When: 3:00 pm
TV: Pac-12 Network
Live Audio: osubeavers.com
We've reached the final game of the regular season, and try as I might, it's hard not to think about what could have been. If Cal had won just one more conference game, this game would decide the #1 seed in the Pac-12 tournament.
Obviously, that didn't happen. Maybe if Brittany Boyd doesn't hit her head on the floor in Tempe, the Bears beat USC. Maybe if Courtney Range doesn't sprain her knee against Kansas, Cal beats Washington in Seattle. Maybe if the Pac-12 had balanced scheduling, Oregon State wouldn't have had the chance to clinch a share of the title before even having to face Cal or Stanford.
Life isn't always fair, and credit to Oregon State: they have faced the same teams Cal and Stanford have faced, but they didn't slip up against the USCs or Arizonas of the world, and that's why they are deserving conference (co?) champs. The reality this year is that four teams have exhibited nearly identical levels of performance over an 18 game schedule, and if you simulated this season 1,000 times, I'm sure Cal, Stanford, ASU and OSU all would have earned titles a decent portion of the time.
A Cal win would solidify the argument that the Bears are just as good as the top 10 Beavers, earn them at least a 3 seed in the Pac-12 tournament, and increase the odds that Cal will be hosting early round NCAA tournament games. That's plenty of motivation.
PG Sydney Wiese, 6'0'' So.
G Jamie Weisner, 5'10'' Jr.
G Ali Gibson, 5'11'' Sr.
F Deven Hunter, 6'3'' Jr.
C Ruth Hamblin, 6'6'' Jr.
G Gabriella Hanson, 5'11'' So.
F Samantha Siegner, 6'3'' Jr.
C Marie Gulich, 6'5'' Fr.
OSU will likely play a seven player rotation that's pretty balanced, although Wiese and Weisner won't leave the floor unless they get into foul trouble or the game turns into a blowout. Those two, along with Hamblin, are the three players that really make OSU special. All three are top 10 individually in the Pac-12 in points/shot and true shooting percentage. They balance each other out, so that teams can't pay too much attention to any one of them.
Hamblin might be my pick for conference player of the year because of her defensive abilities - OSU's defense allows opponents to hit just 35% of their 2 pointers, best in the conference by a solid margin, and that's in large part due to Hamblin's roll as a shot blocker and rim defender.
Gibson and Hunter are both solid secondary options, and both are solid defenders. Hanson and Siegner are both solid if unspectacular off the bench. Gulich might not actually play against Cal, as she doesn't usually get more than token minutes in big games so far this year.
Here's a partial list of stats that OSU leads the conference in:
- Field goal percentage
- 2 point field goal percentage
- Assist/turnover percentage
- Field goal percentage defense
- 2 point field goal percentage defense
- Rebounding percentage
And, obviously, OSU is first in points/possession scored AND allowed. Statistically, they have the best offense and defense in the conference, although they have faced an easier schedule than Cal (basically, swapping out a game against Stanford in favor of a game against Oregon).
Our Computer Overlords Predict
Sagarin Predictor: Oregon St. by 10.5
A pox upon your house, cruel computer overlords.
Keys to the game
Gray vs. Hamblin - These are two best post players in the conference, with only Jillian Alleyne even within shouting distance. And there's obviously lots of intrigue here. Can either player get the other into foul trouble? Will OSU double team Gray, or do think they that Hamblin - probably the best defensive player in the conference - can handle Gray by herself? Whichever player wins the individual match-up gives their team a big boost.
Rebounding - OSU is the best rebounding team in the conference, and by a pretty wide margin. Cal is middle of the pack at best, and has had trouble on the glass at various times this year. The Bears don't have to win the rebounding battle, but if they don't keep it at least closeish, then they will have to either really shoot well or really lock down defensively. As always, keeping Reshanda Gray out of foul trouble and on the court is a key.
3 point randomness - Stanford beat OSU with relative ease because 42% 3 point shooter Sydney Wiese went 1-10 from behind the arc. Cal beat Stanford with relative ease because the Bears shot 8-19 from behind the arc. You get the idea - OSU has an obvious advantage in terms of 3 point shooting, but that doesn't have to be the difference in any one game. As has been the case all season long - when Cal can get just a smidgen of outside shooting to fall, the offense instantly becomes very, very dangerous.