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Cal MBB vs. Cal Poly: Preview & Open Thread

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After a successful showing in New York, Cal is back at home looking for their 4th win of the year

Everybody's happy the Bears are back in action!
Everybody's happy the Bears are back in action!
Mike Stobe/Getty Images

When: 7:00 pm
TV: Pac-12 Network
Radio: KGO 810
Live StatsCalbears.com

You will recall that Cal Poly was the Cinderella of Cinderellas last year, turning a 6th place, 6-10 finish in the Big West into a conference tournament championship and an NCAA bid. They rightfully earned a 16 seed, but did manage to escape the play-in game before getting destroyed by Wichita State.

The Mustangs this year will likely look similar to the 2013-14 team that played at a snail's pace. Last year only four teams played slower. When things are going right for Cal Poly, opponents get frustrated with the slow down pace and put up remarkably bad scoring totals. When things aren't going right for Cal Poly, they can't make buckets. Expect ugly either way.

Personnel

Starters

PG Maliik Love, 6'2'' Sr.
G Ridge Shipley, 6'0'' So.
Wing David Nwaba, 6'4'' Jr.
F Joel Awich, 6'7'' Jr.
F Brian Bennett, 6'9''  Jr.

Bench

G Kyle Toth, 6'2'' Jr.
G Reese Morgan, 6'2'' Jr.
F Anthony Silvestri, 6'7'' Jr.
Wing Michael Bolden, 6'5'' Jr.

It's a little unclear what Cal Poly's rotation will look like three games into the season, other than to note that Joel Callero likes to use a deep rotation. Last year 10 different players received significant minutes, and this year looks no different. It's possible that could change against tougher competition like Cal, but I couldn't guess at the moment.

That deep rotation also leads to balanced scoring. Departed senior Chris Eversley led the Mustangs with just 13.5 points/game last year, and as a result David Nwamba is the leading returning scorer. He's a slasher who is just about the only Mustang that ever gets to the line or attacks the offensive glass, and if Cal can hold him in check there aren't many other Mustangs who can hurt Cal with their own ability to create a shot.

As with most other slow down offenses, it's about ball movement and motion off the ball. Love is a gifted passer who has been racking up assists so far this year. It's a very guard-oriented lineup, and Cal Poly has occasionally played very small, with a 6'5'' player at the 4.

Our Computer Overlords Predict

Kenpom Sez: Cal by 12, 91% chance of victory

After starting the season 65th in Kenpom's preseason projections, a dominating upset win over Syracuse pushed Cal all the way up to 39th. A similarly dominant win for Texas over our Bears pushed them down to 50th, which seems about right to me. Either way, they are solid favorites over the 216th ranked Mustangs.

Keys to the Game

1. Make them take bad shots: The one major positive attribute possessed by the Mustang offense is an extreme aversion to turnovers. They were 12th in turnover rate last year and are currently 1st in the nation after a few games. Conversely, they usually have trouble getting good looks, which makes sense when you're afraid to make a pass with any risk associated with it.

2. Pressure defense on Love: A significant portion of Cal Poly's offense flows out of Love's passing. This is a great opportunity for Cal to show how effective their ball pressure defense can be against a capable ball-handler that might not otherwise be bothered by intense defensive checking.

3. Make shots: It's my understanding that this is CGB mandatory Key #3. Actually, I suspect that Cal could get away with an iffy shooting night against the Mustangs. But why risk it?