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Cal vs. Arizona Preview - Setting Up the Saturday Showdown?

Well I don’t know about everybody else, but boy am I pumped about this game! It’s pretty exciting that Cal is playing at home on Saturday for the Pac-10 championship against the team tied with the Bears in the loss column…wait, what? There’s another game before then? Against a team that already beat Cal once? Well that…that sounds like a horrible idea!

As a Cal fan, the Arizona matchup scares me in ways both rational and irrational. Rationally, Arizona already beat Cal and Derrick Williams didn’t even have a spectacular game. Cal didn’t have a defensive answer for Nic Wise. These are normal reasons to be afraid. Irrationally, this is just the type of game that emotionally crippled Cal fans expect to lose. The Golden Bear athletic program doesn’t get into many championship deciding games because Cal loses before to prevent them from happening. Think losing to

Stanford and Oregon St.
twice in 2009 and finishing three games out. Think about football losing to Arizona in 2006 or
Oregon St.
in 2007.

But let’s get back to the rational. A number of things went wrong for Cal in their previous loss to the Wildcats. Jerome Randle shot 1-8 from three. Patrick Christopher shot 26% from the field. Jamal Boykin only scored 2 points. Jorge Gutierrez was still recovering from injury and was clearly limited on defense, helping allow Nic Wise to go for 30 points. And despite all that the Bears still only lost by 4 on the road. If only one of those four players had a better game perhaps Cal wins in Tucson. Now the Bears are at home, mostly healthy, with plenty of motivation against a suddenly struggling Arizona team. All of this equals a win, right? *Must suppress Old Blue pessimism!*

Let's take another look at Arizona and see what Cal can do to head into Saturday's showdown with some positive momentum.

Kenpom sez: Cal wins, 82-70, 87% confidence

Oeff Deff Tempo eFG Opp. eFG ORB Opp. ORB TOV Opp. TOV FT/FGA Opp. FT/FGA
Cal 118.5 (6) 95.3 (84) 69.8 (71) 52.7 (42) 48.0 (135) 35.3 (81) 30.7 (87) 18.1 (50) 19.4 (232) 35.9 (221)

35.3 (125)

AZ 106.6 (97) 95.6 (90) 68.8 (102) 49.5 (137) 48.0 (134) 29.6 (279) 30.9 (94) 20.1 (146) 18.3 (292) 44.3 (44) 37.8 (182)

That's a pretty clear across the board advantage. Arizona has one obvious advantage with their ability to get to the line, but beyond that Cal has an insignificant-to-medium sized lead in every category. What do all of these numbers really say? They show that the difference between Cal and Arizona is that Cal's offense is pretty efficient and Arizona's isn't, and you can see this mostly in the field goal efficiency (eFG) column but also the offensive rebounding (ORB) and turnovers (TOV). The numbers say we should win, for what that's worth.

Alpha Dog: Derrick Williams. You may note that Williams and Nic Wise score about the same amount of points per game. The difference is that Williams gets his points more efficiently and he does a better job of getting to the line. Want to know how to beat Arizona? Don't let him shoot! Arizona's last two games vs. Oregon St. and Arizona St. were both losses. Williams shot a collective 77% from the field. Arizona lost because he only took 6 and 7 shots respectively in each game. Jamal Boykin and Omondi Amoke will have their hands full.

Don't let this guy do what he did to us last time: Nic Wise. But the main reason Cal lost to Arizona? Wise went off for 30 points. For reference, his season high in a Pac-10 game besides Cal? 19 points against Oregon. Wise scored 24 of his 30 points from the line (9-9) or from three (5-8). I'm praying that a fully healed Jorge shuts down Wise on the drive and hassles him around the perimeter.

What are your keys to the game Cal fans? Also, don't say your keys to the game out loud - you've got to save your voice. Are we ready to make some noise for The Sports Leader?