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Cal Men's Basketball vs. Arizona Preview

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Once upon a time, this game was circled as a potential battle for the Pac-12 crown.

John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

And then Zona dropped two in SoCal while our sturdy Golden Bears went on a three-game losing streak. Clearly, somewhere along the way, mistakes were made and we know nothing about hoops.

Be it a re-build or a re-load, Coach Sean Miller keeps the Wildcats well-stocked with thoroughbred talent. Having lost four starters off last year's Elite Eight squad, they took a page from the Dana Altman Mercs R' Us online course and filled both forward slots with transfers.

Until someone de-thrones them, Arizona remains the dominant power in the conference. And of course, their ever-classy fan base will be certain to beat their chests, paint their faces, foam at the mouth, take selfies and maybe even riot to remind us of their sheer awesomeness at every opportunity.

Instead of extending an olive branch of grudging respect, CGB Hoops expert and noted diplomat Reef is less than awed by the Wildcats:


Unfortunately, our once vaunted D has been charitably described as inconsistent throughout our losing streak while the Wildcats might be finding their way. Coach Miller surprised UW with a 2nd half zone defense and used stifling pressure to break open a contest that appeared even at the outset.

Where Arizona has remained consistently dangerous has been on offense. They lead the conference in offensive efficiency and eFG%. Although they often play without a true point guard, the Wildcats are incredibly dangerous from beyond the arc and have a number of explosive scorers. And, as always, Zona has athletes who can jump out of the gym as well as back-up athletes in case their other guys get stuck on the roof or a weather vane. They're extremely tough on the glass and will make you pay if you don't remember to box out on every possession.

Two weeks ago, I would have liked our chances at home using our defense and heart to out-grit their sheer talent. But, I clearly know nothing about hoops. Amazingly enough, the computers call this one even at 50-50...but that may not be accounting for the loss of Tyrone Wallace to a broken hand. One of their best players, uber-frosh Alonzo Trier, is also out, so don't expect any sad violins from Zona.

This is not a time for despair, Cal fans. Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Did the Bears quit or die when Ed Gray broke his foot? Is the band out on the field? One of the best aspects to sports is pulling for the unexpected, the inconceivable, and the darn-near miraculous. Unlikely heroes arise out of necessity and inspire us with memories of their exploits. If you can't get behind that, you probably wrote us out of the tournament weeks ago and are better off recording the World Series of Solitaire on your DVR.

Singer and Chauca have tough match-ups, but don't expect them to be intimidated by checking McDonald's All-Americans. They've both eaten at McDonald's and were unimpressed by the lack of nutritional value. They're going to play their hearts out for you, so let them hear it.

If we're going to become the team that we've been hoping for, it starts here. Defending the home court is paramount and this is one of the dragons that we've got to slay.


Projected Starters:

G Gabe York(Sr), 6'3, 190 lbs, 13.6 ppg, 44 3FG% - Deadly long-range shooter. Turnover prone and better at the 2 instead of running the point.
G Kadeem Allen(Jr), 6'3, 200 lbs, 8.7 ppg, 3.8 apg - Combo guard can score and create. Highly disruptive on D.
F Ryan Anderson(Sr), 6'9, 235 lbs, 14.8 ppg, 10.2 rpg - BC transfer has a rugged inside game. Could threaten for Pac-12 POY
F Mark Tollefsen(Gr), 6'9, 205 lbs, 8.8 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 39 3FG% - USF grad transfer is a stretch-4 and has a solid all-around game.
C Kaleb Tarczewski(Sr), 7'0 250 lbs, 10.5 ppg, 8.6 rpg - Imposing presence on D. Starting to assert himself offensively in conference play.

Bench:

G Parker Jackson-Cartwright(So), 5'11, 170 lbs, 5.1 ppg, 3.8 apt - Waterbug quick true point. Thinks he can shoot.
C Dusan Ristic(So), 7'0, 255 lbs, 8.6 ppg, 4.4 rpg - Capable twin tower to pair w/ Zeus. Says stuff like "I will break you."
G Justin Simon(Fr), 6'5, 200 lbs, 3.1 ppg - Sounds like a boy band knock-off. Ridiculously athletic.

*G Alonzo Trier(Fr) is out w/ a hand injury. (14.8 ppg)

When Arizona
has the ball

Category Arizona
Offense
California
Defense
D-I Avg
Efficiency 123.2 1 99.9 3 103.1
Avg. Poss Length 17.7 8 18.6 11 17.2
Four Factors
Effective FG%: 58.8 1 42.9 1 49.6
Turnover %: 15.9 4 14.8 10 18.5
Off. Reb. %: 35.1 2 29.5 4 30.1
FTA/FGA: 39.5 4 47.0 11 36.6
Miscellaneous Components
3P%: 49.4 1 32.3 3 34.5
2P%: 53.4 1 41.3 1 48.5
FT%: 73.8 2 73.3 10 69.4
Block%: 10.6 8 11.1 6 9.2
Steal%: 7.8 5 5.5 12 8.7
Style Components
3PA/FGA: 26.0 9 21.6 1 35.2
A/FGM: 49.7 6 45.1 3 52.8
Defensive
Fingerprint:
Mostly
Man
Point Distribution (% of total points)
3-Pointers: 26.3 5 17.4 12 29.2
2-Pointers: 53.8 5 53.9 3 50.4
Free Throws: 19.9 7 28.7 1 20.4
Personnel
Bench Minutes: 35.1% 128 31.0% 234 33.0%
Experience: 1.90 yrs 111 1.53 yrs 237 1.70
Effective Height: +4.4 11 +3.5 19 0.0
Average Height: 78.1" 33 78.8" 6 76.8"

