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Cal Men's Basketball Preview: Davidson

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Cal plays Steph Curry U on Monday. They don't all shoot 3s though

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

With Christmas and the close loss to Virginia behind us, Cal returns to Haas to take on Davidson. Steph Curry will not be there, so everyone can stop getting their hopes up. Under longtime head coach Bob McKillop, the Wildcats have successfully made the move up to the more difficult Atlantic 10. They sit at 8-2 at this juncture, with big loses to Pitt and North Carolina. They haven't had any notable victories as of yet, unless Mercer has retained the team that beat Duke a couple of years ago. That being said, McKillop has been around long enough so he knows what his teams can do, and that's dangerous.

As far as play style, Davidson is in the top 10% in in the NCAA in points per game, racking up 83.9 on average. They do pretty well efficiency wise as well, averaging 1.117 points per possession, which is very solid. This isn't a bad team, but it is one that can be beaten if Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb can continue the development they showcased against Virginia. We'll see what goes down Monday night however.

Starters:

G Jack Gibbs (Jr.) 5'11" 195 lbs, 26.6 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 4.1 apg

G Brian Sullivan (Sr.) 5'11" 175 lbs, 15.8 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 4.3 apg

G Jordan Barham (Sr.) 6'4" 190 lbs, 13.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.4 apg

F Peyton Aldridge (So.) 6'7" 205 lbs 14.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 2.5 apg

F Oscar Michelsen (So.) 6'9" 210 lbs 5.7 ppg, 1.6 rpg

Bench:

G Jordan Watkins (So.)

F Jake Belford (Jr.)

F Nathan Ekwu (So.)

Key Players:

Gibbs, Sullivan and Barham are obviously going to be the biggest threats, providing about 64% of the scoring for Davidson. Gibbs is particularly dangerous, being a high volume shooter who is not afraid to take (and make) shots from anywhere on the court. Sullivan should test our three point defense, as he shoots close to 44% from beyond the arc. Barham is more of a slashing type, not someone who will spot up. He's an excellent rebounder for his size, and he will be a challenge for whoever matches up with him to box out. Aldridge is the last real notable. He's the sole post threat,, if that, considering his lack of size. That being said, you don't average 15 a game for nothing, so Rabb will have to make him work on defense.

Keys to the Game:

1. Aggressive, but controlled

One of my old football coaches used to quip that he'd rather see us make an aggressive mistake than a passive mistake. I just want controlled aggressive for Jaylen Brown. When he got his opportunities to push the ball against Virginia, he didn't go overboard. He attacked and made the right play most of the time, and I think the majority of Cal fans will be excited to see that version of Brown.

2. Inside Dominance

Cal has a big size advantage, even if Cuonzo decides to go back to the smaller lineup with Bird in for Rooks. Cal's guards are 5 inches taller on average, so that can be taken advantage of through post-ups and merely passing over people. The frontline for Davidson will probably struggle against Rooks and Rabb, so pushing that advantage will be beneficial. It can also give Rooks and Okoroh more confidence. They were continually left open as UVA doubled Rabb and couldn't capitalize. Now is the time to see if they can

3. Run people off the three point line

Cal's opponents are shooting around 38% from 3. That's less than satisfactory. That can be changed however, as our size advantage lends itself to funneling driving players into the lane, where Rooks, Rabb and Okoroh can scare off their shots. It can be done.

4. Just Win Baby

Closing out a semi-disappointing non-conference slate with a win would be nice in general, then we can ring in the New Year against Colorado.

Go Bears!