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Cal MBB vs. Portland State: Preview

Meet the Vikings who aren’t from Minnesota.

NCAA Basketball: St. Mary's at California
Darius McNeill is showing his value as a freshman.
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Good news, everyone! Tuesday night’s game in Seattle was the last non-televised contest of the season for Cal men’s hoops. Even the webstream cut out for a portion of that game, at least on my end. The 6-6 Bears are back at home on Thursday against Portland State for a meeting with the 9-3 Vikings. Portland State has already defeated Stanford 87-78, while their losses have come against quality teams in Duke, Butler, and Oregon. Ken Pomeroy has them at #156 in the nation, while Cal sits just below the Vikings at #161. First-year head coach Barret Peery previously served as associate coach at Santa Clara. He has also been an assistant for Pac-12 programs Utah and Arizona State. Peery’s philosophy involves fast-paced offense, and it shows: the Vikings are fourth in the nation in adjusted tempo.

Portland State

Projected lineup

#0 G Bryce Canda - 6’4” Sr.

Canda had an impressive 31 points in the December 13 loss to Oregon and nearly posted a triple-double in his last start. Canda is a versatile player who is also a strong rebounder. He’s actually from Portland, not our Neighbor to the North.

#3 G Deontae North - 6’4” Sr.

A transfer from Long Beach State, North has scored over 20 per game this season. He’s a good but not superlative three-point shooter who will keep his man honest on the defensive end.

#23 G Holland Woods - 6’0” Fr.

Woods has taken over point guard duties rather impressively for a freshman. He has already racked up 10 assists on a couple of occasions and is always a threat to steal the ball.

#13 F Jamie Orme - 6’7” Jr.

Orme hasn’t always started, but he is never glued to the bench for long. Orme is prone to foul trouble but is relied upon for interior defense.

#44 C Ryan Edwards - 7’1” Sr.

Edwards averages just 17 minutes per contest, but that’s a step up from the exposure he got during his time at Gonzaga. Edwards is 5-9 on three-pointers, but otherwise his shooting has been nothing special.

Key reserves

#1 F Brandon Hollins - 6’6” Sr.

I’m not sure whether Hollins has seen the Eiffel Tower, but he did play junior college ball in Paris, Texas. He has gone 59% from the field so far, which is basically the same as his 2016-17. However, Peery has shown more trust in Hollins than last year’s head coach Tyler Geving.

#11 G Deante Strickland - 5’10” Jr.

Another native of Portland, Strickland is shooting 46% from behind the arc and occasionally takes on a playmaking role.

#2 G Michael Mayhew - 6’2” Jr.

From the Dallas suburb of Flower Mound, Mayhew is showing major improvements from his sophomore campaign. The majority of his shots come from long range, which is just fine when you’re at 41% for the season.

Winning strategies

1. Slow it down.

As I alluded to before, Portland loves to push the pace. Their average possession length is among the quickest in Division I. While the Vikings have a pedestrian effective field-goal percentage (eFG%) of 49.9%, they are sometime able to wear down opposing defenses with quickness. If I were Wyking Jones, I would encourage deliberate half-court sets on offense so that the Bears are able to recover their energy.

2. Watch the turnovers.

Cal is coming off a sparkling 6 turnovers committed in Seattle. However, Portland State loves to take the ball away, forcing turnovers on 25% of possessions. That puts them 9th in Division I, and their steal rate is among the top 15.

3. Be assertive on offense.

The Vikings are good at forcing turnovers, but they have not demonstrated success when their opponents get shots away. Portland State has allowed an eFG% of 54.3% and is one of the worst offensive rebounding squads in the land. There will be open looks to bury in front of the home crowd.

4. Stack the perimeter.

The Vikings have made 39% of their threes but under 45% of two-point field goals. There’s not much reason to give their shooters room from distance.

5. Exploit the height advantage.

Portland State is not a particularly big team, which gives me hope that Kingsley Okoroh can showcase the post game he reveals in spurts. At the least, I expect Marcus Lee to draw some fouls underneath.

Meaningless Prediction: Cal 77, Portland State 72

KenPom thinks that Cal is 62% likely to win this matchup, and that certainly includes the reality that it will be played at Haas Pavilion. The Bears did a great job in Seattle, so I’m inclined to believe in his probability. Portland State is no pushover opponent, though.

Date and Time: Thursday, December 21 at 8 PM Pacific

TV: Pac-12 Bay Area

Online: Pac-12.com

Device: Pac-12 Now App

Radio: TuneIn or KGO 810 AM

Go Bears!