When California
has the ball

Category California
Offense
Arizona
Defense
D-I Avg
Efficiency 103.7 8 106.0 8 103.1
Avg. Poss Length 16.1 3 16.9 6 17.2
Four Factors
Effective FG%: 53.1 3 50.9 7 49.6
Turnover %: 20.3 11 15.2 8 18.5
Off. Reb. %: 28.0 9 22.9 1 30.1
FTA/FGA: 39.3 5 30.0 3 36.6
Miscellaneous Components
3P%: 35.2 8 36.6 7 34.5
2P%: 53.3 2 49.1 9 48.5
FT%: 66.0 11 78.4 12 69.4
Block%: 12.1 10 12.2 4 9.2
Steal%: 10.7 11 7.8 6 8.7
Style Components
3PA/FGA: 32.6 4 31.3 9 35.2
A/FGM: 49.2 7 52.7 9 52.8
Defensive
Fingerprint:
Mostly
Man
Point Distribution (% of total points)
3-Pointers: 26.1 6 27.4 5 29.2
2-Pointers: 54.3 4 53.8 4 50.4
Free Throws: 19.6 8 18.8 9 20.4
Personnel
Bench Minutes: 31.0% 234 35.1% 128 33.0%
Experience: 1.53 yrs 237 1.90 yrs 111 1.70
Effective Height: +3.5 19 +4.4 11 0.0
Average Height: 78.8" 6 78.1" 33 76.8"

Keys to the Game:

1) For every remaining game, it's pretty much a given that we need to avoid foul trouble, minimize costly turnovers, and don't get killed on the offensive glass. I write this anyway because I have OCD issues.

2) Champions square off: Ivan Rabb vs. Ryan Anderson, Jaylen Brown vs. Mark Tollefsen

I'd feel better about the Rabb-Anderson heavyweight match if I knew the refs would let them play. Rabb is all heart, but he's got to be smart and use his length/quickness against a savvy interior scorer.  If I were Sean Miller, I'd go through a lot of broken mirrors.  I'd also cross-cover with Zeus/Ristic behind Rabb and then shamelessly double off of King/Rooks with the other big.  Ivan has good vision and passes well for a frosh post, but our other players will need to be ready to convert their looks.

Brown has to remember the scouting report and stick to Tollefsen behind the arc.  He'll also needs to be focused all game long on helping with the boards because our bigs will have their hands full.  On offense, we need to create opportunities for Brown on the move where he can force Tollefson to guard him off the dribble.

3) The Ents are going to war: Zeus/Ristic vs. Rooks/Okoroh

The twin towers are the 2nd biggest mismatch on paper.  Usually, the Wildcats rely on their giants for dominant rebounding and defense.  Against the Furds, their center tandem only took five shots, but helped establish a 41-25 rebound advantage.  On the other hand, they pounded UW by playing Zeus/Ristic together and repeatedly fed the ball inside.

We need our bigs to re-discover whatever mojo they were feeling when they went toe to toe with Jakob Poetl and Josh Scott. Scoring is a bonus;  establish consistent position on defense and keep Zona from destroying us on the offensive glass.

4) Who wants the ring? Singer/Mathews/Bird vs. York/Allen/Jackson-Cartwright

York and Mathews are each team's respective best shooters and are somewhat similar in that they are best when they can be catch n' shoot guys, decidedly less so when forced to put it on the floor.  Unfortunately, Mathews is pressing a bit while York had the hot hand and was instrumental in putting away the Furds.  We need Mathews to get back to hard-nosed, intensely focused defense and being patient for the right shot opportunities to come to him.

Singer has a tough match-up against either Allen or Jackson-Cartwright. Allen is a tremendous athlete who will play the passing lanes and leads them in steals. Jackson-Cartwright might be small, but he's got elite quickness.

We might actually try to have Singer chase York off the 3-point line and see if Mathews can at least limit their dribble penetration. When Bird is in the game, he has to make a difference with his size on the boards and be a credible threat from deep.

X-factors for the Bears are Chauca, Domingo and Moute a Bidias.  Is it too much to ask for clutch shooting from two of them and a defensive shot in the arm from the third?  Ironically, the smallest matchup is the biggest mismatch.  While the Wildcats often bring in Jackson-Cartwright to spark their offense by pushing the tempo, our bench minutes can be charitably described as "survival mode."

Since it looks like Coach Martin is going to use Chauca to spell Singer instead of trying to run the offense without a point, we need him to limit turnovers and buy time for Sam without letting the game get out of hand.  However, if he wants to go Boom-Chauca-laka and start dropping 3-bombs everywhere, that would also be okay.

5) Sometimes, you need someone to somehow put an arrow into a tiny missing scale to bring down a dragon.  For the love of Oski, this would be a good time to make some shots.

Go Bears!

Tip-off: Saturday, 1/23, 5:30pm
TV: ESPN