Cal will face their first major conference opponent of the season tonight when one of the many Tigers in the SEC join them on the court in Hawaii. These particular Tigers are from Missouri, and are coming off a 17-14, 6-10 performance in 2013-14 that saw them end the season with a first round WNIT defeat. Missouri has already easily beaten three mid-majors to start the season, and Cal likely represents their first major test as well.
How much better might Missouri be this year after a mediocre season? That's tough to say. Last year the Tigers played a deep rotation with 10 players averaging 10 minutes/game or more. 9 of those players return, which means that Missouri is very long on players with meaningful experience. On the other hand, the one player that left was Bri Kulas, who averaged 18.3 points/game and was one of only two double digit scorers. If Missouri has a player that can step into that lead scorer's role they could be pretty good this year. We'll likely find out tonight.
PG: 5'9'' Sr. Morgan Eye
G: 5'10' Jr. Juanita Robinson
G: 6'0'' So. Lindsey Cunningham
G/F: 6'1'' So. Jordan Frericks
F: 6'2'' So. Kayla McDowell
G: 5'10'' So. Sierra Michaelis
G: 6'1'' Jr. Morgan Stock
G: 5'9'' Sr. Bree Fowler
G: 6'0'' Jr. Maddie Stock
G: 5'4'' Fr. Carrie Shephard
F: 6'3'' Fr. Bri Porter
You know how Arizona State plays? With tons of players, and constant line changes? Missouri isn't quite that extreme, but they certainly aren't reliant on any one player, and there are lots of interchangeable parts. They are going to play four guards and one post player.
Because of the amount of player rotation and the way stats are spread around (and the lack of strong competition) it's really hard to get a bead on how Missouri will play. I can say that based on last seasons stats, it would be fair to postulate that Missouri 1) Shoots lots of threes at a high percentage 2) turns the ball over a lot, and 3) Doesn't force many turnovers on defense. Probably.
Keys to the Game
1) Win the turnover battle decisively: Missouri runs a defense that doesn't force a ton of turnovers. On the other end, they can be very turnover prone. On the other hand, Cal is still integrating two new freshmen into the offense and have been turnover prone themselves. If Cal gives the ball back as many times as Missouri does, then they they risk giving up leverage against a team with dangerous shooting ability.
2) Play tough perimeter defense: Missouri shoots a ton of threes. At the moment four different players attempt at least three 3 pointers/game. Maddie Stock and Morgan Eye make up one of the better shooting combinations Cal will face all year, and there are a handful of other players who can punish Cal for lazy defense. The Bears will have to be very careful about the corner 3 that can be left vulnerable in a 3-2 zone.
3) Hope for better refs: This would be a bad, bad game to get into foul trouble. Missouri plays a deeper roster than Cal has players. Period. They are built to absorb foul trouble, and Cal is not. Cal needs to learn to play to avoid foul trouble, and to play with foul trouble. Or they just need a ref that won't blow for a foul every 30 seconds of gametime. Either would be nice.