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Cal Men's Basketball Preview: Versus Wyoming

After pulling a win out in Reno, the Bears face a stout test in a talented Wyoming team

Jordan Mathews needs to step it up when the Bears play Wyoming
Jordan Mathews needs to step it up when the Bears play Wyoming
Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

After Tyrone Wallace decided to imitate former Bear and media darling Marshawn Lynch with putting the team on his back, Cal has come back to Haas Pavilion sitting pretty at 7-1. This is the best start the Bears have had in seven years, when Ryan Anderson and Devon Hardin were leading the Bears. Cal plays Wyoming, who sports an 8-1 record. The sole Wyoming loss came to SMU, a talented team, in their sole road game on the season thus far.

Wyoming will be the best team Cal has played in Haas so far this season. While their location leaves lots to be desired, the Cowboys have assembled a team reliant on ball movement and using the clock effectively. Prepare to watch a team that plays similarly to Cal Poly, except with better scoring options inside. I have no clue what to expect from this game. Without Jabari Bird, Cal hasn't looked as able to run a quick offense that plays to our strengths. Wallace has made an incredible leap to keep our record as good as it is, but the reliance on Ty's driving ability can only go so far. Improved shooting all around can keep Cal in line for another victory, as good looks were often missed against Nevada.

Quick news, Jabari looks to be out, and Brandon Chauca appears to be questionable for the game.

As for Wyoming, they play slower, with excellent defense to back it up. So far, they are allowing a Tony Bennett-esque 50.3 points per game on 39.2 percent shooting. The Cowboys are shooting 52.8 on the season as well, and for the most part have dominated at home. They even held Colorado to a grand total of 33 points earlier in the season. The Cowboys do have a bit of a homecourt advantage, with games being played at an altitude of 7,200 feet. That can be a tough adjustment, and players can get winded easier in Laramie. Luckily, the game is in Berkeley, and they lost their only road game to SMU.

The Cowboys are led by Larry Nance Jr, son of former all-star and dunk champion Larry Nance. Nance was tagged as the preseason pick for Mountain West Player of the Year and leads Wyoming in points, rebounds, steals, blocks and field goal percentage. He plays similarly to Montana forward Martin Breunig, and Cal will have to figure out who to throw at him. I'd guess Cuonzo would start with Christian Behrens on him, but David Kravish and Roger Moute a Bidias should make appearances on him.

Considering the struggles we've had since after beating Syracuse, this game may be a bit of a doozy. Hopefully it isn't another double-overtime heart attack inducer, but it just might be.


G Josh Adams (Jr.) 6'2" 185 lbs 9.8 ppg, 4.2 apg

G Riley Grabau (Sr.) 6'2" 165 lbs 7.9 ppg, 2.1 apg

G Charles Hankerson Jr. (Sr.) 6'4" 230 lbs 8.9 ppg, 3.3 rpg

F Larry Nance Jr. (Sr.) 6'8" 235 lbs 12.7 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 61.6 FG%

F Derek Cooke Jr. (Sr.) 6'9" 220 lbs 7.6 ppg, 3.7 rpg


G Jason McManamen (So.) 6'5" 195 lbs

F Matt Sellers (Sr.) 6'10" 240 lbs

F Alan Herndon (Fr.) 6'9" 205 lbs

Key Players:

While there are a few players averaging close to double digits in points, only Nance is over the 10 points per game mark. The other players are close to grabbing that brass ring, but due to the play style of sharing the ball, everyone is around the same amount of points. Grabau and Hankerson are the main three point shooters on the team, hitting over 42% each. Nance is an athletic forward that we have historically had trouble with, as Jordan Holmes and Martin Breunig have shown so far. Also, look out for Derek Cooke. He had a good game against a talented SMU front line, and will be a player that Kravish has to lock in on.

Since I can't steal the #Kod5, I'm going to go with the #tracepuntos of winning for this game.

Three Points to Winning:

1. Force Tempo on the Majority of Possessions

Wyoming plays slow. Cal has a mantra of "Together We Attack." Seems pretty simple, but it's going to take more than that. There was talk after the Nevada game of having not worked on outlet passes and the like. The hope is that outlets and getting the ball up the court were a focus of this week's practice. With Ty getting a lot of rebounds, it shouldn't be a problem getting the ball up the court quick. The worry is filling the lanes on the breaks. It would be great to have Bird back for this, as he has good instincts for filling the lane, but Behrens and Mathews can fill the lane just as capably if they can get upcourt in time.

2. Double Nance

He is the biggest threat on offense, and I have no problem in trying to swarm more aggressively on defense. This is where Sam Singer can play more of a role. Nance is not as much of a passer as our bigs, and coming off another player briefly for a double team could be a solution to guarding him. Sam Singer would be the player I'd want on the double, due to his quick hands and knack for coming away with steals. We have had a propensity for foul trouble recently, so this may need to stop quickly if it doesn't get a couple quick steals early, but I'd expect a more aggressive defense coming out of the gate.

3. Keep Working for the Open Looks

I used to go to Cal basketball camps when I was younger, where former Cal point guard and current Modesto Christian head coach Richard Midgley talked to me about shooting. Essentially he said if you're a shooter, keep shooting. When you have a talent for making shots, continuing to shoot is the only way to get out of the slump. It sounds a bit contradictory, or at the very least like something Kobe says to justify a 6-24 shooting night, but getting in the groove requires taking shots sometimes. In the first half against Nevada, Cal had a plethora of good looks but nothing fell until the second half. I fully expect Jordan Mathews to come out swinging, as he did later in the game against Montana. He needs to be productive for Cal to pull out a win.

Go Bears!

Tip-off: 8 PM

TV: Pac-12 Bay Area