Oh what a difference a week makes, huh? After a painful loss to Washington State that left the Bears floundering at 3-7 in conference, hope seemed slim. But the Bears got the big win they needed in upsetting UCLA, then followed that up with a solid win over USC. With another three games left in their February home stand, Cal still stands within striking distance of an NCAA tournament bid, thanks in large part to the sheer top-to-bottom quality of the Pac-12 this year.
Standing in their way are the Utah Utes, who beat Cal in a close game in SLC earlier this year. At just 3-9, this is a game Cal has to have.
PG Erika Bean
Wing Malia Nawahine
Wing Tanaeya Boclair
Wing Paige Crozon
F Emily Potter
G Kiana Moore
Wing Daneesha Provo
F Wendy Anae
Wing Megan Jacobs
Utah’s offense is simple enough - when Emily Potter (25 MPG in conference play) is on the court, the Utes are looking to feed her the ball so that she can use her 6’6’’ inches to finish inside. When she’s not on the court, then it’s a more balanced attack involving Utah’s 3 starting wings, with Erika Bean (5.6 assists/game) acting as maestro.
Utah’s biggest problem is simply a lack of shooting. They are last in FT shooting and 3 point shooting and 11th inside the arc - basically, Potter is their only efficient scorer. The defense is passable, but it’s an offense that can’t create and hit shots with any consistency that’s really dragging down the Utes.
Our Computer Overlords Predict
Sagarin Predictor: Cal by 8
When Cal played at Utah, the game was supposed to be more or less a coin flip, and that’s more or less how it ended up even if Utah added a few breathing room points at the end thanks to free throws.
The computers still (relatively speaking) love the Bears, because they’ve mostly been competitive in what they see as the best conference in the country. And the Bears HAVE been competitive, losing just one game by more than 10 points. Of course, close doesn’t count in the eyes of the selection committee, which is why Cal still has plenty of work to do. They need to sweep the mountain schools, then get a win in a very tough stretch of 4 games to end the regular season, then perhaps make some noise in the Pac-12 tournament.
Make it happen Bears!