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Cal MBB vs. Eastern Washington Preview

Be careful what you wish for, Cal fans.

Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports

After several games against mold-growing, paint-drying, snail's pace foes, now we have the high flyin' Eastern Washington Eagles soaring into town.

Usually, a game against a so-called directional school would be the opportunity to try to the find the optimum blend of snark versus yawns. "Why 'Eastern Washington'? Because Port-A-Pottie-Central-Not-In-Seattle had better lawyers." Hi-yo.

Somewhat surprisingly, the Eastern Washington Eagles are 8-3 including an upset win at Indiana and a close-loss to #17 UW. They play fast and love to shoot threes. And unfortunately for our sturdy Golden Bears, they're very good at what they do.  As their outlier performance, they just got blown out at Sam Houston State which puts us in line for their bounce-back game.  Outstanding.

This is a top-25 national team with regards to offensive efficiency and effective field goal percentage. They do all of this while limiting turnovers, shooting a higher percentage from both inside and out of the arc, and attempt a three-pointer on 45% of their shot attempts.

Although they're average on the glass due to their size, they're extremely good at closing out on three-point shooters and have a significant shot-blocking presence protecting the paint. They'll to switch between zone and man on defense. They lean heavily on their starters for 30+ minutes per game, but will go 8-10 deep relying on reserves for energy.

On paper, this is the best team we've faced since Syracuse and Texas. They have a legit stud down low paired with a light's out perimeter scorer. For fun, they have two other starters who are dangerous from deep and a savvy veteran point who has a serious nose for the ball. The only caveat is that their strength of schedule is somewhat suspect. But ask Indiana how many "Eastern Where" jokes they're cracking right about now.

G Drew Brandon(Sr), 6'4, 185 lbs, 9.6 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 4.8 apg
G Tyler Harvery(Jr), 6'4, 185 lbs, 20.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 3.4 apg
G Parker Kelly(Sr), 6'4, 195 lbs, 8.9 ppg, 2.3 rpg
F Ognjen Miljkovic(So), 6'7, 220 lbs, 13.3 ppg, 3.8 rpg
C Venky Jols(Jr), 6'8, 230 lbs, 20.3 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 2.0 apg, 2.6 bpg

G Felix Von Hofe(So), 6'5, 200 lbs, 4.1 ppg, 1.3 rpg
F Bogdan Bliznyuk(Fr), 6'6, 215 lbs, 3.0 ppg, 1.8 rpg
F Kyle Reid(Jr), 6'8, 215 lbs, 1.3 ppg
G Sir Washington(Fr), 6'3, 180 lbs, 2.6 ppg

Key Players:

Tyler Harvey is their gunner extraordinaire. Although he's capable of scoring inside the arc and will get himself to the charity stripe, he's taken twice as many shots from deep where he's connecting at a 40% clip. Lest you think he's padded his stats against lesser competition, he put up 25 against Indiana and 21 at UDub. Drew Brandon is the steady distributor. His 3-pt shooting (1-15) is under intense study as a new model for Gaussian random variation. But, his ability to hit every part of the rim and backboard but the sweet spot translates into an unusual super power for snagging boards. Parker Kelly is the steady vet who is selective with his shots, but deadly when he pulls the trigger. Miljkovic plays the part of a Euro stretch-four who prefers to drift on the perimeter rather than bang inside. Venky Jols might be the best big we've faced to date. He's dominated lesser competition with two games over 30+, shoots a high percentage, boards, and is also one of the better shot-blockers in the nation. For comparative strength of opposition reference, he went for 20 points, 14 boards, 5 blocks against Indiana, and struggled against UW with "just" 13, 8, and 2.

Keys to the Game:

1) Close out and check your shooters.

EW will push it and take the open three. Our guys will need to stay disciplined about getting back and not losing guys in transition. Although the last stretch of games have been rough, we've shown a commitment to defense and much improved ability to adapt.

2) Wallace vs. Harvey

Tough match-up both ways. Harvey knows how to score and has not been slowed by anyone. He knows how to get open and is deadly with a hiccup of space. He's been covered by elite athletes and flat out destroyed them. Wallace has the length to bother him and the athleticism to make him work on the other end. It's been pretty darn obvious that Ty carries us when our offense stagnates. Yet he's still managed to answer the bell all season long. Let his transcendent year continue.

3) Kravish vs. Jols

Pre-season, you could circle this one as a battle royale. Subsequently, Jols has been a consistent monster while Kravish has had Cal fans begging for him to just break out and destroy someone. This would be a good time, David. We believe in you. Bring it.

4) Convert opportunities

At times, we've been able to create good shots for ourselves. Post-ups. Lay-ups. Open threes. But our conversion rate has been low. Defense and the relative quality of the opposition have let us get away with this. Against better teams, the iron will not be so unkind.

5) Make shots.

Especially more than the other team. #Analysis.

Go Bears!

Tip-Off: 7pm
TV: Pac-12 Networks
Radio: KGO 810