Cal Men's Basketball vs. Southern Utah Preview

USA TODAY Sports

Do you know what happens to a thunderbird when it's struck by lightning? The same thing that happens to everything else.

It's year #2 for Southern Utah coach Nick Robinson. Some of you may remember him as an incredibly annoying player for those excruciatingly successful Stanfurd teams in the early 2000's.

However in this case, the circle is not complete. Mr. Robinson is still very much the learner while Monty remains the master.

The Thunderbirds are in salt-the-earth rebuilding mode having lost their top four scorers from last year. Then again, this might be addition via subtraction since their senior-laden offense was still dead last in the Big Sky conference.

Although they return experience in the post, their bigs are known more for their defense and rebounding than their scoring.

That leaves a bunch of youngsters to execute Coach Robinson's guard-based attack...and the result is likely to be similar to sending a squadron of unescorted Y-wings on a trench run.

To those lacking geek street cred, we're playing a bad team. They're young, can't shoot, and may very well be the worst opponent we face all year.

The venerable Kenpom gives Southern Utah a 1% chance of the upset...and that may be with some generous rounding.

Projected Starters:

C Jayson Cheesman(Sr), 6'11, 250 lbs, 8 ppg, 3 rpg, 1 bpg
F Jaren Jeffery(Sr), 6'8, 210 lbs, 2 ppg, 2 rpg
G AJ Hess(So), 6'6, 210 lbs, 8.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg
G Trey Kennedy(Fr), 6'3, 190 lbs, 11 ppg, 3.5 apg
G Chris Nsenski(Jr), 6'2, 180 lbs, 5.5 ppg, .5 apg

Bench:

F Casey Oliverson(So), 5.0 ppg, 6.5 rpg
G Juwan Major(Fr), 10.0 ppg, 2.0 rpg
C Cal Hanks(Jr)
G Race Parsons(Fr)
G McKay Anderson(Fr)
G John Marshall(Fr)

Cheesman anchors a defense that is designed to chase three-point shooters off the line. He's a solid rebounder and shot-blocking presence. Swingman AJ Hess played well last year as a true frosh and is one of their better returning three point shooters. Casey Oliverson has been a spark-plug off the bench as their best rebounder. Newcomers Kennedy, Nasinski, and Major have been providing the scoring. However, their shooting percentages correspond to their youth.


Key Matchups:

1) Kravish/Solo vs. the Thunderbird Bigs

After several games of stealing weed from halflings, our post players are going against a team that has some experience inside. It'll be a good barometer of how Kravish/Solo have developed offensively to see if they can dominate a couple of seniors known for playing tough interior defense.

2) Cobbs/Kreklow vs. the Training Staff

If Cal can assert themselves early, this is a good chance to rest Cobbs/Kreklow for the upcoming Maui Invitational. So far, our young players have shown that they're capable of running the team or at least bringing the ball up in Cobbs' absence.

3) Youth vs. Complacency

In some ways, this is a trap game. I think we're all starting to realize that this Golden Bears team could be special. But Monty is trying to teach his young players how to sustain focus, play hard, and avoid bad habits. It'll be nice if we're able to give extended minutes to our young bigs, Rooks and Moute a Bidias to see if we can develop some depth behind Kravish and Solo.

Go Bears!


Tip-Off: 8 pm
Television: Pac-12 Bay Area
Radio: KGO 810 AM

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