In a game where both teams did their best to lose, Cal apparently wanted it a little less and made just enough plays down the stretch to pull it out against Montana this past Wednesday.
It is with great trepidation that I approach the rest of this preview. Last week, I poked fun at Fresno State...only to see Marvelle Harris have a break-out game shooting the ball. And then for last game, fellow CGB hoops writer Trace Travers cracked a Hannah Montana joke while noted Rivals journalist Lindsay Brauner predicted that we'd win by thirty...and we darn near put a bad loss in the W-L column.
With great jinxing power comes some semblance of responsibility. Though fear not, editorial integrity is still off the table. So in good conscience, I cannot tell you that the WolfPack appear to have spent all offseason in the desert looking for strippers and cocaine instead of working on their jump shots. I absolutely cannot point to their 40.3% shooting percentage from two, or 27.7% from three. And I will refrain from speculating that they get partial credit from Nevada's masonry class for their exploits on the hardwood.
Instead, I will compliment them on their strong ability to pound the offensive glass without making any type of snide remark referencing all the practice they must get in following wayward shots. Their man to man defense has been the relatively strongest part of their collective game and they have a legitimate shot-blocking presence at center.
For a team looking to replace their three leading scorers, including star point guard, Deonte Burton(23.6 ppg), it's not unexpected that this combination of meh-minus offense with adequate defense has produced a 2-5 record thus far. They've historically run a guard-oriented attack. But this year, their most effective player has been in the low post. If their guards figure things out, they'd have the pieces for some nice inside-out action. Fortunately, there's no way that everything would finally come together for them this Sunday.
A week ago, I would have been comfortable laying down the Nam Le "We're coming. Expect us." Now, I'm hoping we show a semblance of a pulse and can scrap out a road win.
G Michael Perez(Sr), 6'3, 190 lbs, 10.2 ppg, 3.0 rpg
G Marqueze Coleman(Jr), 6'3, 185 lbs, 10.7 ppg, 2.3 rpg
F D.J. Fenner(So), 6'6, 205 lbs, 10.7 ppg, 3.5 rpg
F Kaileb Rodriguez(So), 6'9, 225 lbs, 2.0 ppg, 3.2 rpg
C AJ West(Jr), 6'9, 230 lbs, 10.2 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 2.7 bpg
G Tyron Criswell(Jr), 6'4, 205 lbs
G Eric Cooper(Fr), 6'3, 200 lbs
F Ronnie Stevens(Sr), 6'8, 230 lbs
C Lucas Stivrins(Jr), 6'11, 212 lbs
Starters Perez, Coleman, Fenner, and West shoot enough to manage double-digit scoring averages. Although junior guard Marqueze Coleman was touted as their waiting-in-the-wings replacement for departed star Deonte Burton, it's been a little like replacing a Broadway star with a Reno lounge singer. D.J. Fenner and Michael Perez are their leading three-point shooters. At 4-21 and 4-15, respectively, it's rumored that their roadie Battleship games last for days 'cuz ain't nuthin' getting sunk. Former Cal player Kaileb Rodriguez is maximizing his previously under-utilized potential by helping their coach know exactly whom to sub for at the first media time out. Center AJ West is their best all-around player who is a beast on the offensive glass and a shot-blocking terror on the other end.
Keys to the Game:
1) Defend the high ball screen
So, that play Montana ran a million times which ended with one of their guards someone driving all the way to the basket for a layup or and-one? It happens to be Nevada's pet play and they absolutely killed us with it last year. Stopping this would be good thing.
Because I carefully avoided incurring the wrath of the woofing gods, there should be plenty of defensive rebounding opportunities. The Wolfpack used to have just one guy who could crash. Then there were two. And now there are four. Even if they're more athletic than skilled, running and jumping is something within their wheelhouse. We especially have to avoid letting West dominate the paint. The nightmare scenario would involve him getting Kravish et. al into foul trouble en route to a double-double; and not the animal-style kind.
You could effectively put an -or- between any of the keys. The most disheartening part of last game's performance wasn't just the bad fundamentals; we showed a team-wide lack of energy and passion. While we can get away with sleep-walking against the soft part of our schedule, it simply won't cut it against better teams.
Do I really need to expand on this?
5) Make some shots
See #4. I can't believe I'm wasting some of the #Kod5 mojo here. But there you have it.
TV: CBS Sports Network