Honestly, I'm not quite sure what to make of Long Beach State. The 49ers are 7-1 with an RPI in the 50s. That's scary. The have only played one power conference team (USC) and lost at home. That's less scary. The force 23 turnovers/game. That's scary. They like to play fast, which is less scary.
The bottom line is that Cal is playing one of the better west coast mid-majors, on the road. That puts them on upset alert, even if the had Courtney Range healthy. I'm assuming she won't be playing just a week after suffering a knee sprain, so Cal will be short-handed against a team that likes to push tempo and rotate in fresh bodies frequently.
This will be Cal's 3rd game of the season against a team that likes to push tempo on offense and trap constantly to push tempo on defense. LBSU isn't nearly as extreme as San Jose State or Sacramento State, but they are also much better. On a side note: What in the world has gotten into the water in the Cal State system that makes these teams play so damned fast? Hopefully Cal's previous experience against the Spartans and Hornets pays dividends on the road.
PG Hallie Meneses, 5'5'' Sr.
G Anna Kim, 5'5'' So.
G Chantel Dooley, 5'8'' Jr.
G Raven Benton, 5'10'' So.
F Madison Montgomery, 6'1'' So.
C Devin Hudson, 6'3'' Jr.
G Lauren Spargo, 5'1'' Sr.
G Alex Sanchez, 5'10'' Sr.
G Jewelyn Sawyer, 6'0'' So.
All of the players listed above average between 18 and 25 minutes/game, with the exception of Meneses, who plays 29 mintues/game. Obviously the system is designed to have a bunch of players that are as interchangeable as possible, but a few stand out. Menses is one, just because she runs the show with her passing. Kim is another because she's the best shooter on the team. Hudson may start over Montgomery, and averages an impressive 8 rebounds in just 20 minutes/game.
What really differentiates this team from other similar high-tempo, pressure outfights is the defense. Sure, LBSU forces lots of turnovers. But they do it without completely sacrificing field goal defense or rebounding. As a result their points allowed/possession is a respectable 82 in the country.
Keys to the game
Ball control - There will be turnovers in this game. But if Cal turns the ball over 15 times, they probably win. 25 times, and they probably lose. The onus is on the guards to play under control and not let the pace trick them into unnecessarily risky passes.
Bench contributions - I'm expecting a starting lineup of Boyd-Jefflo-Green-Cowling-Gray. That means that Cal has a 4 player bench averaging about 12 points/game. They will need more than that against a team that wants to run you down. Typically Coach G. doesn't play Hartman or Waters against teams that like to run, but I doubt a 7 player rotation will be enough.
Seniors step up - After a painful, shocking loss, Cal will have to turn to their seniors to set the tone. Expect to see Reshanda Gray bounce back with a dominant game against a team that probably doesn't have anybody to guard her one on one. Expect Brittany Boyd to threaten for another triple double, and to finish better at the basket.