Cal Men's Basketball vs. the Denver Pioneers Preview

Ezra Shaw

Don't sleep on the Denver Pioneers. They're coming off of two consecutive 22-win seasons and return plenty of experience from a team that reached the second round of the NIT last year. Unfortunately, they also embrace a style of play that may very well put you out. That's right; this is another game against a slow-it-down, maximize-every-possession type of team. Even if their half court motion is excruciating, it's also highly efficient at producing points. Their defense is less formidable, but they do make it a point of emphasis to run teams off the three point line. As an x-factor, they also have a national honors candidate in guard Chris Udofia, who leads them in scoring, rebounding, and assists from the wing.

Last year, Cal managed a 66-60 victory on the back of Allen Crabbe's brilliant all-around play. As will be the question all year, who steps up to replace his scoring?

Projected Starters:
F Drick Bernstine(Fr), 6'8, 202 lbs
F Marcus Byrd(So), 6'7, 215 lbs, 2.1 ppg, 1.1 rpg
G Jalen Love(So), 6'2, 165 lbs, 7.2 ppg, 1.5 apg
G Brett Olson(Jr), 6'5, 185 lbs, 11.4 ppg, 2.4 apg
G/F Chris Udofia(Sr), 6'6, 200 lbs, 13.2 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 3.3 apg

Bench
G Cam Griffin
G Nate Engesser
Bryant Rucker
Jake Logan

Brett Olson is their steady floor leader. He takes care of the ball and shoots a high percentage. Jalen Love forced his way into the starting lineup last year as a true frosh. He's got combo skills and is known for his athleticism. Cam Griffin is their sixth man who specializes in bringing defense and energy off the bench. Their front court is a bit of a question mark as they'll have to replace both starters from last year. Newcomer Drick Bernstine was looking like an early contributor from his pre-season play. But Chris Udofia is the engine that drives this team. He does everything well and is capable of taking over on both ends.


Key Matchups:

1) Kravish/Solo vs. the Pioneer Bigs

Once again, we're playing an under-sized team. They make a point of aggressively closing out to the three-point line, so there should be opportunities inside. Their bigs are also young, so Kravish/Solo should have both an experience and a size advantage.

2) Udofia vs. Wallace/Kreklow

Unlike last year, we have a couple of athletic, long-armed defenders to throw at their star player. In a pinch, Cobbs could slide over to check him as well. It'll be interesting to see how Monty uses his rotation. It would be a serious mis-match to have one of our true frosh guarding Udofia, so expect him to keep Wallace or Kreklow on the floor at all times.

3) Cobbs/Singer/Wallace vs. the Shot Clock

Control the tempo and you go a long way towards controlling the Pioneers. Cobbs should be fine. We'll see if our young point guards are able to impose Monty's will on this game.

4) Cal's Freshmen vs. Snail ball

Because Denver tries to shorten the game by milking each possession, taking high percentage shots and avoiding careless turnovers on offense will be key. Defensively, we'll need to maintain focus throughout the entire possession. Expect to see some growing pains from our young players. But let's hope they'll be able to work through them and not force Monty rely too heavily on his veterans.


Go Bears!

Tip-off: 8pm
TV: Pac-12 Network
Radio: http://www.calbears.com/mediaPortal/player.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=30100&type=live

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