How many wins does MBB still need?
I am going to assume that Charlie Moore will be back on the court healthy this week, because I really don’t want to consider the alternate.
As Cal continues to win all of the games they are supposed to win and lose all of the games they are supposed to lose, and as the calendar reaches mid-February, we must now ask: How many more wins is it gonna take?
As one rough measure, Cal’s current RPI is 34, and RPI forecast predicts an end-of-the-regular-season RPI of 38 or 39, while also assuming that Cal is most likely to finish 3-2. That’s good news - the highest RPI of a major conference team to NOT get picked as an at-large is 40.
That would tell me that, to feel close to 100% safe on Selection Sunday, Cal needs 3 more regular season wins and one Pac-12 tournament win. Doing so and not getting picked would be unprecedented - which is different than guaranteed, but we should all feel very confident.
Beating any of the Pac-12 top 3 (either against Oregon at home or in Las Vegas) would all but guarantee a spot while losing to
Oregon State the worst Pac team in modern memory is about the only event that could kick Cal clearly onto the wrong side of the bubble.
Completing the season sweep over Stanford would be the best combination of emotionally and critically satisfying. I look forward to disappointing both Stanford fans who show up on Friday.
Will you be yelling RAGLLLLLLLLLLLLEEEEEEE in frustration next year?
Cal has hired Charlie Ragle as their special teams coordinator, which is . . . OK? Good? Bad? Hell, I have no clue. I have found over the years that special teams coaches are the hardest to evaluate, and Ragle presents a particular challenge because he doesn’t have a particularly long track record - just four years at Arizona after a number of years as a high school coach.
Why is special teams hard to evaluate? Well, for one thing it’s very high variance, because there are so few special teams plays compared to standard snaps from scrimmage. Singular players (your DeSean Jacksons, your Ryan Longwells) can have gigantic impacts that don’t necessarily measure coaching. And a healthy percentage of special teams plays are non-events - a made PAT or short field goal, a punt that is fair caught, a touchback in the end zone.
But, to the extent that we can grade special teams performance, here’s what Ragle’s units achieved at Arizona, as measured by FEI at FootballOutsiders. All of the numbers below are national ranks:
STE - Special Teams Efficiency
FGE - Field Goal Efficiency
KRE - Kick Return Efficiency
KE - Kickoff Efficiency
PRE - Punt return efficiency
PE - Punting efficiency
You can see the impact of specialists in the numbers - kicker Casey Skowron and punter Drew Riggleman were both solid seniors in 2015, and their graduation left holes that were shakily filled by sophomore Josh Pollack in 2016.
It’s also true that the conditions at moderate altitude in the hot desert air tend to lead to long kicks - Arizona typically has one of the highest percentages of touchbacks in the nation, and those conditions tend to negatively impact Arizona’s return numbers
You can tell that I’m prevaricating. Arizona’s special teams have ranged from mediocre to bad under Ragle. Does that mean that he’s a bad coach? That’s hard to say. Maybe RichRod didn’t give him much practice time. Maybe Arizona’s mediocre recruiting meant that he was trying to cobble together coverage units with borderline Pac-12 athletes. Maybe recruiting (both generally, and for special teams specifically) is just way more important than day-to-day special teams coaching?
Because apparently that’s why Ragle is getting jobs - he’s a recruiter. AZDesertSwarm very specifically mentioned that losing his recruiting ability was a bigger loss than any impact he may or may not have had on Arizona’s special teams. Considering the state of Cal’s recruiting over the last few years, it’s hard for me to argue that Cal shouldn’t try to cram extra recruiters onto the list of assistant coaches. And at least Ragle will be inheriting a pair of veteran specialists in Dylan Klumph and Matt Anderson.
WBB suffers painful home sweep
I was soooo close to writing a brief piece last week about how Cal women’s basketball might be underrated.
The crux of the argument was that the Bears were 5-7 in the Pac-12, and were likely to be 7-7 in a week. The Pac-12 this year happens to be the single toughest edition of west coast basketball ever, and the basic ratings systems agree that our Bears are somewhere in the mid-30s in the nation, which is generally an indication that a team is good enough to deserve strong consideration to earn an NCAA at-large bid. A 5-7 record was frustrating, but the Bears had lost 4 tightly contested games, and losing to a bunch of teams in the top 16 in the nation doesn’t automatically mean you’re no good.
And then the Bears got swept at home against the Mountain Schools.
The same problems that have plagued the Bears throughout the conference season were in full evidence this weekend. A bunch of different defenses, none of which work with any consistency and give up a ton of looks at the basket and behind the arc. Turnovers on top of turnovers. A lack of shooting to stop teams from surrounding Kristine Anigwe with 2 and 3 defenders.
Losing to Colorado, a team that hasn’t recorded a win away from the absurd home court advantage of Boulder elevation in two years, is a particularly bitter pill to swallow.
Theoretically Cal has the chance to recover from this. Four games in the regular season, all against excellent teams that would represent resume wins, to say nothing of the Pac-12 tournament. But other than a shock win over a UCLA team that looked broken on the night, there’s nothing to indicate that Cal has what it would take to knock off teams like Stanford and Oregon State. If this season doesn’t end in the WNIT I would be very, very surprised.