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Cal Basketball vs. Wyoming Preview

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Thank Oski for HD television, Cal fans. "Wyoming in December" is nearly synonymous with "you have died of dysentery." Put on your warmest duster and saddle up - we've got some business to take care of on the road.

Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

Last year, your sturdy Golden Bears narrowly escaped with an eye-bleeding squeaker of a victory thanks to Ty Wallace donning a blue cape down the stretch. The Cowboys finished the year stronger than we did and rode their deliberate style to 25 wins and a tournament berth. To punch their dance ticket, they upset SDSU in the conference finals by taking advantage of the Aztecs' decidedly below average shooting.

These are not yesteryears Cowboys as six departing seniors have left Wyoming with one stud and a gang of greenhorns. Whereas their '14-15 squad was built around NBA 1st rounder Larry Nance Junior's powerful inside presence, this season's iteration is significantly more guard-centric. The only thing Wyoming likes better than a lonely cow is put up a three; they're presently one of the nation's leaders in three point attempts per shot. They still adhere to Coach Larry Shyatt's plodding style and do a good job of taking care of the ball.

Defensively, they've slipped significantly from last year's highly disciplined man-to-man scheme. To compensate for their less experienced personnel, they've relied more on zone. Philosophically, they try to run teams off the three point line and play for position rather than trying to force turnovers. Although the results have been predictably uneven with so many youngsters finding their way, make no mistake - their coach knows what he's doing.

So yes - it's another slow-tempo zone team who does a good job of shooting threes. At least dysentery is somewhat interesting?

Let's just hope our zone offense has evolved to more cattle and less hat.


Projected Starters:

C Jonathan Barnes(So), 6'10, 245 lbs, 4.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg
F Alan Herndon(So), 6'9, 210 lbs, 5.5 ppg, 2.5 rpg
F Jason McManamen(Jr), 6'5, 195 lbs, 10.0 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 45% 3FG
G Trey Washington III(So), 5'11, 185 lbs, 7.8 ppg, 2.8 rpg
G Josh Adams(Sr), 6'2, 190 lbs, 21.0 ppg, 5.3 apg, 41% 3FG

Bench:

G Alexander Aka Gorski(So), 6'5, 205 lbs, 10.0 ppg, 1.3 rpg, 47% 3FG
G Justin James(Fr), 6'7, 180 lbs, 8.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg
F Hayden Dalton(So), 6'8, 185 lbs, 5.8 ppg, 5.0 rpg
G Jeremy Lieberman(So), 6'1, 175 lbs, 2.3 ppg, 2.5 rpg

Key Players:

Josh Adams is new sheriff in town now that Nance has taken his talents to purgatory. He's also the judge, deputy, and the stable boy. He's #3 nationally in percentage of possessions usage and has taken just about a third of his teams total shots. What are the odds that we'd face two cold-shooting guards named "Trey" in the same season? Better than this guy's chances of actually hitting a triple. (0%) Look prospective moms, if your kid sticks it up his nose every time he tries to insert a pacifier, please take it as a sign and don't name him Trey. McManamen and Gorski, however, simply cannot be lost or they'll make you pay from deep.

Keys to the Game:

1) Don't confuse tempo and patience with energy
The Cowboys will want to play more deliberate ball. We've vacillated between working on our ball movement for better shots and trying to force the action at every opportunity. Even when we're not getting out and running, we need to maintain focus and intensity.


2) Defense, Bears. Defense?

Early in the year, Monty mentioned that we were using an NBA concept when defending pick and rolls by trying to force ball-handlers away from the screen. Then, we went through a stretch where we were switching everything. With a switch to playing a traditional big, we alternated between two approaches: 1) Run headlong into the screen and confuse the opposition by covering no one. 2) Hedge and recover.

LeonPowe sums it up nicely:

"The Chicago Bulls under Coach Thibs (and I guess any of his disciples) do not hedge the pick and roll - their big man retreats to the paint and defends below the free throw line.
It's an . . . unaggressive defense, and puts the pressure on that ball handler to make a shot - it also puts a lot of stress on the point guard/wing player to fight through that pick (which we don't do the best job of) and challenge the shot.


Our defense went from bad to good when the big started hedging the pick and rolls, instead of dropping back. Listening to the post game interview, it sounds like our strategy is for the big to sink and defend (I guess like a Thibs team) - and we kept getting killed on the picks set by one of their 2 7 footers. Ty suggested in the huddle that Kam (and Kingsley and Ivan) hedge with hands up before dropping back. It really seemed to kill Seattle's shot making."

Although versatility might be a nice option to have on a veteran team, clearly we need to focus on picking a strategy that best fits our personnel and work on consistent execution.


3) Deny dribble penetration and be disciplined with our close outs.
We've been inconsistent at the point of attack and on the perimeter all year. This is a team that relies almost exclusively on Adams to create either for himself or to penetrate and dish to open shooters. Although it simply might not be in our skill set to lock down a savvy player like Adams, we should be able to make him work for his shots and chase his mighty wingmen off the three point line.

4) Create good looks within the flow of our offense.
If we push it at every opportunity, we can get transition buckets simply because Tyrone Wallace is freakishly good at attacking the basket and Jaylen Brown is an explosive athlete. Our failed trip to Las Vegas shows us that over-reliance on athleticism is a sucker's bet which will eventually lead to crapping out against better teams. Simply being able to consistently get Rabb touches in the high post would be a huge step forward.

5) Make shots

Because otherwise, #4 just doesn't look like progress.

Go Bears!


Tip-Off: Saturday Dec 5th, 12pm PST
TV: CBS Sports Network