Cal comes back from surviving a matchup in Fresno to the friendlier confines of Haas Pavillion. They meet up with the 2-3 Montana Grizzlies. In a list of famous Montanas, the University of Montana comes somewhere far behind Joe, Tony, and Hannah Montana. This is the only Montana coached by a former Cal assistant, Travis Decuire, after former coach Wayne Tinkle left for Oregon State. Former Washington State head coach Ken Bone is one of the assistants for the Grizzlies, as they make a West Coast trip before heading back to the 166th biggest media market in the US in Missoula.
On Sunday, while Tyrone Wallace was slicing up the Fresno defense, Montana got beaten down in San Francisco against USF. Montana showed their penchant for shooting threes, taking 35 but making only 10. Our Bears are more than a bit better than USF, and with the development of a more stout defense, Montana can be shut down. One roadblock may be the injury status of Jabari Bird.
Cal sophomore G Jabari Bird questionable for Wednesday game vs. Montana due to foot injury. Bird averages 11.8 ppg.— Jeff Faraudo (@JeffFaraudo) December 2, 2014
Bird, who only scored 4 points against Fresno, is still a defining factor for this team. He has five star talent, and was the catalyst for the huge win over Syracuse. If he can't get on the floor Wednesday evening, Sam Singer will probably get the starting nod. Singer, who does have an outside stroke, is not the same kind of shooter that Bird is. His reputation is that of a distributor, and I'd expect Montana to play off him if this situation occurs. Playing off Singer, as we saw with many players during Montgomery's tenure (Momo Jones comes to mind), could lead to a career high outburst, so hope that they do play off of him.
Montana does shoot the three often, averaging 26.6 attempts per game, but they don't appear to be great at it. They have cracked 33% from three twice this season, against Seattle and NAIA stalwart Carroll College. Otherwise, the Grizzlies haven't had enough success to justify hoisting these shots like they do. As far as offensive production, expect a Monty-like system adjusted to shooting more three-pointers. Expect curls off screens for jumpshots. Expect man defense with hedging on screens. Expect a similarly crafted wing-based offense to what we had last year. Montana's lack of size killed them against USF, and I expect more of the same when they come to Haas.
G Jordan Gregory (Sr.) 6'2" 194 lbs 10.6 ppg, 2.4 apg
G Mario Dunn (So.) 6'0" 172 lbs 8.4 ppg, 3.4 apg
F Michael Weisner (Sr.) 6'7" 193 lbs 8.6 ppg, 3.8 rpg
F Martin Breunig (Jr.) 6'8" 210 lbs 13.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg 66.7% FG
F Fabijan Krslovic (Fr.) 6'8" 225 lbs 4.4 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 1 bpg
F Chris Kemp (Sr.) 6'7" 236 lbs
G Brandon Gfeller (So.) 6'4" 190 lbs
G Jermaine Edmonds Jr. (Fr.) 6'5" 200 lbs
Martin Breunig is going to be the biggest threat for the Grizzlies. A transfer from Washington, Breunig is making two-thirds of his shots on 9 attempts a game, which is pretty insane considering he shoots 25% from three. He's their best all-around player by far, leading them in point and rebounds in every game except for the opener against Colorado State. Jermaine Edmonds Jr. is someone to look out for as well. The freshman from Richmond had 3 three-pointers against USF, and could be a microwave-type player off the bench.
Keys to the Game:
1) Pound the Rock
As was the case for my high school football team, the Bears need to pound the rock. Ergo, establish Kravish with his baby hooks and turnarounds. Establish Behrens, who has shown flashes of great post moves this season. Establish Kingsley, who is 5 inches taller than anyone on Montana's roster. Against Fresno State, Kravish kept us afloat early, and he can spark us to a lead here.
2) Force bad threes
Montana likes to shoot threes. They aren't that great at it. Making these attempts difficult through forcing shots at the end of the shot clock or simply staying aggressive in switching on screens is a key. We have gone under on screens recently, but with all of the starters being under 6'8", it's more feasible to switch on screens to make shots as difficult as possible
3) Get the Bird in rhythm
If Jabari plays, he needs to get into a rhythm on his jump shots early. Give him some opportunities for mid-range jumpers or lay-ups, so when he has his wide open threes, which he will, he can step into them in a rhythm. He didn't have any rhythm going Sunday, and hopefully this game can change it if he's available.
4) Use Some Moute
Roger Moute a Bidias is someone who should be called on to defend Keurig, as he matches up well defensively. I want to see more of his offensive game develop, but his defense is solid aside from some fouling issue. His length can bother Keurig unlike anyone else on the roster. Watch for this matchup.
Tip-off: 7 PM
TV: Pac-12 Network