg,
G Austin Chatman(So), 6'0, 185 lbs, 8.5 ppg, 4.5 apg
G Grant Gibbs(Sr), 6'5, 210 lbs, 7.0 ppg, 6.6 apg
It all starts and ends with 1st Team All-American Doug McDermott. He's shooting a ridiculous 55% from the field, 85% from the line, and 52% from the three-point line. Although he's right-handed, he's actually more adept scoring in the paint with his left hand. He's a match-up nightmare because he can post-up smaller players or drag bigger guys out to the three-point line. Doubling him opens up the court for a very good jump-shooting team.
Manigat is one of the team captains. He's struggled with his shot a bit this year, but lead the MWC in three point percentage last year. Chatman takes over at the point after backing up the position last year. He's quick and has serious hops. Gibbs plays on the wing, but leads the team in assists. A former transfer from Gonzaga, he's actually the team's best playmaker and passer.
Echnique is a physical beast who plays with a high-motor. He was MWC's Defensive Player of the year last season and leads the Bluejays in both rebounding and shot blocking. Although McDermott will get all the attention, this is the guy who might destroy us.
Wragge, Dingman and Jones are all long-range snipers off the bench. Wragge is particularly dangerous when he heats up; he's leading the team in three point attempts and makes while shooting them at a 48% rate.
Keys to the Game:
1) Limit the turnovers and offensive rebounds.
I should just copy and paste this to every preview for the remainder of this year. Maybe I'll even laminate something. On the plus side, Monty should have plenty of film to get the guys' attention. Sure, mistakes happen and sometimes the other team makes a good play. But it's the instances where we lose focus or don't make a strong effort that remain incredibly frustrating. Like many good teams, Creighton is explosive in transition and will absolutely make you pay for mistakes.
2) Keep McDermott guessing.
It'll be interesting to see how Monty plays this one. I think he'd prefer to see if Solo can use his length and athleticism to bother McDermott one on one. However, that leaves Kravish over-matched physically against Echnique. If our bigs can hold their own, it might slow down the rest of the Bluejays who are accustomed to getting plenty of open looks thanks to all the attention McDermott demands.
Plan B would be to send a variety of double teams and make someone other than McDermott beat you. In the past, Monty has liked to use his "Monster" double where he sends another big man to make it hard to find passing lanes. If we have to double, I'd expect we'd use Gibbs' defender. (11% from 3PG)
3) Deny dribble penetration and stick with the shooters.
The Bluejays like using a drive and kick game to set up their jump-shooting attack. This is how they blew the game open against the Wisconsin Badgers. Gibbs and Chatman were able to get into the lane at will where they either dropped it inside for layups or kicked it outside for 3's. We'll need to be fundamentally sound with our rotations and close-outs.
4) Find the third amigo.
We know we need Crabbe and Cobbs to be brilliant. But we'll need someone else to step up and provide that extra lift. Against UNLV, it looked like the light might be starting to come on for Solomon and Wallace. It would also be a nice time for Kravish to break out of his sophomore slump.
Time: Saturday, 12/15/12, 8pm PST
TV: Pac-12 Networks