I understand that with the move to the Pac-12, no longer will teams play a full home-and-away conference schedule. But why is it that Cal has played four combined games against Stanford and Colorado before they play a single game against a team from Arizona, Oregon or Washington? Regardless, here we are re-previewing Colorado just under three weeks since Cal escaped with a win on the road in Boulder.
What has changed? Not much, really. Colorado has more fully legitimized themselves as a ranked team by winning four in a row, all by double digits. Perhaps most impressively, they absolutely blew the doors off Arizona, 79-36. But considering how close the game in Boulder was, Cal fans don't need to be convinced that the Buffs are dangerous.
To be fair, a major reason the game in Colorado was so close is because the Bears couldn't make shots, especially from the free throw line. If Cal had decided to simply make their season average from the line the would have had a comfortable 10 point win. So what did we learn from game 1?
Cal can comfortably outrebound Colorado: Sure, yeah, you expect that from Cal. But Colorado is a really good rebounding team too, and I was worried that the Bears would struggled on the glass at altitude. But the Bears held their own, then clinched the game with offensive rebounds (particularly on missed free throws) at the end of the game. Now the Bears are back at sea level at Haas Pavilion, with fresh legs. You could reasonably expect the rebounding advantage to grow.
Chucky will produce - will her teammates? When you think about stopping Colorado, you obviously think about stopping Chucky Jeffery. But she got hers the first time around, essentially matching her season averages in scoring, rebounds and assists. You want to prevent her from going off and scoring 20, but the real key to controlling Colorado is to prevent the supporting cast from helping out. Cal did that the first time around, holding everybody else on the roster to 31% shooting. Can they do it again?
Colorado's defense is really good. They currently lead the conference in defense in conference games only, and the 53 points Cal scored is only 4 points short of the most they've allowed in a conference game. A slow pace has an impact on that, but the Buffs know how to prevent you from scoring. Gennifer Brandon and Layshia Clarendon both arguably had their worst offensive games of the year in Boulder, and only great defense and solid offensive contributions from Afure Jemerigbe and Brittany Boyd saved Cal. We'll see what Lindsay Gottlieb does to break down a tough, tough defense.
This is another big one. A win today and Cal will have raced through their insanely stacked early season schedule with a share of 1st place in the conference. That would be a tremendous achievement. Make it happen, Bears!