Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports
The stumblin' Utes are up next at Haas Pavilion as the sun sets on the final games of conference play. Utah's reconstruction projection remains a work in progress(11-15, 3-11), but there are enough signs of life from their young players to suggest this won't always be a near-guaranteed "W." Curiously all three of their conference wins have come against the middle of the league, not the cellar-dwellers. In fact, all three teams (UW, CU, ASU) managed to beat Cal. Although two of these wins were in Salt Lake, it's still a reminder not to take any opponent lightly.
The last time the Bears played them, it was a workman-like Cal victory fueled by solid defense and a hefty dose of Ute turnovers.
Since then, Cal has gotten much sharper on both ends. Utah has had a few moments, but remains one of the league-leaders in facepalm to play ratio. Playing at home and owning non-delusional aspirations of post-season play, this one should be all Bears.
C Jason Washburn(Sr), 6'10, 242 lbs, 11.7ppg, 6.7rpg
F Jordan Loveridge(Fr), 6'6, 230 lbs, 11.7ppg, 6.6rpg
G Jarred DuBois(Gs), 6'3, 172 lbs, 11.8ppg, 2.4rpg, 3.1apg
G Cedric Martin(Sr), 6'4, 203 lbs, 4.3ppg, 2.4rpg
G Glen Dean(Jr), 5'10, 170 lbs, 6.0ppg, 2.4apg
Our last preview can be found here:
Early in the year, it was all about Loveridge and DuBois carrying the show. During their better outings, they've remembered that they have a senior 7'er who has a good scoring touch in the paint. Washburn's career-high 26 points is what carried them to the upset over ASU. Even so, their offense remains the slowest and least effective in the Pac-12. Despite the low output, they are one of the better three-point shooting teams. Dean, Martin, DuBois, and Taylor all shoot a decent percentage. It doesn't happen very often, but their three upsets show that they're capable of getting hot. Either that, it just proves that even a blind elephant finds a peanut every now and then.
Lately, their freshmen have played well. Top recruit Loveridge has been solid inside all year. Olsen has steadily grown into a contributor as the season has progressed. Taylor has been a bit inconsistent, but he's been a spark plug in each of their conference wins.
Cal's Defense vs. the Utah Offense:
Even though Utah has a number of three point shooters, I think our new-look 3-2 zone is a good counter for their offense. It makes it hard for them to work it inside to Loveridge/Washburn. But, Kravish/Solo have the length to still challenge shots if they try to work it to outside shooters in the corners. Monty has been very clever with moving Crabbe around from either the point of the zone or the wing depending on where the other team lines up. Against Oregon, he kept Crabbe on the wing because the Ducks' point guard isn't much of a shooter. Against 'Zona, Crabbe was at the point of the zone and used his length to disrupt their offensive sets.
On the other hand, Utah's offense is usually so bad that Monty may just play straight up unless we get into foul trouble.
Cal's Offense vs. the Utah Defense:
The Bears were sluggish out of the gates the last time we played Utah. Crabbe started out cold and our bigs just couldn't finish inside. Now that we've switched to more of a perimeter and motion-based attack, I think that we'll be able to get better shots. Washburn is big, but not as mobile as Kravish/Solo. And their other bigs are true frosh. There should be plenty of opportunities off of dribble hand-offs and high screen action to set our guys up for open shots as long as we're patient.
As a nice switch, it'd be nice to reward the early-arriving diehards on a weekday evening with a great start.
Game Time: Thursday, February 28th, 6pm(PST)
Saturday, March 2nd, 2pm(PST)