Cal Might Finally Defeat the Nevada Wolfpack

Ezra Shaw

If the words "Nevada" and "Wolf Pack" don't automatically make you cringe, you haven't been a Cal fan for the past few years.

Fortunately, we're not going to see Richard Solomon try to crush a running back while Kravish lets a quarterback run past him and the rest of the team down the sidelines. I guarantee it.

For the past two previews, I've striven to use all the editorial integrity at my disposal to assure you that UC Irvine and UC Santa Barbara are credible opponents.

I'm afraid that there's really no way to sugar-coat the fact that this Nevada team just isn't very good. They went 12-19 last year and this was before losing their leading scorer, best three point shooter, and essentially their entire front court.

I cannot confirm rumors that they filled the empty roster spots by advertising with coupons at the Silver Legacy. However, four JC transfers did enroll for this year.

Right now, the team is essentially Deonte Burton and the Pips. Or for the non-vintage crowd, Deonte is Justin Timberlake and he's carrying a less talented version of 'NSync. Much less talented. Like you know those folks which get cut during the first round of American Idol? Start there and round down.

Their front court deficiencies really show up defensively; they're allowing opponents to shoot an eFG% of 55.4% while also allowing an offensive rebounding rate of 34.4%.

On the other end, Burton alone makes their offense credible. It's a guard-based attack with the other two starting swingmen both averaging double digits albeit with questionable efficiency.

This should be a game where our sturdy Golden Bears can get just about any shot they want and should dominate inside. Just like against the Oakland Grizzlies...yeah. If you see some of the guys wearing bandages on their ears during warm-ups, it's because Monty's been blistering them non-stop in practice.

Fact is, after stumbling in Maui and face-planting in Santa Barbara, we need this one to re-build our confidence.


Projected Starters:

F/C Ronnie Stevens, Jr.(Jr), 6'8, 230 lbs
F Cole Huff(So), 6'8, 205 lbs
G Jerry Evans, Jr.(Sr), 6'8, 210 lbs
G Michael Perez(Jr), 6'3, 190 lbs
G Deonte Burton(Sr), 6'1, 190 lbs, 23.6 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.5 apg


Bench:

G Michael Coleman(So), 6'3, 185 lbs
F Cheikh Alioune Fall(Sr), 6'9, 250 lbs
G D.J. Fenner(Fr), 6'6, 205 lbs

Stevens starts because they need someone big at the tip. Otherwise, he doesn't play heavy minutes. Huff has been there best inside scorer and rebounder. However, he's still young and a work in progress. JC transfer Cheikh Alioune Fall is actually their most physical post player and is known for attacking the offensive glass. Perez is one of their few players who is a threat to hit from deep while Evans is more of a swingman. Coleman is an athletic slasher off the bench. Burton was considered a rising star after his sophomore campaign before slumping a bit last year. He's a legitimate honors candidate. Although he's their best outside shooter, he's probably most dangerous driving into the paint to get himself to the line or finish. He's definitely more of a scoring point, although his assist numbers may be down because of his lack of support.


Key Matchups:

1) Check Deonte Burton

After going against a couple of teams that like to work inside-out, it's a good exercise to face a team with a star perimeter player. Since Burton handles it so much, it'll be hard for Cal to keep the ball out of his hands. We've had issues at times denying dribble penetration as well as remembering to stay home on a hot outside shooter. It would be nice to see if Cobbs and the younger guards are up to the challenge defensively.

2) Mental Toughness, Effort, and Fundamentals

This is a game where our guys might get away with lackadaisical play and still out-athlete their way to a win. And, we absolutely can't see that. We lost in Santa Barbara by being out-worked, out-hustled, and out-played. If this team has any player leadership at all (looking hard at you, JCobbs, and Solo), it's time to step up and set an example. Block out the free throw shooter. Don't go under screens. Fight for those loose balls. If your shot isn't falling, don't hang your head; find other ways to win. That's the difference between a tourney team and the NIT.

3) Finish

Inexplicably, we had a relapse to early last season when our bigs just couldn't finish around the basket. Since our outside shooting seems to be streaky, we need to be able to count on our transition game and interior scoring. Considering the opposition tends to be shaky with their post defense, this should be a good opportunity to rebuild some confidence.

This team has potential, but still has a ways to go if we're going to make a run at the Pac-12.


Go Bears!


Tip-Off: 8 pm
Television: Pac-12 Network
Radio: 810 AM

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