When: 3:00 pm PT
TV: Pac-12 Network
The biggest storyline for today's game is whether or not Cal will have the services of Gennifer Brandon and Justine Hartman after the pair sat out both games in Washington D.C. with various ailments. Without both players Cal has a perilously thin frontline rotation that means no game can be taken for granted. I would hope that Gen is feeling fully hale and hearty after two weeks of rest, but who knows? I haven't found any tidbit of news to indicate if either player will be available.
You might recall that Cal played Northwestern last year in Evanston. You might further recall that Northwestern brought 5,000 screaming children to the 9:00 am Pacific start time, and actually led for significant portions of the game before Cal held on late for a narrow six point win.
The team that pushed Cal to the limit on the road last year won't look very similar to the team Cal will face today. Of the five players who scored seven points or more last year, only one is likely to be on the floor. Kendall Hackney, Dannielle Diamant, and Kate Popovec have all graduated, while junior point guard Karly Roser has missed the entire season with an injury that seems likely to keep her out again against Cal.
That means that sophomore forward Lauren Douglas is one of the few names Cal fans might recognize from last year. And when a sophomore is one of your more experienced players, that means you're a pretty young team. Sure enough, out of Northwestern's six main rotation players, there are three freshmen, two sophomores, one junior, and no seniors.
And yet, despite all that, the Wildcats are 4-0 to start the season. Are they surviving because the six main players are quite talented? That's entirely possible, but it's worth noting that Northwestern has played four home games, all against small conference schools that finished below .500 last year. The schedule has been pretty weak, and so it's really hard to draw conclusions. But last year, Northwestern went 5-11 in the Big-10, and then lost their best contributors. It seems likely that they will perform similarly in the Big-10 this year.
Having said that, it's worth noting that Northwestern brought in a pretty solid recruiting class. Nia Coffey and Christen Inman are both top 100 recruits, and both are the top two scorers for the Wildcats. Coffey in particular has been very impressive in the early going. She's averaging 18 points and 8 rebounds per game in just 27 minutes of gametime. She has been foul prone, so hopefully Cal's posts can give her a rude freshman welcome.