#6 Cal At #15 UCLA: Repreviewing The Bruins

Markel Walker and the Bruins won't want to feel like this again. - Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

Cal is playing for a Pac-12 championship . . but so are the Bruins. Can they avenge their January loss as Haas?

After two weeks at home against teams in the bottom half of the Pac-12 standings, what might end up being the defining weekend of the regular season has arrived.

The Bears have headed south to face the 15th ranked (#12 RPI) Bruins, and I'm worried. Just look at some of the performances UCLA has had since they lost to Cal in Berkeley:

16 point win vs. Arizona
4 point win vs. ASU
16 point win vs. Colorado
28 point win vs. Utah
4 point win at Washington
15 point win at WSU

Sure, there are some close calls in there. The Bruins played with fire against ASU and Washington. But UW is a good team and UCLA was on the road, and the Bruins also completely took apart a Colorado team that I greatly respect, and blew out Utah and Arizona. They're on a roll right now.

The question is, how confident are you feeling based on Cal's earlier win over UCLA? On one hand, a five point margin is hardly decisive, and is roughly eliminated when you consider the switch in home court advantage. On the other hand, Cal built up a double digit lead late in the 2nd half before the traditionally flurry of missed free throws made the final score look closer than the game really was.

If you believe our computer overlords, UCLA might actually be a slight favorite. Realtime RPI actually predicts a 69-64 UCLA win, while the Sagarin Predictor makes Cal a .22 point favorite. I think Sagarin's methodology is significantly stronger than Realtime RPI, but it will all be moot once the teams take the court.

I think it's important to point out that losing this game would only be devastating in terms of its impact on Cal's conference title chances. UCLA is a really good team, and if they beat Cal they would probably ascend into the RPI top 10. Those types of losses don't hurt your NCAA tournament seed and they shouldn't incite panic amongst the fanbase that a team isn't ready for March.

Ah, but the Pac-12 title. The dream of knocking off Stanford, or at least forcing them into the indignity of kissing their sibling across the bay is just as enticing, if not more so, than tournament success. Whatever happens on Friday night, the entire Cal fanbase should become the biggest UCLA fans on the planet for two hours on Sunday. With all due respect to Washington, the possibility of a non-split conference title likely depends on the results this weekend.

If you'd like more info on UCLA's personnel, check out CGB's preview of the first matchup. Let's dive right into the numbers:

Tempo Free Chart

Cal

UCLA

Advantage

Cal eFG% vs. UCLA eFG% Def.

45.8 (76)

36.9 (87)

C

Cal eFG% Def vs. UCLA eFG%

38.0 (144)

45.3 (84)

U

Cal Off TOV vs. UCLA Def. TOV

19.9 (34)

25.0 (82)

C

Cal Def. TOV vs. UCLA Off TOV

25.0 (82)

24.3 (208)

CC

Cal RB% vs. UCLA RB%

59.8 (3)

55.3 (27)

C

Cal FT Rate Off vs. UCLA FT Rate Def

15.3 (115)

18.9 (220)

CC

Cal FT Rate Def vs. UCLA FT Rate Off

17.1 (122)

15.7 (95)

U

Cal PPPO vs. UCLA PPPD

.99 (23)

.807 (72)

C

Cal PPPD vs. UCLA PPPO

.787 (51)

.929 (68)

C


It's important to point out that, for all of the praise I've heaped on UCLA above: Cal is still the better team. They have a stronger statistical profile despite having played identically tough schedules.

I think I've pointed this out before, but these two teams have really similar statistical profiles. It's mostly just that Cal is a little bit better. Both teams force lots of turnovers, but Cal does a much better job of not turning it over right back. UCLA rebounds the ball at an excellent level, Cal rebounds at an elite level. Both teams are OK at getting to the line, Cal does a better job preventing the other team from getting there too. You get the idea.

Things To Do/Not Do Again

Do again: Hold UCLA at or below 40% from the field. For Cal, it's all about field goal defense. At times it's been great (at Stanford). At other times, not so great (vs. Arizona). UCLA has the talent to light it up from the field. Cal has the ability to stop them from doing that. If UCLA shoots similarly or worse than their first meeting, then the Bears stand a great chance to escape with a win.

Don't do again: Turn the ball over 18 times. Cal has really been a good ball handling team this year. But against UCLA, turnovers kept things closer than they perhaps should have been. To be fair, forcing turnovers is really what UCLA tried to do defensively. But it's been pointed out that Brittany Boyd hasn't had her best games against the Bruins. This would be the perfect game for her to break out with a virtuoso performance. The burden of preventing turnovers is hardly Boyd's alone, but her play in many ways dictates what happens on offense. On a side note - she needs to stay on the court. No unnecessary fouls.

Do again: Get to the line a lot. Don't again: Miss half of them. As the chart above indicates, UCLA fouls a lot. Cal is a team that can draw lots of fouls. As a result, the Bears attempted 25 free throws and only made 13 the first time. Now, those 13 points were pretty important in what turned out to be a 5 point win. But there's no guarantee that Cal will get as many opportunities from the line at Pauley.

For whatever reason (probably random chance) Cal has had some of their better free throw shooting games when they needed them the most, and their poor games have tended to allow an over matched team to stick around. Free throw shooting hasn't been the cause of a Cal loss yet. Let's hope it doesn't happen tonight.

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