When: 7:00 pm PT
Video Stream: Pac-12.com
Audio Stream: Cal All Access ($$$)
Alas, no Pac-12 network TV today. But some will be able to watch it online, and I can provide updates for the rest in the gamethread.
After a stunningly successful debut season, Scott Rueck hasn't been quite as successful in year two. That's not in any way an indictment of him - Oregon State is still struggling to rebuild a roster that was completely purged just two years ago, and he has lost a couple of key players to graduation/injury.
So the Beavers probably aren't quite as dangerous this year as they were last year when they gave the Bears a bit of a scare in Corvallis. But they are clearly improving through the season, and they have only lost one Pac-12 game by more than 4 points. They're fully capable of surprising.
They badly miss the contributions of do-everything-guard Earlysia Marchbanks, an all-Pac-12 performer last year. Without her 8 rebounds/game from the guard spot the Beavers have struggled to pull down the ball, and turnovers have been an issue as well. But they shoot the ball reasonably well and there are a few solid interior defenders. The Beavers know how to slow things down, clog the paint, contest shots and otherwise make things miserable on offense. Prepare for another ugly game.
The other item to watch is Cal's health. Both Gennifer Brandon and Reshanda Gray are, I would guess, ‘probable' to play today, and it will be worth watching how well they are moving and how comfortable they look. If one or the other is out, there shouldn't be much concern as the Bears beat a better team by double digits last week with only one of the two playing.
If they are both out, wish Talia Caldwell & Justine Hartman the best of luck and embrace the 4 guard lineup!
Player to Watch
Jamie Weisner: After a slow start to the year, Weisner has blossomed in Pac-12 play, having scored at least 10 points in every conference game so far this year. She's probably the most talented player in what I would guess is the best recruiting class in OSU WBB history. Like most freshmen guards she's a bit turnover prone. But she's a solid rebounder for her size, she can sink 3s in bunches and she's a decent passer for someone playing off the ball.
Keys to the game
Unleash the press: It doesn't really matter Cal does it with their traditional lineup or a 4 guard lineup. Oregon State is turnover prone and probably can't match up with Cal's athleticism. The Beavers are 11th in the Pac-12 and 226th in the nation in turnover percentage, which perhaps isn't surprising since they are busy integrating five freshmen into the regular rotation. This is as ideal a matchup as it will get for Cal's press, and it will be critical to create offense from turnovers since OSU will slow the game down otherwise.
Shot Selection: OSU's defense this year thrives when they can limit a team to one bad shot per possession. They are currently 1st in the conference in FG% defense and have rebounded well. I don't expect them to continue to lock down the defensive glass against Cal, but they very well may force Cal to take bad shots. Cal will have to be patient in the half-court set, but if they can consistently get good shots off it will be a good sign.
Defend the arc: OSU is led by three guards who all average 4 or more three point attempts per game. None of them make an especially high percentage, but all three are capable of getting hot against Cal. It's hard to foresee OSU winning this game without making an unusual number of threes. Don't let that happen.