After dispatching the Colonials Cal continues its tour of teams-with-weird-Americana-nicknames with the Austin Peay Governors. Why the Governors? Because the university’s namesake was a beloved former Democratic governor of Tennessee known for his support of education funding.
The Governors play in the Ohio Valley Conference, a generally weak conference that nonetheless has a recent history of producing a couple of pretty solid teams at the top. Cal fans will fondly remember the Murray State Racers that came to Berkeley in 2009 and lost before pulling off an NCAA upset. Morehead State did the same last year. This year Austin Peay is hoping to do the same, and they were even picked to win the conference in the pre-season poll of coaches.
However the season got off to a rough start with a 9 point road loss to Middle Tennessee. But then again, Middle Tennessee beat Loyola Marymount, so let’s all laugh at UCLA.
Last year Austin Peay finished 2nd in the OVC but couldn’t get past 3rd place Morehead State in the conference tournament. Still, it was a solid 20 win season and the Governors return nearly every single rotation player, including four starters, which is why expectations are high this year for longtime coach (and Austin Peay athletic director!) Dave Loos.
Our computer overlords predict: Cal 82, Austin Peay 67, 88% confidence
Forcing turnovers – Even in a losing effort to Middle Tennessee the Governors forced 20 turnovers, and they forced nearly 17 turnovers a game. This will be an excellent test for Brandon Smith and Justin Cobbs, particularly after Cal’s rough ball-handling stretch to start the game against George Washington
Crashing the offensive glass – Austin Peay doesn’t have a ton of height, but they have a few players with a nose for the ball, particularly forward Will Triggs
and center John Fraley (Ed - Fraley is out tonight due to a concussion suffered in the season opener). Cal, of course, was great at securing the defensive glass last year and has continued to do so through two games in 2011. This will be a stiffer challenge for Solomon, Kamp and Kravish.
Taking care of the ball – While Austin Peay is adept at forcing turnovers, they give the ball back at nearly the same rate. Cal’s defense under Monty has never been big on forcing a ton of turnovers, but a 5 steal game from Jorge wouldn’t be a surprise against a team with sloppy ball-handling.
Giving up open shots – Teams tend to shoot a pretty high percentage against the Governors, which makes sense. When you’re working hard to trap and force turnovers, it’s going to lead to open looks when the opponent passes the ball well. Based on descriptions I’ve read, a decent comparison might be Oregon State’s variety of zone defense looks – Loos has a video on how to implement a matchup 2-1-2 zone. Hopefully Cal manages Austin Peay’s zone looks just as well as they did against the Beavers last year.