Is Cal Men's Basketball Ready to Knock Down the Ducks?

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Cal fans and players alike shouldn't have any trouble getting fired up for this one. It's a road contest against a top-25 team. Dare we tempt fate and say that winning this one could have serious post-season implications for our sturdy Golden Bears? Then again, when push comes to shove, the same can be said for any game left on our schedule.

A few weeks ago in Haas Pavilion, the Bears staged an inspired second half comeback from eight down to pull off the upset. For a Cal team which had previously struggled with consistency, that victory acted as a turning point that has lead us to win five of our last six, including a monumental upset in Tucson.

After losing three straight, the Ducks bounced back with three more wins and still find themselves atop the Pac-12 standings.

They still keenly miss the presence of dynamic frosh Dominic Artis as their best ball-handler and three-point shooter. Although Johnathan Loyd brings experience to the table, he just doesn't offer the same type of scoring threat.

The Ducks are still a dangerous team that thrives in the open court. They love forcing turnovers and crashing the offensive glass. Usually, their potent offense is enough to counterbalance their relative lack of consistent three point shooting and tendency for coughing up the ball.

It's a deep and physical team who can't wait to hit us with their best shot. It remains to be seen whether our guys are ready to respond in kind.


Starters:

C Tony Woods(Sr), 6'11, 243 lbs, 9.7 ppg, 3.5 rpg
F EJ Singler(Sr), 6'6, 215 lbs, 11.8 ppg, 5.0 rpg
F Arsalan Kazemi(Sr), 6'7, 226 lbs, 8.8 ppg, 9.6 rpg
G Damyean Dotson(Fr), 6'5, 202 lbs, 11.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg
G Johnathan Loyd(Jr), 5'8, 165 lbs, 3.6 ppg, 2.5 apg


Bench:
F Carlos Emory(Sr), 6'5, 205 lbs, 10.4 ppg, 4.4 rpg
G Willie Moore(Fr), 6'3, 199 lbs, 2.5 ppg
F Ben Carter(Fr), 6'8, 219 lbs, 3.1 ppg
C Waverly Austin(Jr), 6'11, 270 lbs, 4.4 ppg, 3.1 rpg

Our last preview can be seen here.

Woods managed to avoid being suspended for a cheap-shot elbow thrown at WSU's Brock Motum last game. He, Kazemi, Emory, and Austin provide one of the better low post rotations in the league. Kazami is particularly adept at cleaning the glass. Dotson and Moore are athletic wings. Loyd is quick, but isn't as much of a scoring threat. Singler is their best all-around player and has a versatile offensive game. With Artis still out, he's arguably their best playmaker.

Keys to the Game:

1) Be physical.(but stay out of foul trouble)

Expect the Ducks to crash the boards with abandon. They're the deeper team and will be fired up by the home crowd. We have to be ready to match that level of physicality right out of the gate. When we've struggled, it's because we've let teams push us around. Solo, Kravish, and Thurman will have their hands full with Oregon's bigs. They have to remember the scouting report. Woods/Austin are more comfortable scoring in the paint. Emory is the one who can step outside. And, you have to keep a body on Kazemi at all times because he's their best rebounder.

2) Protect the ball and hustle back on D.

One of the keys to last game's upset was that our guys made a concerted effort to get back and play consistent transition defense. The Ducks aren't nearly as dangerous if you force them to play a half court game. In fact, the more passes they make, the more likely they are to turn it over. They've gotten better at playing without Artis, but are still better in the open court than they are at picking apart a set defense. Cal has a favorable backcourt matchup with Wallace/Cobbs/Smith against Loyd/Dotson/Moore. Loyd and Moore can't shoot at all, so the key here will be denying dribble penetration. Dotson is the guy not to lose on the perimeter as their 2nd-best three point shooter. Singler vs. Crabbe will be an interesting matchup. Crabbe is clearly the better scorer while Singler is also dangerous as a distributor. Because Singler is often the facilitator for their offense, it'll be important for Crabbe not to lose track of him. In fact, Singler's passing ability might give Monty second thoughts about playing too much zone.

3) Bring it.

Monty and the coaching staff figured out how to stop Oregon last time. More than X's and O's, it was an upset fueled by a team-wide effort. You've really got to hand it to Solo and Kravish for leading the way lately with their hustle and fire. It's going to take more of the same from everyone to pull off the road win.

Go Bears!

Game Time: Thursday, February 21, 6pm(PST)
TV: ESPNU
Radio: 910AM

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