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Cal Men's Basketball Preview: Arizona State

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By banishing some devils from Haas Pavilion, the Bears hope to exorcise some demons of their own.

Cuonzo can't yell the Bears to victory
Cuonzo can't yell the Bears to victory
Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

A lot changes in two weeks. I have personally been overseas for the past two weeks, and requesting the Pac-12 Network over a Bayern Munich game doesn't exactly fly well in a German Brewhouse (Note: I didn't actually do this). But quite a bit has changed within the past two weeks. Roger Moute a Bidias and Kingsley Okoroh have started the past few games. Jabari Bird has returned. Jordan Mathews has kept up his excellent shooting. Dwight Tarwater has picked up some slack in hitting four threes over the past two games. The most telling stat is that the Bears are 0-3 over the last two weeks, falling in LA and struggling against the Lobsterbacks of Palo Alto. Cal now sits at 1-4 in conference play, with Arizona State coming to Haas to test the Bears.

Where does Cal go from here? Arizona State sits at an identical 1-4 record in conference play. They beat Colorado last weekend to end their own losing streak, but haven't fared well on the road. They are 0-5 on the road so far, which may be a good sign for a Cal team looking for a big win. Arizona State has struggled with rebounding, ranking last in the conference in total and offensive rebounds per game. They also average the fewest blocks per game in the conference, as Eric Jacobsen cannot do it all on his own in rim protection.

The problems that the Bears will face in this game are similar to those that arose in the Stanford game. Namely, three-point shooting. The shooting performances of Bo Barnes and Shaquielle McKissic during the Colorado game are what propelled them to victory. Rotations have to be swift to cover, and Moute a Bidias can help cover the necessary ground. With Bird playing 20 minutes against the Furd, this may be his return to the starting lineup, one that could feature four guards in order to matchup with ASU's starting five.

Starters:

G Tra Holder (Fr.) 6'1" 180 lbs 4.9 PPG, 2.7 APG

G Gerry Blakes (Jr.) 6'4" 195 lbs 10.9 PPG, 4.4 RPG

F Shaquielle McKissic (Sr.) 6'5" 200 lbs 11.3 PPG, 4.6 RPG

F Savon Goodman (So.) 6'6" 215 lbs 10.2 PPG, 5.6 RPG

C Eric Jacobsen (Jr.) 6'10" 255 lbs 10.2 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 1.4 BPG

Bench:

G Bo Barnes (Sr.) 6'4" 190 lbs

F Jonathan Gilling (Sr.) 6'8" 220 lbs

Key Players:

Eric Jacobsen in going to be a load in the paint, and will be difficult for Kravish to handle all by his lonesome. Weakside help will need to be quick to contain him and to rotate to shooters after providing help. McKissic, Barnes, and Blakes all have the ability to shoot from deep, so shutting down the three point game is crucial in that situation. Gilling provides some size coming off the bench, but is more of a passer than a rebounder. There isn't as much size on this ASU squad than other teams Cal has played in past weeks.

And now, in a segment no one missed, here's your #tracepuntos for victory.

1. Attack the rim.

This will be a game where the Bears can utilize Tyrone Wallace's penetration ability. Not only that, but this will be a prime opportunity to go for offensive rebounds and to generally dominate the glass. Attacking the rim as much as possible can and will lead to more opportunities off of offensive rebounds. Ty can't have any more 6-22 games in conference, unless he goes full Kobe, gets rebounds, and makes all his free-throws.

2. Close and close out.

A bit of a two part point here. Closing out on shooters is imperative this game. Cal allowed Stanfurd's two best shooters to go 8-11 from behind the line. That cannot and will not happen again. From what the press conferences this past week have sounded like, Coach Martin has focused on fundamentals, and closing out on shooters after rotating is one of them. On the second part, finishing the game has been a consistent problem for the Bears this year. They were only down by 2 late against Stanfurd, but couldn't get over the hump. I'd like to see a King Arthur against the Black Knight type of performance from the Bears. They need to leave no doubt, with several limbs scattered about.

3. Let It Go.

Another double meaning for this point. The Bears have to recover from their losing streak, and the best way to do that is through playing a little looser and to keep from tightening up with every loss. The Bears also need to take advantage of the recent play of Dwight Tarwater and the return of Jabari Bird in order to let it fly from deep. The sole deep threat has been Jordan Mathews, and while he has averaged 21 points per game in conference play, he will continue to get plenty of defensive attention until someone steps up to take it off of him. With penetration to set up some corner threes, expect four or five treys from Bird and Tarwater.

Go Bears!