This is what we've held our breath for all year. As much as program trajectory is perhaps best judged by conference play, there's something undeniably glorious about a run in the Big Dance.
For the first time in recent memory, our sturdy Golden Bears have a high seed and will be favored to move on. But Cinderella's wholesome image is merely clever marketing; she lives to break hearts in the most breathtakingly cruel way possible.
Up first are the confident Hawaii Rainbow Warriors(27-5), co-champions of the Big West. They're a high energy team built on scrappy defense. Perhaps the closest Pac-12 comparable with regards to comparable talent is somewhere between USC and Oregon State. Although the Rainbow Warriors play almost exclusively man, they double more frequently and play the passing lanes more aggressively than we do. It's a good thing we've gotten all those pesky turnovers out of our system already.
On offense, they like to play fast and are prone to settle for early three-pointers. They're anchored inside by Stefan Jankovic, reigning Big West Player of the Year. After being Poetlized in the conference finals, I'm sure we're all looking forward to another multi-skilled big...only this one can also step out and hit from deep. Star point guard Roderick Bobbitt is clearly their engine. Reef summarized his game as "Sort of like Gary Payton II lite. Better deep ball shooter, but not quite as good at everything else." And if we wanted to add one big item to our worry closet, Hawaii tends to draw a lot of fouls.
Props to CGB Reader iheartmonty for scouting the Rainbow Warriors during the finals of their conference tourney.
Here are his observations:
Hawaii hedges on every screen, ever.
And the hedger is slow to recover half the time. Ivan could do some serious damage if we can make the right passes.
On offense, they hoist up a lot of 3s, but they're not great from behind the arc collectively.
Sagging man-to-man. Hawaii's off-ball defenders look to double team quite often. You see it on the majority of their half court defensive possessions.
For those degenerate hoops junkies who absolutely want to watch more film, here's the entire game of Hawaii versus Oklahoma. (HT Avinash)
The Rainbow Warriors came back from an early deficit, used their D to fuel an 18-0 run, and were tied in the final minutes. Then they forgot about their best player and instead jacked up a number of deep hero-ball threes to lose the game. Of particular note was they absolutely looked like the could hang with Oklahoma from a size, skill, and athleticism standpoint. Bobbitt (32 pts, 13-16 FT, 6 assists, 3 steals) more than held his own against future lottery pick, Buddy Hield, and Jankovic (17 pts, 3 blocks) repeatedly abused the Oklahoma frontline. As you might expect, the Bobbitt/Jankovic pick and roll was a staple in their offense.
Although Cal is projected by kenpom to pull this one out, 74-69, at 69%, this is in no way an opponent to take lightly.
C Stefan Jankovic(Jr), 6'11, 235 lbs, 15.7 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 1.2 big, 39% 3FG - Versatile scorer who creates all sorts of mis-match issues with his ability to hit from deep. Not just a pick/pop guy, he'll also put the ball on the floor and drive on you. Does a good job of establishing position in the paint and making himself available.
F Mike Thomas(Jr), 6'7, 205 lbs, 7.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 55% FT - High energy guy who excels at running people over.
G Aaron Valdes(Jr), 6'5, 190 lbs, 14.6 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 32.8% 3FG - Capable of carrying the team with his scoring. Prone to be a high volume shooter and will fall in love with the deep ball a bit too easily.
G Quincy Smith(Sr), 6'1, 180 lbs, 7.7 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 43% FT, 29% 3FG - Can't shoot worth a darn, but makes his impact defensively. 2nd in the Big West in steals.
G Roderick Bobbitt(Sr), 6'3 205 lbs, 13.3 ppg, 5.5 apg, 80% FT, 35% 3FG- Led the Big West in assists and steals. Great defender and dynamic all-around player. Very dangerous running the pick n' roll and loves to attack the rim if you give him an opening.
C Stefan Jovanovic(Jr), 6'11 235 lbs, 5.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg - Known as "Bad Stefan." Can actually step out and hit long two-pointers.
G Sai Tummala(Sr), 6'6, 218 lbs, 6.5 ppg, 40% 3FG - Graduate transfer from Arizona State. Which means he knows how to use paste and crayons.
G Sheriff Drammeh(Fr), 6'3, 170 lbs, 1.7 ppg, 32% 3FG - There's no way that an unknown reserve will explode for a career high against us, right?
