I'll be honest, I've barely thought about Colorado in two months. Cal beat the Buffs in the 2nd game of their Pac-12 schedule rather easily in Berkeley.
Colorado was easy to forget about because they didn't do anything remarkable in conference play. The Buffs finished 6-12, with a 5-0 record against the 10th, 11th and 12th place teams in the conference and a 1-11 record against everybody else.
But suddenly the Buffs have two wins over teams that finished above them in the conference standings, by beating USC on Thursday and Oregon State yesterday. With an RPI of 99, Colorado would represent a not-great loss for the Bears, and I would speculate that Cal needs to win this game to host NCAA games in Berkeley.
PG Lexy Kresl, 5'11'' Sr.
G Jasmine Sborov, 5'11'' Sr.
G/F Haley Smith, 6'1'' So.
F Jamie Swan 6'2'' Jr.
F Jen Reese 6'2'' Sr.
G/F Lauren Huggins, 6'2'' Jr.
F Zoe Beard-Fails, 6'1'' So.
G Brecca Thomas, 5'5'' Fr.
G/F Alina Hartmann, 6'0'' Fr.
F Zoe Correal, 6'4'' Fr.
It's a three player team, more or less. Colorado depends heavily on the scoring of Reese, Swan, and Kresl. True, Haley-Smith is a decent secondary scorer and Lauren Huggins is a solid 3 point gunner, but the big three make this team go. Kresl can get crazy hot from 3 (just ask OSU!) so Cal will have to extend their defense on her. And when Cal played the Buffs in Berkeley, they shut down everything but Swan and Reese, so we know they can operate against Cal's defense.
Our Computer Overlords Predict
Sagarin Predictor: Cal by 7
I think 7 points undervalues Cal/overvalues Colorado in part because Colorado suffers more when they aren't playing at home and at altitude . . . but then again that wasn't an issue for them against USC or Oregon St., was it? So who knows?
Keys to the Game
1. Just do everything you did against Colorado in January: It's always exactly that simple, right? Well, probably not. But it's worth noting that Cal dominated all aspects of the game in Berkeley - shooting, rebounds, turnovers and free throws. Bring the same level of intensity and execution, and Cal should be just fine.
2. Post defense: Reese and Swan are both effective, efficient post scorers, which is something few Pac-12 teams can boast. There will be pressure on Reshanda Gray, Mikayla Cowling and Courtney Range to make life tough on the interior duo. I don't think double teams are a bad idea, as long as the guards helping out over the top aren't leaving Lexy Kresl wide open. If one or both interior players struggle, Colorado will have serious trouble.
3. Defensive variety and ball pressure - Colorado struggles badly with turnovers, which means that full court press, trapping 1-3-1s, and relentless ball pressure may well cause plenty of havoc and give Cal transition opportunities. It's elimination basketball - let's bring a ton of energy and make life hell for Colorado's guards.