After 10 games against competition that ranged from solid to cupcake, the Bears are finally ready to face another team that might actually get an invitation to March Madness. With Pac-12 play less than two week away, the season truly begins now.
Oklahoma was a 6 seed that won a game before bowing out of the tournament last year, and with only one key player graduating, they entered the season ranked. An unsurprising loss to Kentucky and a very surprising loss to Oral Roberts has knocked the Sooners down towards the bottom of the top 25, while Cal’s undefeated start has propelled them to roughly the same ranking. By both objective and subjective rankings, this match up appears to be a meeting of equals, and both teams should want this win badly as a crown atop their non-conference resumes.
PG T’ona Edwards, 5’5’’ Sr.
G Gioya Carter, 5’9’’ Sr.
G Peyton Little, 5’11’’ Sr.
G Maddie Manning, 6’2’’ Sr.
C Vionise Pierre-Louis, 6’4’’ Jr.
G Chelsea Dungee, 5’11’’ Fr.
PG Gabbi Ortiz, 5’9’’ Jr.
F Ijeoma Odimgbe, 6’4’’ So.
C Nancy Mulkey, 6’9’’ Fr.
Peyton Little is Oklahoma’s leading scorer and probably their most versatile offensive threat, but pretty much everybody in the key rotation can score. Pierre-Louis doesn’t shoot, but like a good center when she does it goes in. Oklahoma as a team isn’t much for 3 point shooting either by volume or percentage, so this might be a decent team to try a zone against.
Our Computer Overlords Predict
Sagarin Predictor: Cal by .68 points
The computer sees this game as a virtual toss up, which would make it something of a preview for almost half of Cal’s Pac-12 games, where the teams are similar enough that just about any outcome shouldn’t surprise. The hope for Cal fans is that Cal’s relative youth means that they have more room to improve as the season goes along than other teams.
Statistically, Cal and Oklahoma have equally good defenses, but Cal has a significantly better offense. What the computers see is Cal taking advantage of a weaker schedule - we’ll soon find out if Cal’s play translates against tougher opposition.
Keys to the Game
Disciplined, team wide defense
Oklahoma goes seven deep with players that are legitimate offensive threats as either passers or distributors, without having anybody that stands out as a star. That means that Cal will simply have to play good, solid, straight up defense.
Can Oklahoma get to the line?
Oklahoma has been averaging about 20 free throw attempts a game - they’ve been drawing fouls at a solid rate all season long. Cal, meanwhile, has been one of the least foul prone defenses in the nation. Can Cal maintain their foul-free defense against tougher, more athletic opposition? If so, they might be able to deprive Oklahoma of a key source of offense.
If Oklahoma has one obvious advantage statistically, it’s turnovers - so far this season they’ve been less turnover prone than Cal, while also forcing more than the Bears on defense. If Cal can keep the turnover count even (and if Cal can particularly do a better job of turning turnovers into offensive opportunities than Oklahoma) then other advantages will likely carry the Bears to victory.
Can Cal keep shooting the nets off when opposing defenses get tougher?
Right now Cal is 1st in the nation in FG%, and 2nd in eFG%. Of course, many of those shots have been against teams that simply don’t pose nearly the same physical challenge that Cal will see vs. Oklahoma, and over the rest of the season. So how much of Cal’s hot start from the field is a product of their own inherent abilities, and how much was a product of their weak schedule? We’ll start to find out tonight.