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Cal Men's Basketball Visits the Arizona State Sun Devils

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Stick a fork in them, the regular season is done.

Our sturdy Golden Bears need to dig deep into their reserves of hand sanitizer and antibiotics for one last conference road game in Tempe. Cal fans traveling to the game, take care and be forewarned.

CGB writer extraordinaire and my personal hero, Nick Kranz, succinctly described the Arizona fan base thusly:

nickzona


If that's your baseline for Zona fans, then consider Arizona State to be their drunker, trashier cousins. Please do not be confused with the decidedly below average San Diego State Aztec fans. If you study carefully, there are subtle but distinct differences. As a handy quick reference guide: (some) Wildcat fans are arrogant jerk drunks, (many) SDSU fans are whiny crybaby drunks, and (most) Sun Devil fans are obliviously stupid drunks. Yes, ASU bro. I see you. Thanks for standing throughout the game and pointing at your moronic buddies. We are not impressed by how many Natty lights you can pound. What has Arizona State ever brought to the world? At least Oregon State can claim a tenuous contribution to social justice with their "Baaaa means no" campaign. All ASU has given us is the autoclavable stripper pole and groundbreaking advances in breathalyzer technology. Sit down and shut up.

Per a source, Bobby Hurley allegedly said that he's surrounded by more talent than he's been around in his life. Sadly for him, he's not talking about on the court. In completely unrelated news, it's rumored that his coaching staff asked to be paid in one dollar bills instead of via direct deposit. With only nine scholarship players available for most of the year, the 11th place Sun Devils(15-16, 5-12) have been habitually undersized, outmanned, and outclassed. Although they returned four starters from a team that finished fifth in the league last season, they've had player-coach spats, suspensions, and have flat out quit at times. Their lone road win came against Wazzu in a contest that can be charitably described as Derp Limbo. Lest we think them completely toothless (unlike most of their fans), they did manage to knock off a good USC team.  More recently, they spanked the Furds.  But it's rumored the Cardinal paid good money for that.

I've been asked by a certain university's administration to stop making fun of their decidedly below average shooting. Apparently, there's now a backlog of tech support for their computer labs as they're trying to figure out how to erase "No U!" written in crayon and permanent marker from several of the monitors. As my dedicated readers know, I'm all about building relationships with our classy opponents. So in the interest of peace and friendship, let's just say that there's a hypothetical school, call it Carmen State University. They've got thin-skinned fans, and their players can't shoot worth a darn. Whatever mental picture you have of these hapless brick chuckers, imagine that the Sun Devils are inexplicably worse.

Naturally, they lead the league in three-point attempts per field goal attempt. Because if you're going to do something poorly, you might as well try to maximize value.

As woeful as they are on offense, they're almost inconceivably worse on defense. You might as well put five newborns in the lane; you'll get the same amount of flailing about and maybe a little less spit up. To their credit, they are relatively adept at forcing turnovers. They're also not entirely awful at defensive rebounding...probably from the countless repetition they get during "shootarounds."

Although the Sun Devils are clearly in the conference cellar this year, it's still a Pac-12 road game. Kenpom might be dinging us for our spotty road record and only gives a 67% chance for a narrow victory.


Projected Starters:

G Tra Holder(So), 6'1, 180 lbs, 14.6 ppg, 3.5 apg, 39% FG, 37%3FG - I've heard of silent letters, but not invisible ones. Just own up to your name being "Trah," brah. Usually gets his #'s by dominating the ball and putting up tons of shots.
G Kodi Justice(So), 6'5, 190 lbs, 8.0 ppg, 40.6% 3FG - Has the perfect name for an ASU athlete. Has been asked repeatedly to clean off the glitter before suiting up.
G Gerry Blakes(Sr), 6'4, 195 lbs, 10.8 ppg, 29.8% 3FG - There's a good reason why they spell his name with a "G." He's second on the team with 131 3PT attempts. Even preview snark juju can't jinx him into a not-laughable shooting night...right?
F Obinna Oleka(Jr), 6'7, 225 lbs, 9.8 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 40%FG, 31%3FG - Third on the team in field goal attempts because he thinks he can shoot. Does have a motor, but is more spastic than skilled.
C Eric Jacobsen(Sr), 6'10, 240 lbs, 6.9 ppg, 4.9 rpg - Quite capable of making about half of his uncontested layup attempts.

Bench:
F Savon Goodman(Jr), 6'6, 220 lbs, 9.3 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 44%FT - The Curtain of Distraction actually helps his free throw percentage.
F Willie Atwood(Sr), 6'7, 215 lbs, 8.9 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 32.6% 3FG - In case the starters aren't missing enough shots, Willie's your man.
G Andre Spight(Jr), 6'3, 168 lbs, 6.6 ppg, 31% 3FG - In limited minutes, he's somehow put up 114 threes. You'd think after the first 100 or so, he might have noticed a pattern of futility.

