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Cal Basketball at Washington Preview

Can the Bears stay hot as the stretch run of Pac-12 play continues?

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

When: 8:00 pm PT
TV: Fox Sports 1

Ah, Lorenzo Romar. Agent of chaos. Recruiter of endless 6'8'' dudes who are crazy athletic. Longest tenured Pac-12 coach by some margin. Perpetual loser of head scratching non-conference games. Hello old friend.

Washington is chaos for two reasons. The first reason is tempo. They play the 5th fasted adjusted tempo in the nation, and it means that games are never over. USC led the Huskies by 22 and lost. Colorado led the Huskies by 17, yet only won by a point.

The second reason would seem to be mere randomness. Washington plays close games. Four UW conference games have gone to overtime. Five other games have been decided by 5 points or fewer. Multiple games have swung on last second baskets. Alaska Airlines arena has been the site of most of these games.

I guess it makes sense. Washington starts four freshmen, part of a recruiting class that can compete with Cal's class on the grounds of sheer volume. The first two players off Romar's bench include another freshman and a JC transfer. It's Andrew Andrews and a bunch of players who weren't on the roster last year. When you combine talent with wholesale roster turnover and strategy that's more of an ethos than anything else, you get chaos. That, and Washington is bad enough to be frequent home underdogs, but good enough to play everybody close.

Cal's challenge is to lock down that chaos, so that we can stop talking about this damnable road streak.



PG Andrew Andrews, 6'2'' Senior - Go-to play maker has a solid jumper - struggles to finish at the rim but compensates by drawing fouls at a rate higher than Jaylen Brown.
G Dejounte Murray, 6'4'' Freshman - Low efficiency combo guard struggles to score inside and outside, but a solid passer and defensive ball hawk
F Matisse Thybulle, 6'5'' Freshman - Wing to thrives more as a disruptor on defense than as a consistent scoring threat.
F Marquese Chriss, 6'9'' Freshman - Solid all-around post, makes things happen on the offensive glass, finishes well, blocks shots. Ivan-Rabb-lite, commits lots of fouls
F Noah Dickerson, 6'8'' Freshman - UW's best defensive rebounder,


G David Crisp, 6'0'' Freshman - struggling to shoot (so expect him to go off), has a turnover rate roughly equal to his assist rate.
F Malik Dime, 6'9'' Junior - arguably the best shot blocker in the conference, efficient finisher, would probably play more but is in constant foul trouble.
F Dominic Green, 6'6'' Freshman - Limited minutes & usage, mostly a 3 point gunner.
F Donaven Dorsey, 6'5'' Sophomore - Even more limited minutes & usage, mostly a 3 point gunner.

Washington would like to play a 7 player rotation with Crisp and Dime coming off the bench, but they run their guys a little too hard and commit a few too many fouls, so Green and Dorsey will likely get scattered, low-impact minutes here or there.

Mostly, it's the Andrews/Murray show. Both are shoot first point guards, though Andrews just happens to be much better in that role than Murray. The guard duo are typically surrounded by a bunch of rangy, athletic forwards who are looking to get themselves open off of penetration from Andrews and Murray, or to clean up their missed shots on the glass.

All of the guards get lots of steals, and all of the bigs get lots of blocks, and all of these disruption plays are designed to get UW out and running in transition.

Advanced Stat Preview

When Cal has the ball

Category California
D-I Avg
Efficiency 107.3 5 108.1 11 103.5
Avg. Poss Length 17.3 6 17.3 8 17.2
Four Factors
Effective FG%: 53.3 3 51.8 10 49.8
Turnover %: 19.2 10 20.5 3 18.4
Off. Reb. %: 30.6 7 36.1 12 29.9
FTA/FGA: 44.0 2 46.3 11 36.8
Miscellaneous Components
3P%: 38.9 2 38.0 8 34.6
2P%: 50.8 4 49.6 9 48.6
FT%: 65.5 11 70.6 7 69.8
Block%: 9.4 5 15.3 1 9.2
Steal%: 8.2 6 10.6 3 8.7
Style Components
3PA/FGA: 32.7 4 30.1 4 35.3
A/FGM: 52.8 3 50.1 7 52.7

Washington's defense forces turnovers and blocks shots, and does pretty much nothing else well. They constantly get caught on the boards with players leaking out in transition, and they commit an absurd number of fouls (As Kenpom notes, Washington may set some records for most disqualifications).

