TV: Pac-12 Networks
Stream: Pac-12.com (not sure if this will be active, but it can't hurt to link!)
Live Stats: CalBears.com
If Cal needs to warm up for conference play, then the schedule set them up right. Utah is, alongside Arizona, the worst team in the Pac-12. Last year the Utes were all-everything forward Michelle Plouffe alongside inexperienced complimentary parts. This year they are all-everything forward Taryn Wicijowski (returning from injury) alongside inexperienced complimentary parts. But Wicijowski isn't quite as good as Plouffe, and things haven't really fallen in place yet.
As a consequence, Utah has already lost games to Creighton, Mississippi and Portland. Perhaps more telling is that Utah only has one win over a team with a winning record. That team? San Jose State.
Part of the problem for Utah has been injuries. Every single back-up point guard on the roster is out, and Utah only dresses 10 healthy players including walk-ons. As a result, they probably only WANT to play seven deep against Cal. We'll see how that goes.
PG Danielle Roriguez, 5'10'' Jr.
G Paige Crozon, 6'1'' Jr.
F Tanaeya Boclair, 6'0'' Fr.
F Nakia Arquette, 6'1'' So.
C Taryn Wicijowski, 6'3'' Sr.
G Cheyenne Wilson, 5'1'' Sr.
C Joeseta Fatuesi, 6'4'' Fr.
Hey, a team that has more depth problems than Cal! Rodriguez, Crozon and Wicijowski will all play close to 40 minutes if they avoid foul trouble and the game is close.
Rodriguez is very much a pass first point guard, although she has a decent 3 point shot. If she's forced to drive and shoot inside arc she's much less effective. Crozon is also more of a spot up shooter than an attacker.
Obviously Wicijowski is the one to watch. She's averaging 15 points on 50% shooting, impressive when you consider that she's option A, B, and C for Utah and the obvious focal point for any defensive game plan. She can step out and hit mid-range jumpers but prefers to operate close to the basket. She's a rebounding machine and a solid passer out of double teams.
Nobody else on the team really offers much in terms of a consistent offensive threat, which kinda says it all.
Keys to the game
Lock down the arc without giving Wicijowski too much room to operate: Utah is basically a team of iffy spot up shooters surrounding one great interior player. Cal is much better off forcing Utah's guards to put the ball on the floor and dribble drive than letting them take jumpers. The obvious risk is leaving space for their one excellent player, who will probably finish over any Cal interior defender. Sending a guard over the top to double Wicijowski probably makes a ton of sense.
Score in the half court set: If there is a formula for Utah winning, it's Cal fully struggling to score in the half-court set in a very, very slow game. Utah is one of the 20 or so slowest teams in the country, and they will make the game a slog. The Bears will have to have something that works in the halfcourt set. The biggest question is if Wicijowski (or somebody else) can reliably guard Reshanda without fouling.
Attack, attack, attack: Utah CANNOT afford foul trouble, even more than Cal cannot. Force them to either foul or let us get to the basket. It's an awful choice that's a win-win for Cal.