Cal Women's Basketball vs. Iowa: Preview

Cal's posts will have to deal with all 6'5'' of Morgan Johnson Sunday morning.

Pre-preview must reads: If you're wondering if you'll be able to watch the game, go here. Check out this story about how awesome Talia Caldwell is. Then, check out this story about how awesome Brittany Boyd is. Then, send letters to major media members demanding that they write articles about how awesome all of the other players are.

Cal’s 2012 NCAA journey begins – but hopefully does not end – against the Iowa Hawkeyes, a team that has defied expectations to even receive a 9 seed in the NCAA tournament. Towards the end of January Iowa sat at just 3-5 in the Big 10, 11-10 overall. Their resume included a number of bad losses without any corresponding big wins. The season seemed headed right towards the WNIT at best.

For reasons I can’t fully explain, head coach Lisa Bluder managed to right the ship. The Hawkeyes won 8 straight games to close out their regular season, including wins over tournament teams in Purdue, Michigan State and Michigan (twice). And they did that despite losing the services of their leading scorer Jamie Printy in the middle of their run. Printy’s torn ACL will keep her out the rest of the season but it certainly didn’t sink the rest of her team.

Granted, some of Iowa’s surge can be explained by the schedule. 4 of the 8 wins came against teams well below .500 both over all and in the Big 10, and 3 of the wins against tournament teams came at home. Iowa then lost in the first round of the Big 10 tournament against top 25 Nebraska.

So which team will Cal face? The group that limped to an 11-10 start, or the confident bunch that reeled off 8 wins in a row to climb back into the tournament? And how do the Bears matchup? Hit the jump to read more!

Rotation

Starters
Morgan Johnson, 6’5’’ Jr. Center
Samantha Logic, 5’9’’ Fr. Guard
Kamille Wahlin, 5’8’’ Sr. Guard
Kelly Krei, 6’2’’ Sr. Forward
Melissa Dixon, 5’8’’ Fr. Guard

Key Reserves
Theairra Taylor, 5’1’’ So. Guard
Bethany Doolittle, 6’4’’ Fr. Center
Kalli Hansen, 5’1’’ Sr. Forward

In the absence of Jaime Printy the guard duo of Logic and Wahlin have picked up their level of production – after averaging less than 10 points/game, both have been scoring in the rage of 15 points/game down the stretch. Wahlis is primarily a three point gunner, as more than half of her FG attempts are from behind the arc, where she hits at 37%.

Logic is Iowa’s own version of Brittany Boyd – a freshman point guard forced to run the offense and control the ball. She’s less effective than Brittany by almost any measure – scoring, assisting, steals – but she’s not quite as turnover prone. More on her towards the bottom.

Johnson, as you would expect from a 6’5’’ player, very efficient as a post scorer. However, she’s not a particularly effective rebounder for her height. Cal’s ability to deny her the ball will likely be critical in the defensive effort.

The other two starters are Dixon and Krei. Krei is almost exclusive in to shoot 3s on offense and rebound on defense, and the stats indicate she doesn’t do much of anything else. She’s not a great 3 point shooter, but she won’t turn it over much either. Dixon has seen greatly increased playing time after Printy’s injury, and she’s another player than mostly shoots 3s. Are you sensing a theme?

Don’t expect to see a ton of Iowa’s bench – they’ve tended to run the starters pretty hard in competitive games. Doolittle is the primary big off the bench and she’ll see some time if/when Johnson needs some rest. I wouldn’t expect to see Hansen unless somebody gets in significant foul trouble. Taylor is the primary back-up guard. Looking at the distribution of minutes, I think Coach Bluder has been managing the Hawkeye rotation the way Monty manages the Bears.

Tempo Free Preview

Our computer overlords (Sagarin) predict: Cal by 3.6 points

Category

Cal Ranking

Iowa Ranking

Advantage

Cal eFG% v. Iowa Def eFG%

114

147

C

Cal Def eFG% v. Iowa eFG%

127

34

I

Cal TO% v. Iowa Def TO%

109

256

CC

Cal Def TO% v. Iowa TO%

210

74

II

Cal Reb% v. Iowa Reb%

2

155

CC

Cal FTR v. Iowa Opp FTR

134

107

I

Cal Opp FTR v. Iowa FTR

107

42

I

Cal O-PPP v. Iowa D-PPP

59

217

CC

Cal D-PPP v. Iowa O-PPP

93

23

I

Iowa and Cal actually have surprisingly similar statistical profiles – good offense, iffy defense, limited turnovers on both ends of the floor . . . except that Cal has a huge rebounding advantage. It’s worth noting that in scanning Iowa’s game logs, the Hawkeyes have performed better on the boards later in the season.

Losing Printy means that Iowa’s statistical profile might be a little skewed. Printy along with Johnson drew lots of fouls, so Iowa’s free throw rate is probably deceptively high, especially since a three point gunner replaced Printy in the starting lineup.

Mostly, Iowa’s defense just isn’t very strong. They don’t do a great job on defense, they don’t force turnovers and they can be exploited on the offensive glass. In the Hawkeye’s defense, they have faced some excellent offenses in the Big-10 and they played a challenging schedule. But the Bears should have the talent to take advantage of their defensive deficiencies. The question is if Cal can stop Iowa’s high powered offense from turning the game into a back-and-forth shoot out.

It’s worth noting that although Iowa will shoot lots of 3s, they don’t necessarily rely on them to win games. They’re a much better 2 point shooting team, and I think that’s because their willingness to shoot from deep loosens up the defense and gives Johnson and Logic space. I don’t want to see wide-open three pointers, but Cal can’t overcommit on the perimeter and give Iowa the space they want inside.

Keys to the Game

1. Destroy them on the boards.

Just last week, Cal won a game because they outrebounded their opponent (Washington St.) 59-25. Now, Iowa is going to be tougher on the glass than the Cougars, but it’s just a reminder of what Cal can do if they are playing their physical, athletic best. Cal probably needs to be somewhere in the range of +15 or +20 against Iowa. It’s insane to ask for that type of rebounding advantage, but Cal is a team that can do something like that.

2. Boyd wins the point guard battle.

I’m going to assume that for the majority of the game Brittany Boyd will be matched up on Samantha Logic on both ends of the court. Cal doesn’t necessarily need Brittany to score 15-20 points or hand out 10 assists. But if she can capably facilitate the offense and get Logic outside of her comfort zone with her defense Cal will have a huge advantage.

3. Win the foul battle

This is important for two reasons. Firstly, Iowa shoots 80% from the free throw line. Cal has faced opponents that didn’t punish them for sending them to the line, but that probably won’t be the case if they slip up against the Hawkeyes. Every single starter shoots at least 72.7% - all higher than Cal’s best regular FT shooter. Secondly, Iowa isn’t deep. If any of their starters gets in foul trouble may have a significant advantage. In particular, Johnson is the only real threat to score from the post and if she has to spend significant time on the bench Cal’s defense can focus on Iowa’s perimeter threats.

So there’s all the information you could ever need about Cal’s first round game. Can you tell I’m excited? It should be a fun weekend and we’ve been waiting all season to watch this team in March. Go Bears!

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