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Cal vs. Missouri Preview & Gamethread + Q&A With RockMNation

When: 7:00 pm PT, depending on when ND/Georgia wraps up
Radio: KNEW 910
StreamESPN3 + check comments

Welcome to the big time, Cal fans.  Tonight’s game against Missouri in the CBE Final is a marquee match-up, and a win in what is a virtual road game might be the best win of the Montgomery era.  Cal has played plenty of top 25 teams in Monty’s brief tenure, but victory has been elusive, especially against non Pac-10 teams.  Missouri, Syracuse, Ohio St., Notre Dame, San Diego St., Kansas – all top 25 teams, all defeats*.

Granted, there were extenuating circumstances for most of those losses. Some came with key players injured.  The last three came during last season’s early rebuilding process. But the simple fact remains: Cal hasn't beaten a team that finished the season in Kenpom’s top 25 since 2009, and they haven’t done it against a non-conference opponent in . . . ever? This would be the best non-conference win in something like a decade.

But. This also might be the best Cal team in much more than a decade.  A win tonight would be a big step in proving that hypothesis. Missouri looked dominant in dispatching Notre Dame, but Cal looked nearly as good against Georgia. The humans and the computers more or less agree – these are two excellent teams playing tonight.

Hit the jump for CGB’s preview, the Q&A with Bill from RockMNation (Thanks Bill!), and your gamethread.  Go Bears!

Kenpom says: #12 Missouri 76, #13 Cal 74 – 59% confidence.

Kenpom classifies this game as a ‘semi-home’ game for Missouri, which is basically the only reason Missouri is favored in a game that would be a virtual coin-flip on a neutral court.  On to the tempo-free chart!  For those unfamiliar with the stats being referenced, check out this excellent primer from Cougcenter.


Cal Rank

Mizzou Rank


Cal eFG% v. Mizzou Def eFG%




Cal Def eFG% v.  Mizzou  eFG%




Cal TO% v.  Mizzou  Def TO%




Cal Def TO% v.  Mizzou  TO%




Cal OReb% v.  Mizzou  DReb%




Cal DReb% v.  Mizzou  OReb%




Cal FTR v.  Mizzou  Opp FTR




Cal Opp FTR v.  Mizzou A FTR




Cal AdjO v.  Mizzou  AdjD




Cal AdjD v.  Mizzou  AdjO


















The first thing you need to know:  I was tempted to use last year’s stats because after just four games for both teams against generally sub-standard competition, the above numbers really don’t carry a ton of weight.  For example, I think Cal’s free throw rate is likely to get much better, and Cal’s defensive eFG% is likely to rise when they have more games against teams that don’t have horrible shooting slumps.  But last year’s rankings wouldn’t necessarily be any more accurate, so we’ll go with this.  Just be sure to take it with a big grain of salt.

Cal and Missouri actually have similar offensive and defensive efficiencies, but they get there in different ways.  For Cal it’s all about getting off a good shot and forcing the opponent to take just one bad shot.  For Missouri it’s about overwhelming the opposition with quickness and pace – on both ends of the floor.

The best comparison that most Cal fans will understand is Lorenzo Romar’s Washington.  Like the Huskies, Missouri will space the floor with four guards and just one true post player.  Last year rebounding was a huge problem for Missouri, but a lack of size inside hasn't hindered them on the boards yet this year.  Notre Dame was a team that was supposed to be able to exploit Missouri’s lack of size but the Irish managed just five offensive rebounds.  I’m not sure Cal is in a better position to crash the offensive boards.

Mostly, Missouri has been shooting the nets off.  The Tigers have barely turned the ball over and they've shot extremely well from all over the court, and when you do that it hardly matters that you can’t get offensive rebounds – there won’t be many available anyway!

I’m expecting the game will be decided based on how well Cal deals with Missouri’s quickness.  If the Bears do a good job of staying in front of the Tigers in transition and on defense, and if our triumvirate of ball-handlers deal will with their defensive pressure, Cal can get the win.  But for more info on Missouri let’s turn to RockMNation:

1.  Who is the #1 person on offense and the #1 person on defense for the Tigers that Cal fans should know about?

Mizzou is very much driven on both sides of the ball by their backcourt. Marcus Denmon is a prolific, efficient scorer, while Denmon, Phil Pressey, Mike Dixon and Matt Pressey have all been outstanding in terms of perimeter defense. They were far too fast for Notre Dame last night, but it is my understanding that Cal is quite a bit quicker than the Irish.

2. What kind of offense does Mizzou play? Motion? Post-centric? Run-N-Gun? Slow it down - what's your style? Same question for defense.

We're still getting to know new coach Frank Haith's style, but we do know that he is far less system-based than previous coach Mike Anderson. Anderson was all full-court press and motion offense. It appears Mizzou actually runs plays now, at least occasionally, and that is a bit of a change. No more press, either -- just aggressive man-to-man (mostly) over about 25 feet.

3.  If you were Cal, how would you attack the Mizzou defense and how would you try to slow down the Tigers offense?

You've got to go inside. Power forward Laurence Bowers tore his ACL this offseason, meaning Mizzou is limited to three players 6'7 or taller, only one of whom is trusted to play more than 15 minutes. SG/SF Kim English is used as a PF a good portion of the time. Go inside. And if you can keep Mizzou on the perimeter, they can occasionally be goaded into taking a ton of 3-pointers (with little hope for offensive rebounding on the inside). If Denmon or English gets hot, this is fine ... but they're not always hot.

4. Where are you picked to finish in the BigXII and nationally this year? Are you looking to meet, miss or exceed your expectations based on early results?

Mizzou was picked fourth, I believe, in the Big 12, but that was before Bowers' injury. That injury took all expectations off the board for me, though last night was incredibly encouraging.

*I know that Temple was ranked when we beat them last year.  But they were a borderline top 25 team all year and fell out of the rankings most of the year, including the final rankings