When: 2:00 pm
TV: Pac-12 Networks
This is a biggie. Not necessarily because beating Wazzu would make a big difference for Cal's resume, but because this is a high-risk, low-reward game. If Cal wins, they won't rise in the Pac-12 standings or increase their chances of a good March Madness seed. They'll merely maintain their current place in the basketball hierarchy. But a loss will be damaging to Pac-12 and March placement.
There are plenty of games like that on any team's schedule, but most of those games don't have a high potential to end up as a loss. This game has that potential.
The Cougars are a mediocre team. They have suffered some very bad road losses. But they're much better in Pullman, where weary teams have to brave long bus rides and awful weather. Washington State has only lost four games at home this year, and three of those losses have come to top 25 teams in close games. They pushed Syracuse and Stanford to the brink and are they only Pac-12 team to beat ASU other than Stanford. This is almost certain to be another close, tense, stressful game.
Wazzu's improvement has mostly been due to the guard duo of Lia Galdeira and Tia Presley, who combine to average 36 points/game, but they've received solid contributions from Sage Romberg and Shalie Dheenshaw.
Interestingly, WSU reminds me quite a bit of the Washington team Cal just faced. They rely on two guards who will launch shots from anywhere, they take care of the basketball on offense, they want to push the pace, and they struggle to control the paint.
Our Computer Overlords Predict
Sagarin Predictor: Cal by 2.71
Keys to the game
Dominate in the paint - Amongst Pac-12 teams, only Arizona struggles to rebound more than Washington State. After dominating on the glass late in the game against Washington, Cal needs to bring that same aggressive mentality for the entire game against the Cougars.
If you watched Stanford play Wazzu, you saw a team that had absolutely no chance against Chiney Ogwumike, who scored 36 points. Washington State has one above average true interior player in Shalie Dheenshaw, but she's also very foul prone. It's time for Reshanda Gray to assert her dominance and show Chiney that anything she can do, Reshanda can match.
Getting out on three point shooters - Despite their high percentage, I thought Cal did as well as they could reasonably have done on Washington's Jazmine Davis and Kelsey Plum - the duo just hit some really tough shots. Where Cal failed was in getting out on forward Talia Walton. Cal had interior players guarding her, and those player don't like to drift out to the perimeter on defense.
Washington State has their own forward who can and will hit three pointers in Sage Romberg. It's absolutely essentially that the Bears don't make the same mistake they did against Walton when Romberg drifts out to take a three. Again, I'd like to see Courtney Range out to guard her with her size and agility.
Ball control - Washington State's one above average defensive skill is forcing turnovers. Cal struggled with that issue against Washington, though it didn't have much to do with UW's defense. It's all about focus, making composed decisions, and being ready for a crazy Brittany Boyd no-look behind-the-back pass at any second.
OK, that 2nd part might be tough. But if Cal can keep Wazzu from disrupting their offense it will keep Cal scoring and prevent the Cougs from getting out in transition. 20 Oski nickels says that the Cougs have trouble scoring on Cal's half court defense.