Louisiana Tech and UC Irvine have both taken the 5-1 Cal basketball team to overtime at Haas Pavilion. While that hasn’t ended up costing the Bears any victories, those games have left many fans with a sense of concern. At least those two squads have performed reasonably for mid-majors: the Pomeroy Basketball Rankings (kenpom.com) rank them at #134 and #148 respectively. The worst team Cal has faced so far is Southeastern Louisiana at #243. Meanwhile, the Bears sit at #53 and their next opponent Alcorn State is 2-4, ranking a lowly #344 out of 351 total teams. Let’s hope this is a chance to build confidence before some trickier games away from home.
Montez Robinson took over the Alcorn program last season, and the Braves’ 15-15 record including 13-5 in the Southwestern Athletic Conference was considered a major success. He had been an assistant coach at Bethune-Cookman and previously worked at Kennesaw State, but this season might prove his biggest challenge to date. The Braves began their Bay Area trip on Wednesday, losing 78-65 to the USF Dons. That sent their road record to 0-4, and Alcorn’s two wins have come at home against non-NCAA teams.
G Denzel Dulin - 6’4” Sr. - Transfer from Bethune-Cookman attempted a whopping 17 free throws last Sunday and finished with a career high of 20 points. Has a strong crossover move.
G A.J. Mosby - 6’3” Jr. - Junior college standout can rebound but is struggling so far at the D1 level.
G Maurice Howard - 6’1” Fr. - Does his scoring almost exclusively behind the three-point line but has been blanked in two of six games.
F Yalen Reed - 6’7” Fr. - Averages only about 12 minutes played but has demonstrated shot blocking prowess.
F Marquis Vance - 6’7” Sr. - Shooting 38% on three-point attempts while leading the Braves in scoring and rebounding.
F Reginal Johnson - 6’5” Jr. - Misspell this and Google gives you information about an early 20th century Southern California architect. So far, a model of consistency as a bench scorer and the team’s best player during the San Francisco game.
G Avery Patterson - 6’2” Jr. - You can’t call him “King of the Hill” anymore in light of his transfer from Western Kentucky, but Patterson is a tenacious defender.
F Tyler Carter - 6’7” Fr. - Senior DeAndré Davis has missed the last four games, but that still hasn’t led to much playing time for the Houston native.
F Rahamanh Katumbusi - 6’2” So. - High school scorekeepers had difficulty with his name. True story.
1. Run smart possessions.
Alcorn’s offense has scored 67 points per night, which ranks #305 in the nation. Nevertheless, Cal has only fared slightly better in averaging 71.3. Due to the Bears’ injuries, there may be less margin for error than would appear based on the matchup. Ivan Rabb will enjoy a 4 inch height advantage over any of his competitors, and Cuonzo Martin needs to exploit it. This also feels like the perfect game for Roger Moute a Bidias to recapture the form he displayed against Wyoming.
2. Long live the King.
Kingsley Okoroh was always going to play more once Kameron Rooks missed time, and now Rooks is out 4-6 weeks due to knee issues. Okoroh made the most of his opportunities against Southeastern Louisiana and Louisiana Tech, just missing a double-double in each game Okoroh has been tremendous on the defensive end (18 blocks) and can always hit the glass. The Bears will certainly benefit if he continues to score too.
3. Match up with the Marquis.
Marquis Vance (unaffiliated with Vance Refrigeration) had a night to forget against Colorado State, but he has averaged double digits as far back as his freshman year. That doesn’t mean he’s a great volume shooter or even a good foul shooter. However, right now you leave him open behind the arc at your peril.
4. Push the offensive pace.
It’s partly a measure of their competition, but Alcorn’s 69 points allowed per contest puts them among the top 40% in Division I. Getting good, quick looks will put pressure on their scorers to answer back against Cal’s defense. That same defense has held opponents to 35.5% on field goals, ninth best in the country so far. If Charlie Moore or Grant Mullins get hot early, why not let them fire away? It would also be great to see Sam Singer more involved in the offensive flow.
5. Make shots.
For all of you inserting this into my comments sections, the third time’s the charm! Cal is 2-0 in matchups with Alcorn State, triumphing 91-57 back in 2014. Pomeroy expects that this will be the least competitive game played on Saturday with a 99% chance of a win by the Bears.
Meaningless Prediction: California 79, Alcorn State 60
How to follow: Pac-12 Networks/KGO 810 AM, 1 PM on December 3