Free throw shooting tends to be vastly overrated as a factor in wins and losses, but between Cal's iffy shooting and Washington's propensity to send teams to the line, this might be a good game for Cal to have a random 80% freebie shooting night.

When Washington has the ball

Category Washington
D-I Avg
Efficiency 105.7 7 101.2 3 103.5
Avg. Poss Length 13.6 1 17.6 10 17.2
Four Factors
Effective FG%: 48.1 9 45.2 1 49.8
Turnover %: 17.3 7 14.1 11 18.4
Off. Reb. %: 32.6 3 27.6 4 29.9
FTA/FGA: 37.6 6 44.3 9 36.8
Miscellaneous Components
3P%: 34.9 9 31.9 2 34.6
2P%: 46.0 10 44.4 1 48.6
FT%: 75.0 1 70.1 6 69.8
Block%: 9.9 7 10.5 6 9.2
Steal%: 7.7 4 6.2 10 8.7
Style Components
3PA/FGA: 32.4 5 24.4 1 35.3
A/FGM: 50.7 7 45.2 3 52.7

Yes, the bizarro Huskies are awful at securing the defensive glass, but make plenty of noise on the offensive glass. Go figure. Still, Cal has done a good job preventing teams from getting a ton of traction with 2nd chances, and I like our odds of holding Washington down from the field. I really think this game will turn on our ability to prevent a free throw parade.

Our Computer Overlords Predict

Kenpom: Washington 81, Cal 80, 49% chance of a Cal win

Sagarin Predictor: Cal by .1 points

Like I said, chaos!

For the second time in a week, the computer overlords are shockingly wishy-washy. Cal previously responded to such electronic spinelessness by blowing out the Oregon Ducks in what the computers saw as a coin flip. A similar performance would propel the Bears further up the advanced stat pecking order.

Keys to the Game

1) Limit fouls

What to see a scary stat? Look at the following:

27-40 (home)
24-34 (home)
23-30 (away)
25-29 (home)
22-29 (home)
31-45 (home)

Those are UW's numbers from the free throw line in six of their seven Pac-12 wins. In six of Washington's seven conference wins, they have had a free throw rate north of 40%. In five of Washington's six conference losses, their free throw rate has been below 40%.

That 40% isn't necessarily a magic number, but it gives you a good sense of what needs to go right for Washington to win games in the Pac-12. The Huskies aren't a great shooting team, and their turnover numbers are mediocre. Their offense goes when they can get offensive rebounds, and shoot a crazy number of free throws.

Cal is a team prone to fouling too much. Washington as a team isn't brilliant at drawing fouls, but they are capable of it, especially at home*. Whistles will, I hate to say it, be a critical factor.

*Insert all-too-easy complaint about refs here.

2) Get controlled ball-handling performances from Sam, Ty, and Jaylen

Washington forces lots of turnovers, and that's reason to be wary. But it's worth pointing out that they don't force more than Oregon, Oregon State, or Stanford, three teams that Cal has already lost to (and beaten!) in part by not taking care of the ball (and in part by taking care of the ball!) The pressure will be on Cal's primary ball handlers to deal with pressure while still running the offense.

3) To run or not to run?

We know what Washington is going to do. The question is how Cal responds. Do the Bears run right with the Huskies, and hope that the tremendous open court skills of players like Jaylen Brown and Tyrone Wallace can beat the Huskies at their own game? Or do we give lots of minutes to Kam and King, and hope to lull UW into a more half-court game? I don't know the right answer to that question. I do know that I'm wary of playing a true center because UW's forwards are so quick, but I'm also wary of going small because I'm not sure if we have somebody to guard UW's 2nd post player. It's an interesting conundrum.

4) Kod5

Hey, our traditional request that Cal shoot well while the other team does not worked really well the last time we put it in the 4th slot. I'm not one to mess with what works.

5) Who's going to stay in front of Andrews?

Ty is rusty and not our best on-ball defender anyway. We don't want Jaylen in foul trouble. Sam probably isn't quick enough. Do we give the assignment to Jordan and Jabari? Might Roger get some minutes off the bench? Regardless of the exact solution, slowing down UW's biggest play-maker will be critical.