Rivalry Sweep? Re-Previewing Stanford

Washington visits UCLA at 11:00 am on CBS. Use this as your open 'agonize about things Cal has no control of' thread.

So, will this game be for approximately half of the marbles? Or will it be for a smaller amount of marbles – say, the difference between a 9 seed and a 10 seed? While we’re on the topic, what exactly is the marble-to-NCAA-seed exchange rate these days?

Washington’s victory over USC means that the best the Bears can do is earn a share of the Pac-12 title. That and a 14-4 conference record is nothing to sneeze at. I’ve said it before, but in December and January I fully believed a 14-4 record would easily be good enough for an outright Pac-12 title, and it would have earned at least a share of the title each of the last three years.

But even if the Huskies beat UCLA today Cal still has reasons to win. The Bears aren’t in a position to take any chances with the NCAA tournament, for one. But just as importantly, this game is about pride. Sweeping Stanford is always sweet, but a win would also represent a 6-0 record against our intra-state rivals.

Stanford comes into today’s game struggling. The Cardinal have lost 7 of their last 11, with only one win coming against a team higher than 9th in the Pac-12 standings. That one win, of course, was the bizarrely easy win over Colorado on the road. If that result makes you feel nervous, it might calm you to remember that Stanford followed up that win with a loss to Utah.

Most of what I said when I previewed Stanford last time is still true. Stanford is still a balanced offense, Josh Owens is still their best player, and they still have a bevy of post depth without much in terms of marquee post talent. In their eight games since losing to Cal in Berkeley, Stanford has actually become more imbalanced – even better on defense and worse on offense. When Stanford is winning they hold Colorado to 50 points. When they lose they only manage 43 points against Arizona.

Rotation

Chasson Randle, 6’1’’ freshman guard
Aaron Bright, 5’11’ sophomore guard
Josh Owens, 6’8’’ senior forward
Dwight Powell, 6’9’’ sophomore forward
Anthony Brown, 6’6’’ sophomore guard/forward
Jarrett Mann, 6’4’’ senior guard
Andrew Zimmerman, 6’8’’ senior forward
John Gage, 6’9’’ senior forward
Josh Huestis, 6’7’’ sophomore forward

I only listed the first 9 players by minutes played, but it’s also worth mentioned Jack Trotter and Stefan Nastic. It’s pretty weird to have a team with 11 players that get non-garbage time minutes and 10 players that have started multiple games. Nastic is particularly worth mentioning because he scored 11 points in 19 minutes to lead the Cardinal in scoring against Cal at Haas. I don’t know what it says about a team when a guy averaging less than 7 minutes a game leads you in scoring against your rival, but it’s probably not good.

There isn’t much I would change about Cal’s defensive effort against Stanford, other than perhaps not sending Stanford to the line as often. But even if Cal makes that mistake again, Stanford is ill-equipped to punish the Bears because they are 290th in the nation in free throw percentage.

What I want to see Cal do again is what they did a good job of in Berkeley – lock up Aaron Bright and Chasson Randle on the perimeter. The duo are both excellent 3 point shooters . . . so much so that they both shoot better from 3 than from inside the arc. Colorado let them get open and they combined for 6 threes. Against Cal they only attempted 5. Don’t let them get shots off from deep and trust your help defense, because neither are good finishers inside.

Tempo-Free Preview

Kenpom sez: Cal 64, Stanford 63, 54% confidence

Category

Cal Rank

Stan Rank

Advantage

Cal eFG% vs. Stan Def eFG%

50

85

C

Cal Def eFG% vs. Stan eFG%

45

137

C

Cal TO% vs. Stan Def TO%

45

110

C

Cal Def TO% vs. Stan TO%

181

227

C

Cal OReb% vs. Stan DReb%

177

24

SS

Cal DReb% vs. Stan OReb%

23

32

C

Cal FTR vs. Stan Opp FTR

250

203

S

Cal Opp FTR vs. Stan FTR

12

156

CC

Cal AdjO vs. Stan AdjD

50

23

S

Cal AdjD vs. Stan AdjO

16

128

CC

Generally speaking, Cal is slightly better almost across the board, but Stanford's defense is good enough to keep me worried. Still, there's not much to suggest that Stanford's 9th-best-in-the-conference offense should be able to break down Cal's defense, which is why I'm more optimistic about Cal's chances than the Kenpom numbers - which don't take into account how it appears that Stanford played their best basketball of the season back in 2011.

Perhaps the most impressive part of Cal’s win over Stanford was their success on the glass. Stanford, for all their faults, are an excellent rebounding team. But the Cardinal managed just 4 offensive rebounds and Cal finished +10 on the boards for the day. Stanford usually won’t shoot the ball well enough to win games without 2nd chance points. If Cal can replicate that kind of success they will stand a great chance of finishing off the sweep.

Hopefully a demoralized Stanford fanbase decides they have better things to do on a Sunday night and operation Occupy Maples is a success. Go Bears and . . . ugh . . . go Bruins.

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