When: 6:00 p.m. Pacific/9:00 p.m. Eastern
TV: Pac-12 Networks
Add it all up, and I suspect that this season will still be considered a success for Washington State. A year after finishing 11-20 (6-12), the Cougars are 15-13 (9-7) and have a decent chance of earning a spot in the WNIT if they can avoid a three game losing streak to end the regular season.
However, it's got to be tough to be fighting for a WNIT berth after starting the conference season 5-0 with an upset with over ASU and a cathartic sweep over rival Washington. Considering that four of those wins were at home and all were by 10 points or less, a correction was probably inevitable. Sure enough, Wazzu lost six of seven, and although a few wins late in the season have brought them back above .500, an NCAA bid is out of the question.
Washington State does have some talent, particularly at the guard spot with Lia Galdeira and Tia Presley. But they lack interior size and scoring, and it allows better teams to push them around inside. We saw that in spades when Cal played up north earlier this month.
Our Computer Overlords Predict
Sagarin Predictor: Cal by 9.7 points
I've probably said this before, but the computers are now almost certainly undervaluing our Bears. Of course, fans of every team think that their team improves over the course of the season. But Cal has pretty clearly gotten better, in large part because Gennifer Brandon is back, healthy, and fully integrated into the rotation. Here's some (admittedly simplistic) proof:
Point differential, first seven games of Pac-12 play: +2.86
Point differential, last nine games of Pac-12 play: +6.44
Granted, we're engaging in selective endpoints a bit. But Cal's schedule in the last nine games has been easily tougher than their earlier schedule - that +6.44 point differential includes two games against Stanford and the L.A. road trip.
Long story short: The computers say Cal is about a 10 point favorite, but it's probably more like 12 or 13.
Keys to the game
Repeat the first game with Washington State: Cal's victory in Pullman (when they were probably a roughly 3 point favorite) was one of their best wins of the year. Cal did almost everything right in a dominating 17 point win. It's simplistic to say ‘yeah, just do the same thing' because Wazzu will certainly have new wrinkles, but there's not much reason to change things up when you outrebound another team 52 to 24.
Make life miserable for Galdeira and Presley: Again, this was something Cal did pretty well in Pullman. Galdeira had a miserable day from the field and Presley was limited with foul trouble and didn't play as many minutes as Washington State needed. They combined for four points less than their season average, which is kind of a minimum the Cougars need to stay competitive.
This is like UCLA all over again - When you depend on 2 or 3 players so heavily, you need their max output just to stay close to a team like Cal. The Bears can still beat Washington State if Galdeira and Presley combined for 40+ points, but it would be much, much easier if they don't.
Foul them out again: Washington State is so lacking in interior size that they have a horrible choice to make: They can either let a talented post player roam free (like they did when Chiney scored 36 points on them) or they can try to stop you by fouling. They took the latter strategy against Cal and it came back to bite them. I expect that Washington State will have to make the same choice: Will they try to be physical with Reshanda and Gen and pick up a ton of fouls, or will they try to avoid foul trouble and let Cal's duo score at will inside?
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