Senior Night Preview: 2nd Look At Oregon State

Usually a game against a 5-9 Oregon State squad with two weeks still left in the regular season wouldn’t get the blood pumping, but this one is full of intriguing storylines. There’s the revenge factor, as Oregon State is one of three teams to beat Cal this year. The team (and us fans!) have to deal with the emotions of Senior Day for two very special Bears. And of course Cal’s attempt to win a conference championship hang over it all. Add it all up and the night could end with an immensely satisfying win or a morale crushing defeat, with no real in-between.

By the time the game tips off at 7:00 everybody will know if Cal is playing with a chance to sit alone atop the Pac-12 with just three games to go. The Bears will have plenty of motivation, no matter the result of the Arizona/Washington game at tips off at noon today (feel free to use this post as an open thread for that game).

To avoid getting swept by the Beavers Cal will have to improve on what has to be their worst defensive performance of the year. Oregon State averaged a whopping 1.3 points/possession with an absurd eFG% of 74.5%, and finished with 92 points. It’s unlikely that the Beavers will shoot 11-18 from three again, but Cal will need do better at keeping Jared Cunningham out of the lane and away from the free throw line as much as possible.

Rotation Players

Jared Cunningham, 6’4’’ guard
Roberto Nelson, 6’3’’ guard
Devon Collier, 6’7’’ forward
Ahmad Starks, 5’9’’ guard
Joe Burton, 6’7’’ forward
Angus Brandt, 6’10 forward/center
Eric Moreland, 6’10 forward/center

Obviously Cunningham is the guy you worry about, the guy who can drop 30 and put half the lineup in foul trouble. But the reality is that he’s going to get his point – if Cal can make him earn it from the field and not send him to the line constantly would be a victory.

So that means the key is to prevent other Beavers from beating you. Devon Collier and Ahmad Starks are the two most likely candidates, but in different ways. Collier is a very efficient inside scorer (zero 3 point attempts) while Starks is mostly a perimeter sniper (54.6% of attempts from behind the arc). Starks did the damage in Corvallis, but Cal’s post rotation is thinner this time around so Collier is still a concern.

Nelson, Burton and Brandt are all solid secondary offensive players who probably won’t beat you singlehandedly. Moreland is the only player on OSU’s roster that is a better defender and rebounder than offensive player, yet he plays fewer minutes than any other rotation member on a team that struggles to rebound and defend. I’ll let you decide what that says about Craig Robinson.

Tempo-Free Preview

Kenpom sez: Cal 83, Oregon State 69, 86% confidence

Category

Cal Rank

OSU Rank

Advantage

Cal eFG% vs. OSU Def eFG%

40

257

CCC

Cal Def eFG% vs. OSU eFG%

58

58

-

Cal TO% vs. OSU Def TO%

47

25

O

Cal Def TO% vs. OSU TO%

170

109

O

Cal OReb% vs. OSU DReb%

146

245

C

Cal DReb% vs. OSU OReb%

19

129

CC

Cal FTR vs. OSU Opp FTR

264

242

O

Cal Opp FTR vs. OSU FTR

16

16

-

Cal AdjO vs. OSU AdjD

39

157

CC

Cal AdjD vs. OSU AdjO

16

47

C

It was much publicized about how different the Beavers would be this year under Craig Robinson, but it’s only become half true. His changes have greatly increased OSU’s offensive efficiency. Unfortunately for him, nothing has really changed on defense, even when you look at the component stats. The Beavers still force a ton of turnovers but do essentially nothing else to stop teams from scoring, even though they’re now primarily a man-to-man team with only occasional zones.

The most scary stat is that OSU is right up there with Arizona at drawing fouls. It's more than just Cunningham, as Collier, Nelson, and Morehead all get whistles. Cal's depth means fouls are always a concern, and when Jorge is dead set on shutting somebody down (like when he was matched up against Joseph on Thursday) it can end with him trying to hard and picking up ill-timed calls.

Realistically this is a game that Cal should win without too much trouble. But I'm sure we'll all be nervous because, once again, this game is a must win for a conference title. If it feels like they all are, it's because they all are. Such is life in the topsy-turvy Pac-12. Luckily we've got Jorge and Harper, if only for a little while longer.

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