Cal's last game before the team takes a break for finals is back in California, though it's a bit of a ride down I5. The Bears are visiting the independent CS Bakersfield Roadrunners, whom they defeated at home last year 86-56.
There isn't any particular reason to expect this game to go any differently, despite the change of venues. The Roadrunners are just 1-6 with a narrow win over Northern Arizona representing the only victory. They were blown out by an Arizona team generally expected to compete for the cellar in the Pac-12. While nominally a division 1 team, CSUB doesn't really represent a threat to a team like Cal.
So there's not a ton to preview about this game, because there's no reason to suspect it should be competitive. Sure, Cal will have to watch out for 6'4'' sophomore Janae Coffee, who is averaging a double double so far this year.
This game is about staying sharp between important road games. Cal played Duke on Sunday and they will play on the road against 6-1 Northwestern nine days from now. Lindsay Gottlieb probably didn't want her squad to go two weeks without a game, but she probably didn't want to play a ranked opponent while Talia Caldwell was busy cramming for business school finals. Enter the Roadrunners.
So I won't be looking for much tonight. Well, actually, I won't be looking at all, since this game won't be viewable. But if I were watching, all I'd want to see is a reasonably crisp performance. Limit the turnovers as much as possible, since its turnovers that plagued Cal against Old Dominion and Duke.
Other than that, grab a W, get home quickly, and good luck to everybody on the team working to close out the fall semester.
Other news and notes around Cal WBB:
-Despite losing to Duke, the Bears only fell one spot in the AP poll. That's in part because a number of other teams around Cal in the poll also lost, and in part because I should probably give more credit to pollsters for recognizing that Cal can be the 11th best team in the country despite losing on the road to Duke. It's ultimately a meaningless measure, but it says something about the amount of respect the Bears and Lindsay Gottlieb have build up with pollsters that a loss seemingly hasn't impacted their poll position.
-As of last night Cal's RPI stood at a most excellent 7, and future opponents Northwestern and Kansas both sit solidly inside the top 50. Bakersfield is pretty low in the rankings, but George Washington has a middling rank, so there's no reason to expect Cal to fall appreciably before conference play starts.
Meanwhile, here are rankings for the rest of the Pac-12:
5 - Stanford
7 - Cal
9 - UCLA
40 - Washington
53 - Colorado
64 - Utah
108 - Arizona State
132 - Arizona
177 - Oregon State
195 - USC
244 - Washington State
257 - Oregon
The good news: The three California schools at the top have had excellent starts, and all three should maintain elite RPIs all year. Additionally, Utah and Colorado have made excellent strides towards respectability after rough inaugural Pac-12 years.
The bad news: USC's numbers are shockingly ugly. They have a strong back end to their non-conference schedule, so the numbers should rise, but my goodness. A blowout loss to SDSU - after the Aztecs had already lost decisively to UCLA and Colorado - must surely be setting off alarm bells down south, and Wednesday's loss to Fresno State only made things worse.
Meanwhile, Washington State and Oregon have plunged back into the depths that I had hoped Pac-12 teams had escaped. At least in Oregon's case they have serious injury concerns as an excuse - an excuse that WSU doesn't seem to have.