Previewing Colorado: Cal Men's Basketball Takes Its Last Stand

Ezra Shaw

Can the Bears close out Senior Day with a win?

The Colorado Buffaloes were ranked and rampaging before their star point guard, Spencer Dinwiddie, was lost for the season with an ACL injury. They lost four of their next five games without him before battling their way to a 10-7 conference campaign and a tie for 3rd in the Pac-12.

Coach Tad Boyle has quietly done one of the best jobs in the league since taking over four years ago. Almost on par with Oregon State's infamous 1-2-2 zone, Boyle's defenses have consistently given Mike Montgomery fits.

The Buffaloes are incredibly disciplined with their close-outs and play excellent defense by moving their feet. They rarely surrender layups or uncontested shots in the paint. As a trade-off, their emphasis on protecting the interior means that good ball movement can create open shots at the three point line.

With defense as their calling card, the Buffs try to hang around and hope to generate enough offense when it counts. They're not a good shooting team and are prone to struggling in the half court. They do have a solid one-two punch with Josh Scott down low and Askia Booker on the perimeter.

This one is unlikely to be an exhibition of beautiful offensive basketball. Expect an ugly grind-it-out game, and let's just hope that our sturdy Golden Bears can ride the home crowd to victory.


Projected Starters:
F Josh Scott(So), 6'10, 245 lbs, 14.6 ppg, 8.7 rpg
F Xavier Johnson(So), 6'7, 220 lbs, 11.7 ppg, 6.0 rpg
F Dustin Thomas(Fr), 6'7, 220 lbs, 4.0 ppg, 2.7 rpg
G Askia Booker(Jr), 6'2, 170 lbs, 14.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg
G Xavier Talton(So), 6'2, 180 lbs, 4.4 ppg, 1.7 apg


Bench:
F Wesley Gordon(Fr), 6'9, 225 lbs, 6.2 ppg, 6.1 rpg
G Eli Stalzer(So), 6'3, 190 lbs, 1.7 ppg,
G Jaron Hopkins(Fr), 6'5, 190 lbs, 5.3 ppg, 2.4 rpg

With Dinwiddie out for the year, Josh Scott has emerged as Colorado's best player. Highly touted out of high school, he put on twenty pounds of muscle in the off-season and has turned himself into a consistent force in the low post.

Xavier Johnson is a combo forward who is more of a wiry athlete than a pure bruiser. He's got an inside-outside game and can step out as a stretch four when Colorado goes small.

Dustin Thomas was moved into the starting lineup in attempt to spread the floor with his shooting ability.

Askia Booker has struggled at times to carry the team's perimeter game without Dinwiddie. He's a strong defender, but his jumpshot has been streaky.

Xavier Talton plays defense and has a decent outside shot. But he's nowhere in Dinwiddie's league as a playmaker.

Wesley Gordon started for most of the year, but has been moved to the bench in favor of Thomas. He's a better rebounder and shot-blocker. However, his offensive game is more limited.

Hopkins is their designated three-point shooter off the bench.


Keys:

1) Show up and be watchable

You'd think that after doing film review on the '13 Cal Football team write-ups for basketball would have been a welcome relief. In its own way, this has been a really tough season to cover. It gets old writing "effort, energy, and focus" each week. Previously, I thought the stinker at 'sc had been the low point. Having just let an undersized and generally poor offensive rebounding Ute team dominate us, there is now competition for level zero. Give Cal fans a reason to show up, to watch, and to cheer. Please.

2) Check their stars

It sounds simple enough. Lock down Scott and Booker and force the rest of their team to beat us. Kravish and Solomon have generally been solid inside defensively. We've not been as good at locking down a hot perimeter player. Although they have players capable of making shots, the percentages say that they're unlikely to sustain a scoring outburst.

3) Win the turnover battle and the transition game

With both teams capable of prolonged struggles on offense, easy baskets may very well be the tipping point.

4) Unleash our inner Buffalo

Offensive struggles are practically a given against Colorado. We can't let that affect our defense. The Buffs are always a tough out because they will guard you whether their shots are falling or not. We have to be mentally prepared to match that type of effort.

5) Shot selection

This one is a bit tricky. Normally, conventional wisdom calls for a number of passes and ball reversals to get a better shot. Against Colorado's stout defense, early shots on the secondary break might be the best looks we get. That's not to say we settle on isos, step-backs, and contested threes early in the clock. But, we need to find a blend between taking the open shot and being patient enough with our offense to find a higher percentage look. T


Go Bears!


Tip-Off: Saturday, March 8th, 3pm
Television: Pac-12 Network
Radio: KGO 810 AM

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