21 California vs. 95 Arizona St.

Saturday, March 5, 2016 (8:00 PM ET, ESPN2)
Wells-Fargo Arena (Tempe, AZ)



When California
has the ball

Category California
Offense
Arizona St.
Defense
D-I Avg
Efficiency 108.3 4 112.3 11 103.7
Avg. Poss Length 17.3 5 16.4 1 17.3
Four Factors
Effective FG%: 53.4 3 56.4 12 49.9
Turnover %: 18.1 10 17.5 5 18.2
Off. Reb. %: 29.5 8 28.1 4 29.8
FTA/FGA: 44.3 1 41.3 8 36.7
Miscellaneous Components
3P%: 38.8 2 39.2 12 34.7
2P%: 51.0 4 55.2 12 48.7
FT%: 64.5 11 70.4 8 69.8
Block%: 9.9 8 6.7 12 9.2
Steal%: 7.7 5 7.4 7 8.6
Style Components
3PA/FGA: 33.3 4 33.5 8 35.4
A/FGM: 50.2 7 58.0 10 52.6
Defensive
Fingerprint:
Inconc-
lusive
Point Distribution (% of total points)
3-Pointers: 28.6 3 27.8 6 29.3
2-Pointers: 50.3 9 51.8 8 50.2
Free Throws: 21.1 5 20.5 7 20.4
Personnel
Bench Minutes: 31.8% 213 31.9% 208 33.0%
Experience: 1.45 yrs 257 2.08 yrs 64 1.70
Effective Height: +4.2 15 -0.4 188 0.0
Average Height: 79.0" 3 77.2" 109 76.8"

When Arizona St.
has the ball

Category Arizona St.
Offense
California
Defense
D-I Avg
Efficiency 101.9 9 98.9 1 103.7
Avg. Poss Length 17.4 6 16.8 5 17.3
Four Factors
Effective FG%: 47.9 10 44.1 1 49.9
Turnover %: 16.2 4 13.5 11 18.2
Off. Reb. %: 27.9 11 26.1 3 29.8
FTA/FGA: 35.3 8 42.2 9 36.7
Miscellaneous Components
3P%: 35.1 7 31.3 1 34.7
2P%: 44.5 11 43.3 1 48.7
FT%: 65.9 10 68.4 3 69.8
Block%: 15.3 12 10.4 6 9.2
Steal%: 7.8 6 5.4 12 8.6
Style Components
3PA/FGA: 41.5 1 23.3 1 35.4
A/FGM: 49.9 10 45.1 3 52.6
Defensive
Fingerprint:
Mostly
Man
Point Distribution (% of total points)
3-Pointers: 36.8 1 18.7 12 29.3
2-Pointers: 43.7 12 56.6 2 50.2
Free Throws: 19.5 7 24.7 1 20.4
Personnel
Bench Minutes: 31.9% 208 31.8% 213 33.0%
Experience: 2.08 yrs 64 1.45 yrs 257 1.70
Effective Height: -0.4 188 +4.2 15 0.0
Average Height: 77.2" 109 79.0" 3 76.8"


Keys to the Game:

1) Stay focused and hungry.

Forget about trap games and let downs after a marquee contest. We need to be better than that. Complacency and lethargy are bigger concerns than the inebriated deadbeats clustered throughout the stands. Coach Martin preaches mental toughness - well, let's see it. This is the time to beat down an overmatched Sun Devil team and to step on their throats right from the opening tip. Making jumpers on the road can be variable, but our effort should be a constant. We should absolutely destroy them on the glass, force them into making tough shots over length, and battle them for loose balls. It's March.  Quiet the crowd, take their will, and put on a Haas-style dominating performance.  #TogetherWeAttack

2) Take care of the ball/Avoid foul trouble/Stop the point of attack.

The Sun Devils do one thing well on defense, and that's force turnovers. Long the bane of our existence, this has been an area trending towards improvement. As long as we don't get complacent, our backcourt rotation should have a significant advantage at every position. Holder wants to be a drive/kick player like the USC guards. He's just not very good at it and can very readily be enticed into being the stereotypical volume shooter. Expect to see us switching up top to keep their shooters off the three point line. As a fun drinking game, expect Holder to take and connect on a few step-back or pull-up jumpers. The announcers will praise his mad skills. But you, educated hoops fans that you are, will smile and nod because those are exactly the low percentage shots we want them to take. (Know that when you do so, somewhere and somehow, Reef will shed a quiet tear.)

3) Play to our strengths.

ASU likes to take a lot of threes. We're very good at chasing teams off the arc and forcing them to take contested jumpers. Recently, the Utes held the Sun Devils to 10 first half points en route to a 81-46 woodshedding. Challenge accepted. Even if our shots aren't falling, this is an opponent that we should be able to dominate with our defense.

4) Don't settle.

The Sun Devils are an extremely poor defensive squad with zero shot-blocking. They switch between man and zone, but they really don't do either particularly well. ASU is softer in the post than the inside of a melted marshmallow. This is a game where we can shamelessly predict a double-double from Kam Rooks. Ball movement and penetration should turn decent looks into great looks. Then we just have to #MakeShots.

5) Sustain momentum.
Confidence is an amazing force multiplier in college sports and this is a team that's been gelling at exactly the right time. If we want to maximize our chances in the Big Dance, the quality of opponent makes this one a must-win.

Go Bears!

Tip-off: Saturday, March 5, 2016 (8:00 PM ET, ESPN2)

*As the last scheduled preview for conference play, I'd like to thank everyone for their readership throughout the season. Hopefully, it's understood that these were intended to be read tongue in cheek and not with anything remotely resembling seriousness. Except for the Furd hate. I meant every last word. To heck with them anyways.

For those who took serious offense, let me make peace with the words of the immortal bard.

If these shadows have offended
Let butt-hurt soon be mended
Crying cuz your team can't make a bucket
Have a one finger salute
And y'all can suckit.

Peace out, B.