Will Reshanda Gray be back on the court for the Bears, or will the coaching staff play it safe for another game? - Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE
As you prepare for the Super Bowl, would you rather watch talking heads blather about nothing, or would you rather watch the Bears race up and down the court in Oregon?
OK, I'll be honest. It could get a little ugly against Oregon. There's no way to sugarcoat this. The Ducks have had a rough year. They graduated a few of their best players, they've dealt with some serious injuries, and things just haven't gone as planned. The Ducks are 3-17 with an RPI of 272.* Two of their three wins came by two points or less. Both RealtimeRPI and the Sagarin Predictor says that the Bears are roughly 30 point favorites. From a computer ratings perspective, this is like another game against CSU Bakersfield.
*As an aside, Cal's RPI will fall today regardless of the result. Stanford finally fell out of 1st in the RPI because of the strength of schedule hit from playing Oregon.
Only four Oregon players have participated in all 20 games, but 14 players have played some amount of significant minutes, which gives you an idea of the insane amount of injuries the Ducks have faced.
To make things more grisly, Cal matches up really well with Oregon. Most teams in the Pac-12 try to slow the Bears down, clog the lane, prevent transition baskets and generally muck up the flow of the game. But you won't get that from the Guru of Go, even when it's in Paul Westhead's best interests to slow things down. Pushing the pace is why Oregon has some ugly losses on their schedule, like a 100-68 loss to Arizona.
If the Bears are on their game today, they could get up into the 90s. This game probably won't offer much excitement in terms of drama, but it should offer plenty of entertainment in terms of points, action, and lack of defense - at least, for Oregon.
The Ducks are at or near the bottom of the conference in nearly every single major statistical category, most crucially points scored and points allowed per possession. They turn the ball over on more than a quarter of their offensive possessions, and they struggle to shoot the ball. Oddly, one of their relative strengths is rebounding, though they're not in the same league with Cal, so Oregon's one potential strength should be nullified.
Player to watch
Jillian Alleyne: If there's been one bright spot amidst a horrible season, it's been the play of Alleyne, a true freshman. The 6'3'' forward has been Oregon's best player by a wide margin, and her raw rebounding ability might arguably challenge Gennifer Brandon and Chiney Ogwumike for best in the conference. We'll get a sense this weekend if she's ready to compete with the best the Pac-12 has to offer inside, but anybody averaging a double-double in just 30 minutes of floor time, even accounting for Westhead inflation, is worth watching out for.
Keys To The Game
Don't get too worried if Oregon scores a few baskets in transition. A major part of Oregon's scheme is racing out in transition to get behind the defense. It'll happen a few times, and Oregon will get some easy baskets. But I'm guessing something else will happen more often: Cal will secure an offensive rebound and put it back for an easy two points. True, most teams struggle to stop Cal from getting offensive rebounds no matter what they do. But Oregon practically doesn't try. Last year Cal had 28 offensive rebounds in one game. Cal pulled down 61% of their missed shots. Perhaps, with Alleyne down low, this year will be a little different.
Beat Oregon at their own game. As I mentioned above, the Ducks love to score in transition. But so do our Bears. If Cal outscores Oregon on fast break baskets, this game won't be close. Get ready to see lots of Boyd, Clarendon & company racing around the court, whipping passes back and forth. When our posts pull down rebounds, how quickly can they get the guards the ball as they race back on offense? It's going to be fun to watch a team taken of the leash after weeks of playing against teams that try to destroy fun basketball.