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Cal Men's Basketball Preview: Arizona State

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Cal welcomes ASU (or USA if you're dyslexic) to Haas to hopefully end the losing streak

My feelings were hurt after the Stanford game as well, Jaylen
My feelings were hurt after the Stanford game as well, Jaylen
John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

When: 6 PM

TV: Fox Sports 1

Strange things are afoot at Haas Pavilion as the Bears return home after a three game road skid, which was punctuated by the injury to Tyrone Wallace. As the leading scorer and play-maker, Wallace's loss leaves a huge hole, but not one that is impossible to fill. A year ago, Wallace getting injured would have spelled DOOM for Cal basketball. This year, there are more options, there is more talent, and the lane will be opened up that much more for Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb.

What exactly can you do without Tyrone Wallace? That's a big question that needs answering by Cuonzo Martin and company. You have to replace a player who is in your ten most used lineups, and takes about a sixth of all available minutes. Sam Singer will slide into the point guard position to start, and he'll probably be backed up by some amount of Brandon Chauca and Brenden Glapion. Singer will need to adjust to his new workload quick, though he did put in 28 minutes against Stanfurd. I'd find it difficult to imagine a lineup without a true point guard, though Jaylen Brown seems to be a capable ball-handler. That might be an interesting experiment for Coach Martin should he choose to go in that direction. That being said, Walllace's absence will leave the Bears without a go-to playmaker when the chips are down. Luckily Brown and Rabb are very capable in that respect, and it may give Jaylen a little more leeway to build on his recent excellent performances.

Now the Arizona schools come into town, with the Bobby Hurley led Arizona State Sun Devils. ASU swept Cal last year, including a hard to watch beatdown at Haas. No one wants to sit through something like that again, and in all likelihood that shouldn't happen again this year. Especially since Bobby Hurley is already 0-1 against Cal.

Arizona State:

Arizona State is an odd team, schedule-wise. They have a couple of good non-conference wins, taking down Texas A&M and Creighton on the road. They also have some bad losses, getting taken down by perennial northern California power Sacramento State and getting cannibalized by their Pac-12 schedule so far. They did hang in with Kentucky for a half though, and I'd suspect that Bobby Hurley is an excellent motivator.

The conference schedule to this point has pitted ASU against rival Arizona, the LA schools, and the Washington schools. They did what most of the Pac-12 has done for the past 18 years or so and beat the Ernie Kent-led team, but other than that, they've had little success, falling to UCLA in the last 10 minutes, Hurley getting ejected for arguing calls against Arizona, and forgetting that free throws were free against USC. As a Cal fan, I'm expecting at least one Sun Devil to turn into a literal fireball a la NBA Jam.

Roster:

G Tra Holder 6'1" So. Ball dominant point guard, who is decent from 3. Will shoot lots of free throws. That fact will drive me insane.

G Gerry Blakes 6'4" Sr. Solid rebounder for his size. Not great from 3. Will play at the 2 or the 3 depending on the lineup

F Obinna Oleka 6'7" Jr. Solid on the offensive glass. Will not shoot many threes. Turnover rate is triple his assist rate

F Willie Atwood 6'7" Sr. Low turnover rate. Goes to the line more than Holder. Makes them at over 80%

F Eric Jacobsen 6'10" Sr. Fouls a bunch. Gets fouled a bunch. Solely post player

Bench:

G Kodi Justice 6'5" So. Has a pretty sweet name. 40+% from 3

F Savon Goodman 6'6" Jr. Sixth man archetype. Draws fouls at a high rate. Also fouls at a high rate. Really good rebounder

G Andre Spight 6'3" Jr. Not a great shooter. Doesn't commit too many fouls

Yet again the theme here is free throws. As long as the Bears don't get called for 27 GODDAMN FOULS again, this shouldn't be an issue. It's going to be an issue, due to #Pac12Refs and the inane rule changes that have helped to expand my list of expletives directed at the officiating staff.

One thing that's happened in most of ASU's losses is that they've shot poorly from the free throw line, as they shot 40% against USC and close to 50% against Washington. That's out of Cal's control, but what they can do is play as fundamentally as possible. Cal is still first in 2 point FG%, so if the defense can play straight up, and Sam Singer can find a way to stay in front of Holder and Brown doesn't foul Goodman in the post, then we'll be golden. Otherwise, we could have a problem on our hands

Fancy Advanced Stats:

About half of ASU's points come inside the 3 point line, so if Cal can hold them to their defensive averages, then the Bears can stay undefeated at home. This is my first time really looking through Kenpom, so I didn't realize that Cal's average height is 6th in the country. Without Ty, this is obviously going to change, but if Singer can retain his effectiveness defensively, I don't think there will be too much of a difference. Free throw shooting and turnovers will be the biggest issues for the Bears, as they usually are, but who knows what having a true point guard running things will do for the offense.

Computer Overlord Prediction:

Kenpom: 75% chance to win 75-68 predicted score

Sagarin: Predicts a 73-67 win

Let it be known that Sagarin predicts a Cal win even without Tyrone Wallace. Kenpom assumes Wallace will play, which, unless he has some X-Men level healing powers, will not happen.

Trace Puntos Para Ganar:

1. Adjust accordingly:

Ty covers a lot of holes when he's on the floor. He can be the ballhandler in the pick and roll. He can create his offense. He can hit the elbow jumper. He can even hit the occasional three. Replacing that for the next 4-6 weeks is going to be difficult, but some of it can be replaced easily. Feeding Ivan is a place to start. Singer is a better 3 point shooter than Wallace, so this can possibly open up shots for Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews if defenders respect Singer. It's impossible to completely cover what Wallace does with one guy, so everyone can contribute a bit to add up.

2. Stop the fouling

I hate the rule changes, if I didn't make that clear earlier. It leads to the pace of the game slowing down, which leads to a disjointed game which makes it incredibly difficult to get into a rhythm. That being said, sometimes you have to play the game. This is one of those times. Playing guys straight up, and going straight up to block shots is the way to go. ASU gets their shots blocked a lot more than average, so disciplined shot blocking could be the way to go

3. Give Singer his due

Sam Singer has become the kind of gritty defender that Jorge used to be. Singer isn't quite on that level, but this is his first opportunity to prove himself in a starting role. A pure point guard could be what this offense needs to cut down on the turnovers, but that remains to be seen, as Singer has been turnover prone in the past as well. I'm excited to see what he can do, as his energy off the bench has been infectious.

On the whole, I think that Cal can pull this one out without Ty, but it's going to be a long road from here on forward.

As always, Go Bears!