Good morning, Cal fans! It's Monday morning, but there's no football game to over-analyze! Thus, a change in direction. Rather than post-game thoughts, you will now be getting my post-week thoughts on whatever the hell I feel like typing about. What will that typically be? Well, at least for the next few months, expect the following:
- Lots of Cal men's and women's basketball takes (hot or otherwise)
- News relevant to the Pac-12, and by extension Cal
- An extended post-mortem of the 2015 regular season, and what it means for 2016
- Maybe, like, some recruiting thoughts because recruiting is critically important even though I hate talking or thinking about it?
- Probably other stuff too because why not?
The completely uneventful Sonny Dykes saga of 2015
The Cal football community has had a very entertaining week-long freak out, and as best I can tell, two legitimate, actual things have happened:
- Sonny Dykes had some sort of interview for the Missouri head coach position
- Cal made an official offer of a contract extension to kick off your standard contract extension back and forth.
Heading to Fort Worth
There are plenty of factors that influence how fans feel about any particular bowl game. For me, I mostly care about which team Cal will play. Based on the rumors we heard, here were the possibilities:
vs. Air Force (Armed Forces Bowl)
vs. Southern Miss (Heart of Dallas Bowl)
vs. West Virginia (Cactus Bowl)
vs. Virginia Tech (Independence Bowl)
And out of those choices, by far the best was West Virginia and the Cactus Bowl, and as soon as we missed out on that it didn't really matter where we ended up, it was going to be an unexciting match-up. Air Force, Southern Miss, and Virginia Tech are all roughly about as good as each other, so we may as well go for the game that gets us the most amount of practice.
Air Force is typical Air Force - limited mistakes, difficult to handle offense, mediocre defense, solid special teams. With the possible exception of Navy, Cal will present the toughest offensive challenge Air Force has faced this season and certainly the best passing offense the Falcons have had to defend. It's a game that Cal should win.
MBB: Close to an elite offense
There has been lots of hand-wringing over the state of the Cal offense, which I understand. Cal lost to San Diego State in part because they scored 8 points over a 15 minute stretch in the 2nd half, and they have had two other ugly, too-close-for-comfort wins against zone defense teams. But I think the underlying stats give reason for optimism (usual caveats about small-sample-size, weak schedule, etc.).
Why optimism? So far this year, Cal has been good-to-great at offensive rebounding, avoiding turnovers, and drawing fouls, and I see no particular reason why that should change. Cal was already a low turnover team last year, but the additions of Rabb and Brown mean that there are two new players who have immediately become the best offensive rebounders and two of the three best foul drawers on the team. If anything, you would expect continued growth and improvement from two young players still adapting to the college game.
So we have established that, offensively, Cal is already good at three of the four factors. Unfortunately, the problem area is the most important factor: shooting. Cal has just not shot the ball very well this year. Can we expect Cal's shooting to improve? Here are three areas where it's reasonable to expect change in a positive direction:
- 3 point shooting
Cal is currently shooting 31.6% from 3, more than 4% lower than last year. Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews are both below what they shot last year, amongst other players. Expect regression to the mean.
- Find ways to get Ivan the ball
Ivan Rabb is currently 2nd by a hair to Jakob Poetl in the Pac-12 in eFG%. The problem is that he's taken way fewer shots than Utah's sophomore. Hopefully as Rabb and the Bears settle into the season they find more and more ways to get Ivan the ball so that one of the most efficient finishers in the conference can get more shots.
- Wait for Jaylen Brown to start finishing, and hopefully within the flow of the offense.
Right now, Jaylen Brown is doing plenty of good things. He's drawing a ton of fouls and getting to the basket exactly like we all expected him to. But it's not resulting in made baskets as often as one might expect. I would feel safe wagering that it's just a matter of time until the and-1s start falling.
By raw efficiency, Cal has a top 50 offense despite sub-standard deep shooting and challenges integrating their two uber-talents into the offense. By the end of the season I fully expect us to be closer to top 20 or so.