Tonight we get an early look at how the new look Bears will fare in the new look Pac-12. Cal swept the Bruins last year without too much difficulty, but UCLA now appears to have enough experience to go along with their obvious talent, and the result has been an impressive performance in non-conference games. With Cal so much younger, another sweep would be a major accomplishment.
PG Jordin Canada, 5'6'' So.
G Kori Korver, 5'9'' Jr.
G Nirra Fields, 5'9'' Sr.
F Monique Billings, 6'4'' So.
F Kacy Swain, 6'3'' Sr.
G Kennedy Burke, 6'1'' Fr.
G Kelli Hayes, 6'0'' So.
F Paulina Hersler, 6'3'' So.
F Ashley Hearn, 6'4'' Fr.
The biggest difference between UCLA now and UCLA last year is the play of Jordin Canada. You could see flashes of her talent last year, but too often it was lost among bad turnovers and iffy volume shooting. This year she's cutting down on the mistakes and sinking more shots, and UCLA's up-tempo offense has flourished as a result.
Billings and Swain form an efficient, low-usage duo of interior rebounding machines, and they get a decent portion of their buckets on 2nd chance put backs. Karver is still the designated 3 point bomber
Our Computer Overlords Predict
Sagarin Predictor: UCLA by 7.6 points
If the same Cal team that beat Nebraska shows up, the Bears will not lose by 7 or 8 points. If the same Cal team that struggled with some not-very-good teams earlier in the season shows up, this could get ugly. I'm reasonably confident that Cal has shaken out much of the early season jitters, so hopefully the computer numbers will continue to rise.
Keys to the game
1. Don't let Canada dictate style and pace
UCLA is at their best when Jordin Canada can move around and make things happen. Cal will have to stay in front of her, force her to give up the ball, and keep her out of the lane as much as possible. She's by far UCLA's most efficient guard, but if Cal can force her into the type of low efficiency game she had last year then the Bears can pull out a win.
2. Size vs. mobility inside
We'll have an interesting contrast in style between UCLA's post duo of Kacy Swain and Monique Billings vs. Kristine Anigwe and Courtney Range. UCLA's duo actually has a bit more size and strength, but Cal's duo is likely a little smoother and more mobile. Which style will win out when battling for position and rebounds?
3. The perfect game for zone?
UCLA only has one consistently decent 3 point shooter in Kari Korver. This might be a good game to throw out various zones (2-3, 3-2. 1-3-1, etc.) in the hopes of confusing and stifling UCLA's dribble drive game. Cal is also not as deep as the Bruins, so it's potentially a decent strategy to limit fouling and hopefully slowing UCLA's tempo.