61 Hawaii vs. 21 California
Friday, March 18, 2016 (2:00 PM ET, TBS)
Spokane Arena (Spokane, WA)
Stats include games through March 14 against D-I teams only
has the ball
|Adj. Efficiency||107.0 105||93.8 15||103.7|
|Avg. Poss Length||17.0 133||17.6 248||17.3|
|Effective FG%:||52.5 60||44.0 4||49.9|
|Turnover %:||18.4 196||14.1 347||18.2|
|Off. Reb. %:||30.9 131||25.7 27||29.8|
|FTA/FGA:||46.3 6||37.2 181||36.7|
|3P%:||32.8 254||35.1 191||34.7|
|2P%:||54.6 16||40.9 1||48.7|
|FT%:||68.6 225||70.6 212||69.9|
|Block%:||7.6 51||11.1 74||9.2|
|Steal%:||8.4 161||6.0 341||8.6|
|3PA/FGA:||39.6 70||26.5 5||35.4|
|A/FGM:||60.3 33||47.4 55||52.4|
|Point Distribution (% of total points)|
|3-Pointers:||28.5 192||24.4 328||29.3|
|2-Pointers:||48.2 247||52.6 83||50.2|
|Free Throws:||23.2 44||23.0 60||20.5|
|Bench Minutes:||33.6% 152||30.7% 239||33.0%|
|Experience:||2.15 yrs 48||1.45 yrs 258||1.70|
|Effective Height:||+1.7 67||+4.5 12||0.0|
|Average Height:||77.2" 107||79.0" 2||76.8"|
has the ball
|Adj. Efficiency||111.2 47||96.6 41||103.7|
|Avg. Poss Length||17.3 168||16.7 54||17.3|
|Effective FG%:||52.5 59||44.9 13||49.9|
|Turnover %:||17.5 133||19.9 67||18.2|
|Off. Reb. %:||32.5 83||26.7 53||29.8|
|FTA/FGA:||41.6 59||39.3 229||36.7|
|3P%:||36.9 67||31.3 27||34.7|
|2P%:||51.0 80||43.8 24||48.7|
|FT%:||65.6 319||70.7 221||69.9|
|Block%:||7.8 62||10.4 104||9.2|
|Steal%:||7.4 44||10.8 32||8.6|
|3PA/FGA:||33.7 220||33.6 107||35.4|
|A/FGM:||48.7 256||49.0 95||52.4|
|Point Distribution (% of total points)|
|3-Pointers:||28.2 206||26.8 273||29.3|
|2-Pointers:||51.1 145||49.5 195||50.2|
|Free Throws:||20.7 167||23.6 40||20.5|
|Bench Minutes:||30.7% 239||33.6% 152||33.0%|
|Experience:||1.45 yrs 258||2.15 yrs 48||1.70|
|Effective Height:||+4.5 12||+1.7 67||0.0|
|Average Height:||79.0" 2||77.2" 107||76.8"|
CGB Hoops Expert Reef offered this analysis:
1) Control Jankovic and get him into foul trouble.
2) Solid perimeter D without fouling.
3) Manage turnovers and pace.
4) Make shots.
5) We should be fine as long as we have a game plan for dealing with these things.
1) Rabb vs. Jankovic
It'll be interesting to see how Coach Martin decides to deploy King and Kam. It's hard to see King/Kam sticking Jankovic to the three-point line, especially with his ability to attack the rim off the dribble. Against Oregon State, Cuonzo opted to go small due to match-ups. However, against Oregon we stayed big and their frontline is more dangerous attacking the basket. When Thomas is in the game, he's more limited offensively so that's where we could stash King/Kam. Have Rabb chase Jankovic off the arc and force him to put up contested shots over length. If Jankovic tries to post Rabb, we should double off of Smith or be ready to bring help.
On offense, Jankovic doesn't have the feet to stay with Rabb. Either punish them for hedging on the high PNR (HT iheartmonty), or let Rabb set up on the wing and take Jankovic off the dribble. LeonPowe wrote an excellent post showing how we might get the ball to Rabb using a 1-4 set into a pick and roll here.
2) Bobbitt vs. Ty/Bird/Mathews
I'd hide Wallace on Smith and let Bird/Mathews take turns trying to stop Bobbitt at the point of attack. He's powerful and finishes well with his dominant hand. As much as it would be nice to try to take that away, it's easier said than done. This is another reason to keep King/Kam in the game for defense because their guards love to attack the rim.
Bird and Mathews should and need to give us the edge from the three point line. With all the attention paid to Ty/Jaylen/Rabb, it feels like this is a game where one of these two is going to step up and help to carry us.
3) Brown vs. Valdes
It's a high-flying matchup between two guys who are better athletes than shooters. Brown has been pressing the past few games. We'll be saying "what might have been" when we think of those last two games against Zona and Utah for years to come. Let's hope we're not left wondering and wishing when we look back on what is most likely Jaylen's only dance in a Cal uniform.
TV: 11am PST, TBS