Reshanda Gray and the Bears will need to wake up quickly against the Wildcats. - Kelley L Cox-US PRESSWIRE
Monday morning basketball? Monday morning basketball!
The bad news is that you'll have to pay if you want to watch a game being played at just about the most inconveniently bizarre time I've ever seen. The good news is that if you have access to Pac-12 online streaming and the Pac-12 Network, this is the last game of the season you won't be able to see.
Today is 'Field Trip Day' in Evanston. Northwestern is playing this game at 11:00 am Central time so that schools can take a field trip to watch the game. Perhaps Cal will be entering a hostile environment of screaming 4th graders. Perhaps schools don't consider college basketball to be especially educational, and nobody will be there. Perhaps it's all a ploy to mess with the internal clocks of Cal players in a nefarious scheme to get a big win! CONSPIRACY!
Whatever the case, perhaps the biggest obstacle for the Bears is this unusual start time. Northwestern enters today's game battered and bruised. The Wildcats have lost 3 straight games to mostly mid-major competition by an average of 23 points and have been without starters Maggie Lyon and Dannielle Diamant for the last two games. Losing Diamant, the 6'5'' senior, has been particularly damaging because she's been Northwestern's best rebounder and most efficient scorer. I don't know if either player will return to the lineup - they've had a full week to heal since Northwestern's last game. Without them Cal will be an even heavier favorite.
Players to Watch
Kendall Hackney: With two injured starters the scoring burden has fallen to Hackney, and while she responded with 19 and 15 point performances she's gotten virtually no help on offense. The senior forward spends plenty of time taking shots from behind the arc, so Cal's posts will have to be aware of the danger. But she can be stopped, and if she is stopped there's not really anybody else to step up unless the Wildcats have gotten healthy in a hurry.
Lauren Douglas: Another starter that the Wildcats need more from due to injuries. Unfortunately, she's shot a combined 4-22 in the last two games and is perhaps dealing with more attention from opposing defenses. Nonetheless, she's an athletic, 3 star freshman forward who is already leading the team in blocks and steals per game, so she clearly has talent. We'll see if she has the defensive talent to slow down Cal's posts.
Keys to the Game
Wake Up! Even if Northwestern were at full strength, Cal would be the favorites. But the Wildcats aren't. It makes you think that the only thing that can slow the Bears down is jet lag.
Get out and run: Northwestern plays a relatively fast pace and they don't force many turnovers or pressure the ball. Even better, they aren't a great rebounding team and their best rebounder might miss the game. All of the conditions are in place for Cal to get out and run in transition. This game might be tailor made for Brittany Boyd. Shame that about 5 Cal fans will see it.