Will Cal Men's Basketball Beat Stanford for the Pac-12 Title?

Stephen Dunn

Saddle up, Cal fans. It's Senior Day, and your tournament-bound Bears need to defeat Stanford for a chance at winning the conference title. Brandon Smith, Robert Thurman, and Bak Bak will all play their final home games in a Cal uniform. After falling in a sloppy game down on the Farm, this Cal team has rebuilt itself on a foundation of toughness and defense. Stanford, on the other hand, remains inconsistent. Either Coach Dawkins asks their fan for game planning advice, or the walk-throughs are scheduled at 8:30am and no one shows up.

The Cardinal offense is a bit odd. Although they're the worst-shooting team in the conference from inside the arc, they're also the best three-point shooting team. They have plenty of size, but appear to have lost focus as they no longer dominate the boards on a regular basis.

Stanford does have talent and are capable of being a dangerous opponent when everything is clicking. They're also quite capable of showing their overrated "education" to the world by trying to dunk it as time expires.

If our team shows up from the opening whistle and plays with the intensity shown during our winning streak, this one should be ours for the taking. At home, on Senior Day, and with a chance at the conference title? I think the guys will be ready to play.


Starters:
F Andy Brown(Sr), 6'7, 215 lbs
F Josh Huestis(Jr), 6'7, 230 lbs
F Dwight Powell(Jr), 6'10, 235 lbs
G Chasson Randle(So), 6'1, 180 lbs
G Aaron Bright(Jr), 5'11, 178 lbs


Bench:
F/C Jon Gage(Jr), 6'10, 235 lbs
C Stefan Nastic(So), 6'11, 245 lbs
F Rosco Allen(Fr), 6'9, 215 lbs
G Robbie Lemons(Jr), 6'3, 205 lbs
G Christian Sanders(Fr), 6'4, 185 lbs
G Gabriel Harris(Sr), 6'2, 190 lbs

Our last preview can be found here:

Dwight Powell remains their most versatile player and toughest match-up. He has great size and athleticism around the basket, but can also step out to the three point line. In some ways his inconsistency is emblematic of their team. Chasson Randle has really stepped up his game and is their most dangerous shooter. Considering he was only hitting 25% from deep earlier in the year, the fact that he's now shooting 36% tells you how hot he's been lately. Aaron Bright's shooting touch has remained streaky. I still wouldn't leave him open. Huestis is their best defender, shot-blocker and hustle player. Andy Brown is good at running into people. By percentage, Gage is their best three point shooter. He hit four from downtown against us last game. Coach Dawkins uses either a Magic 8Ball or a psychic octopus to parse out playing time to his bench. They have plenty of depth, but their productivity is as inconsistent as their rotation.


Match-ups:

Cal's Defense vs. the Stanford Offense:

I fully expect Monty to drink Johnny Dawkins' milkshake here. Now that the guys have bought in to what the coaches have been preaching all year, our defense has become a joy to watch. In particular, our closeouts on shooters have improved tremendously; you'll see guys staying on the ground and using better footwork. We've also gotten much better at helping on dribble penetration while maintaining our positioning and rotations. Stanford likes to shoot a lot of threes, so our perimeter defense will be key. We'll switch defenses from zone to man and back just to mess with Dawkins' head. Because the Cardinal tends to shoot more threes from the top, expect to see Crabbe playing the point of our 3-2 zone to use his length to bother Randle and Bright. The one x-factor here is foul trouble. Stanford is a good foul shooting team and has a significant depth advantage.

Cal's Offense vs. the Stanford Defense:

Crabbe will have his hands full again with a tough defender. Huestis will try to do what Roberson did last game and make it very difficult for Crabbe to get any clean looks. We have favorable match ups at the guard spots with Cobbs and Wallace against Randle and Bright. Neither of their guards should be able to check ours. We just need to pick our spots and remember not to settle for early jumpers. When we played Stanford last time, our bigs had opportunities, but really struggled to convert inside. I fully expect Solomon, Kravish, and Thurman to play much better this time around. Despite their abundance of homely post players, the Cardinal doesn't block a lot of shots nor do they force a lot of turnovers. If we can match their physical play, we have better scorers. Simple as that.

Go Bears!

Game Time: Wednesday, March 6th, 8pm(PST)
TV: ESPN2
Radio: 910AM

***There will be a pre-game beer garden and pre-game food trucks!***

And if this doesn't get you fired up, pop a baby aspirin and check your pulse.


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