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Cal Men's Basketball Preview: Washington State

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Cal heads to Pullman to do God knows what

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Gametime: 5:30 PM

Network: ESPNU, WatchESPN

Let's start with a song:

(To the tune of Won't Get Fooled Again by The Who)

We'll be fighting in the Palouse

Trying hard not to lose

The failures on the road, they'll be gone

And the folks who cheer us on

Sit around back at home

Watching Ernie Kent's plans go wrong

I'll watch free throws fly without a conclusion

Take a bow for the new Rabbalution

Look around for a flying Jaylen Brown

Pick up a ball and play

Win just like Thursday

But I'll get on my knees and pray

We don't get Coug'd again!

Suffice it to say, Washington State has not had the best of years. They've almost reached Paul Wulff levels of ineptitude during the Pac-12 slate, though Wulff wishes he could've beaten a ranked UCLA team. Ernie Kent's second season at the helm of the Cougars has not been great. In fact, it resembles Kent's final year at Oregon. For perspective, their Pac-12 record is worse than Cal's road record.

So what's wrong with the Cougs? For one, they don't shoot too many threes, they're 11th in 3pt%, and they're the 3rd worst at defending behind the stripe. There's also the glaring scarlet letter (or number), that Wazzu is last in the conference in playing offense and defense. To quote the great John Madden, "The team that scores the most points will usually win the game." Since the Cougs are on a 12 game losing streak, they haven't been too happy with Madden.

The issues don't entirely lie with the lineup, as they start a lineup filled with upperclassmen. Suffice it to say, they are the Brooklyn Brawler of the Pac-12 lineup. Maybe even Gillberg, because they at least got a win (over a UCLA team that beat them by 33 points at Pauley). So the Bears are the Rock in this situation. Thought to have early potential, struggling to live up to it, then finally gaining that momentum as the season went on.

So the challenge for the Bears is to raise the people's eyebrow, throw the elbow pad into the crowd, and drop the People's Elbow right into the heart of the Cougs. In other words, they need to play defense, make shots, and other things associated with shootyhoops.

Roster:

Starters:

G Ike Iroegbu (Jr.) 6'2" 195 lbs. 13.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg 3.6 apg. Is yet another PG who is shoot-first, ask questions later. He's a solid passer and pretty good from a shooting efficiency standpoint.
G Que Johnson (Jr.) 6'5" 208 lbs. 10.6 ppg, 2.5 rpg. Likes to shoot. He's average at it. Doesn't turn the ball over too much

F Brett Boese (Sr.) 6'7" 230 lbs. 2.4 ppg, 1 rpg. Doesn't do all that much. Is kind of just there
F Junior Longrus (Sr.) 6'7" 240 lbs 2 ppg, 2.5 rpg. Makes Tyrone Wallace look excellent at free throws
F Josh Hawkinson (Jr.) 6'10" 232 lbs. 15.5 ppg, 11 rpg. One of the true double-double threats left. Very talented defensive rebounder. Pretty complete player

Bench:

G Charles Callison (Jr.) 6' 183 lbs Good passer and stealer
G Ny Redding (So.) 6'2" 170 lbs Not related to Bill Nye. Shooting is very meh.
G Renard Suggs (Jr.) 6'2" 188 lbs Guns with the fanaticism of Ted Nugent's roided-out older brother. Not efficient
F Valentine Izundu (Jr.) 6'10" 235 lbs Good at shooting from inside. Not at free throws
C Connor Clifford (Jr.) 7' 269 lbs. Very efficient. High turnover rate. Is tall

Boese may not start, with Clifford potentially replacing him off the bench to combat Cal's bigs. Hawkinson is the main focus here. He has an array of post skills that often get him to the line, which is music to everyone's ears after two games of 50+ fouls. Iroegbu will take more shots than he should, taking away possessions for Hawkinson to draw fouls on Rabb/Rooks/Okoroh, but that's a good thing for us.

Advanced Stats or This Could Get Ugly

This is a game of meeting a movable object. Wazzu is last in forcing turnovers, along with being generally sieve-like, especially against Pac-12 teams. Their defensive efficiency gets 10 points better including out of conference games, but their defense has definitely struggled as of the past couple of months.

Defensively, the matchup looks like fun. What do you get when you take the worst offensive team, who gets the majority of their points from inside the arc, and put them against the best defensive team, with the best two-point defense in the conference (3rd in the country)? Much like Mr. T's forecast in Rocky III, you get pain. This could be the defensive performance of the year, as long as the Bears perform like they do in the warm confines of Haas.

Predictions by Computers

Kenpom: 76-68 Cal victory, 78% chance of victory

Sagarin: Cal by 13

Not looking to be very chaotic, if the Bears play like they should, this game should go swimmingly.

Tres Puntos Five Keys to Victory

1.) Less fouls on the interior

At this point in the season, we all know the deal. Bad fouls will be called. Complaining will be had. It will be Mike Greenstein's fault. Larry Scott's integrity will be questioned. Bill Walton will call it the Conference of Champions. The list goes on into we're blue in the face. The best chance Washington State has is to pound it inside to Hawkinson, and let him draw any number of fouls on the three headed monster of Rabb, Rooks, and Okoroh. Having some Hibbert-like verticality is the key

2.) Make this game into an advertisment for UPS, What Can Brown Do for You?

We saw that Jaylen Brown can do a lot, with his athleticism and playmaking ability on full show against Washington. If he can demonstrate his quick first step against a less than satisfactory defensive, then we might be seeing some highlights. Though we probably will be seeing that anyway

3.) Bird is the Word

This one is mostly for my dad, who will not stop sending me Surfing Bird whenever Jabari does something well. Getting Jabari involved has been a key for these past few victories. He wasn't too involved in the Washington win due to his early foul trouble. If the Bird is to be the word, he will need more opportunity. He might get it this time.

4.) Play to your Strengths

Playing to the strength of the defense, forcing bad 2 point shots, is just what the doctor ordered. Working that advantage will be crucial for a satisfying win.

5.) For the love of God, make some free throws

I think this one is self explanatory.

Not much more to say other than Go Bears!