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Cal Women's Basketball: Previewing opening weekend!

Looking ahead to Long Beach State on a busy weekend for Cal Women's Basketball.

Why do we need the season to start? So that we can start using pictures that aren't from last year!
Why do we need the season to start? So that we can start using pictures that aren't from last year!

At 6:00 tomorrow, the defending Pac-12 champs open their season against the Long Beach State 49ers, and although the game won't be on TV, you will be able to watch a live stream of the game online. But if you can make it, there are plenty of options that will get you in for cheap.

But before we preview the 49ers, a quick word. On Sunday, Cal is hosting the 2nd ranked Duke Blue Devils. CGB will have a more in depth preview of the game this weekend. If there is any way for you to attend, BE THERE. Money isn't an excuse - it's one measly dollar. Think about that. You're seeing two top 10 basketball teams, two teams that were both in the elite 8 or better last year, two teams with a crazy amount of talent up and down the roster . . . and it's a dollar. There probably isn't a single better value-for-money sporting event in the Bay Area all year (unless Cal swimming is letting fans in for free). Just look at how much they want you and everybody else to come out!

Cal will be unveiling their Final Four banner, and the program is practically begging us fans to provide an atmosphere that befits a nationally televised game between two elite programs. Be there, be loud. And you might want to get your ticket soon:

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p>Also, 9,000 tickets already out for our game vs Duke on Sunday. The Bay is hoops Heaven...grab a seat for that one too!</p>&mdash; Lindsay Gottlieb (@CalCoachG) <a href="">November 7, 2013</a></blockquote>

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OK, on to the 49ers. Last year, Long Beach State was a mediocre Big West program with a 16-16 record and a WNIT appearance. They are returning four starters from that team, so it's not unreasonable to think that they might have a shot at competing for the Big West title. In that sense, this is a solid team to open the season against. Good enough to not be a push-over, but unlikely to truly threaten the Bears, assuming they are as good as we all think.

Last year, LBSU was characterized by extreme depth and balance. Eight different players averaged 20 minutes or more, and all eight averaged between four and ten points per game. Of those eight, seven were sophomores and are now juniors, so you have a pretty deep, veteran group of players this year. As a result, there isn't one player Cal can point to as the player they need to shut down defensively.

But if you had to pick two players to keep an eye on, it would probably be point guard Alex Sanchez and center Devin Hudson. Sanchez led LBSU in scoring and assists, and was basically the only threat from behind the arc. Meanwhile, Hudson was by far the most efficient scorer from the field as well as the best rebounder by a wide, wide margin.

I'm really interested to see two things. To start: How will Cal set up defensively? As befits an exhibition, the Bears employed some unusual combinations of players and defenses that might not be used often in regular season games. Will Cal break out the full court press more often now that women's basketball has a 10 second back court violation? Will Cal try more of the man-to-man trapping that was a hit-and-miss strategy against Vanguard?

Secondly, what does the rotation look like? We all know what role returning contributors Brittany Boyd, Reshanda Gray, Gennifer Brandon and Afure Jemerigbe will have. But after those four, it's a wide open battle between four freshmen, two transfers and three returners for minutes. Of course, we won't be seeing Kyra Dunn, and the exact health status of Gennifer Brandon and Mercedes Jefflo isn't clear. But we'll get our first good sense of who will play tonight.