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#10 Cal WBB at Kansas: Preview and gamethread

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The Bears look to stay undefeated as they face their 3rd true road test of the season.

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

When: 3:00 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports I
Live StatsKUAthletics.com (will probably not switch over to the Cal/Kansas game til tip time.)

A televised game! An honest-to-God televised game! Woohoo!

When Cal scheduled Kansas a few years ago, they were a perennial tournament team with multiple sweet 16 runs. That's probably roughly the quality the Bears expected to get this year. Unfortunately, the Jayhawks are just one year removed from a surprisingly rough 13-19 season and have gotten off to an iffy start this year as well.

True, 6-2 doesn't necessarily look like a bad record. But the six wins have come over teams with a combined record of 17-28, and their best win is probably over South Dakota. Meanwhile, Kansas lost to a not-very-good Alabama team and got absolutely crushed by Notre Dame by 42 at home.

Does that mean that this should be an easy win? Maybe, maybe not. Kansas still has talent, and they should be better than last year's sub-.500 team. But this is still a game Cal should win, even on the road.

Personnel

Starters

G Natalie Knight, 5'7'' Sr.
G Lauren Aldridge, 5'7'' Fr.
G Chayla Cheadle, 5'1'' Fr.
F Jada Brown, 6'0'' So.
F Chelsea Gardner, 6'3'' Sr.

Bench

G Asia Boyd, 6'1'' Sr.
G Terriell Bradley, 5'10'' Fr.
F Caelynn Manning-Allen, 6'4'' So.
F Bunny Williams, 6'1'' Sr.

Kansas's star is Chelsea Gardner, and she is almost certainly the best post player Cal has faced so far this year. She's averaging 19 & 8, at 57% from the field. She put up similar stats last year despite playing for a struggling team lacking in other high value scoring options.

After Gardner, Kansas has a bunch of guards who all chip in with 6 to 11 points/game. Knight and Aldridge will split up point guard duties, but both are decent scorers. Knight can lay claim to one of the better 3 point shots in the nation, and Cal will have to be very aware of her ability to hit from deep.

Like every other team Cal has played so far this year, Kansas has a deeper roster that has seen plenty of rotation so far this year. That said, Kansas hasn't played in many competitive games. Gardner is only averaging 26 minutes/game, but I'm sure she'll play 35 against Cal if the game is close and she stays out of foul trouble. The same likely goes for most of the starters. Kansas needs this game badly, and I would expect them to ride their best players as much as possible.

Keys to the game

Prevent good looks: Kansas's offense doesn't do a great job avoiding turnovers, doesn't pull down many offensive rebounds, and doesn't get a ton of free throws. Their main virtue is that they shoot the ball pretty well as a team. If Cal's defense can avoid giving them good looks (of if they just happen to have an off-shooting night) they don't really have any other skills to fall back on to score points.

Which post player gets in foul trouble? Chelsea Gardner and Reshanda Gray are both WNBA draft picks who lead their team in scoring. Gray is more efficient from the field and takes more shots. If Gardner has an advantage, it's that she is not very foul prone. On the other hand, Gray is a one-woman-foul-drawing-machine.

I'm assuming right now that both will be guarding each other. How both teams try to defend the other's post monster is a major piece of strategy to follow, and if either gets in foul trouble the other team likely has a major advantage.

Time to break out the press? Cal pressed Creighton last weekend much more frequently and successfully than I would have expected. Kansas, like Creighton, doesn't want to play particularly fast. The Jayhawks are actually more turnover prone than the Blue Jays are. With a freshman guard taking on major ball-handling responsibilities, this might be a good game to break out the press, try to force tempo, and get a bunch of easy baskets.