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Hello Again: Cal vs. Stanford Preview Take Two

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What will it take for Cal to sweep Stanford for the first time since 20-friggin’-10?

NCAA Basketball: Colorado at Stanford John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

We’re still in the feeling out period with Mr. Jerod Haase. He certainly hasn’t done anything special with Stanford this year, but it’s not like he was handed an amazing roster either. He’s got Stanford playing much better team defense, but much worse team offense. Long term, exactly how good will our new opponent be?

In other words, where will Jerod eventually fall on the evil vs. competent scale?

As you can see from this very scientific exercise, we have confirmed everybody’s suspicion that it’s very very difficult for Stanford coaches to escape from the evil vortex that is Palo Alto. Only Monty has managed it.

If you asked me, I’d put Cuonzo’s dot a touch about ‘Monty at Cal.’ But for now we’re here to discuss Jerod Haase. Right now, he’s not getting results significantly different than Johnny Dawkins. But Johnny did have one apparent skill - his teams always played well against Cal. I’m hoping that I can put Jerod’s dot somewhere Dawkins and Bockrath, and winning at Maples Library would be a friendly long term indication of where the latest enemy commander sits.

Roster

Starters

PG Robert Cartwright - decent distributor, marginally disruptive defender, is a woeful shooter
G Marcus Allen - Out of 73 eligible Pac-12 players, is 71th in offensive efficiency
G Dorian Pickens - Stanford’s one decent-ish 3 point shooter
F Reid Travis - Legitimately good. Rebounds, draws tons of fouls. His foul trouble sank Stanford when they played at Haas
F Michael Humphrey - Solid two way rebounder, only makes 3s against us.

Bench

G Marcus Sheffield - Out of 73 eligible Pac-12 players, is 70th in offensive efficiency
PG Christian Sanders - Out of 73 eligible Pac-12 players, is 72nd in offensive efficiency. Is the most turnover prone player in the Pac-12 regular by a wide, wide margin.
F Josh Sharma - Dude who has to play around the rim, who also doesn’t really finish well around the rim.
F Grant Verhoeven - Didn’t play vs. ASU, but since nobody anywhere cares about Stanford basketball, I have no clue if it was an injury or a coach’s decision that held him out.

If you read the above, you might have a simple question coming to mind: How, exactly, is Stanford at all any good? Their team appears to be Reid Travis and a bunch of players who struggle to play replacement level offensive basketball.

The answer, unsurprisingly, is defense. In conference play only, four teams have played consistent, excellent defense (Oregon, Cal, Arizona, Utah). Stanford is the next best after that, and defense is what has allowed Stanford to remain competitive despite approaching Oregon State levels of offensive futility.

Want an overly simple way to think about it? Oregon State would be Stanford if they had Tres Tinkle healthy. Stanford would be Oregon State if they didn’t have Reid Travis.

In other news: Go pro, Mr. Travis!

Keys to the Game

Win the foul battle, and get Stanford’s bigs in foul trouble again, especially Travis

Of any Cal opponent over the last few years, Stanford games might be the games most impacted by how refs have decided to call each contest.

Pretty much all of Stanford’s bigs are foul prone, although Travis is marginally less so. In any case, the drop off from Travis and Humphrey to everybody else is massive, and any chance Cal has to take advantage of their time on the bench, the better.

The obvious other hand is that Stanford (Travis in particular) draws plenty of fouls. Because they suck at jump shooting, their offense is mostly drives and post ups, events that tend to draw more fouls. Cal can weather foul trouble to anybody but Ivan, obviously, which is why you likely won’t see him defending Travis unless it’s part of a double team or on help.

If you can’t get Travis on the bench, how do you slow him down?

There was a stretch of the game at Haas where Travis took over and almost single-handedly willed Stanford back into the game. He spent most of that segment with Kam Rooks guarding him without help.

There are two potential solutions to that problem. The first is providing some level of help defense. Stanford isn’t a team full of shooters that can punish you for helping, so that’s one option. The other potential solution? Replace rusty, recovering-from-injury Kam with 100% healthy Kam. He’s looked much better over the last couple weeks and appears to be close to the form he showed last year. If so, he might be able to handle (along with Kingsley) the defensive burden of taking Travis one-on-one.

Point of attack defense

Similar and related to item 1 above - as noted, Stanford has a bunch of dudes who will try to drive by you, whether benefiting from screens and motion or not. The impetus will be on all Cal defenders (but particularly guards) to stay with them, funnel drivers to the right spots on the floor, and avoid fouling.

Don’t let turnovers define the game

Stanford is one of the better teams in the Pac-12 at forcing turnovers, and Cal’s offense is one of the more turnover prone. So no, don’t expect this game to be a ball-handling masterpiece.

It’s a matter of degrees. If Cal turns the ball over more than 15 times, then we might have to start worrying. If Cal can turn the ball over less often than they did in Berkeley, then we should be in good shape.

(This is obviously assuming that Charlie plays, and at somewhere near 100%. If not, all bets are off).

#Kod5

Especially against Stanford. Especially.

More specifically - the one thing Haase’s defense allows is a ton of good looks from behind the arc. This would be a great time for Jabari or Grant to have a splashdown performance.

Our Computer Overlords Predict

Kenpom sez: Cal 62, Stanford 60, 56% chance of a Cal win

Much too close for comfort. To state the obvious, this game is orders of magnitude more important for Stanford than for Cal. The Cardinal would need to go on a winning streak to get themselves onto the bubble for the NIT, while our Bears are playing for a tournament spot as well as a first round Pac-12 tournament bye.

Why yes, I do enjoy listing all of the ways our season is much more fun than Stanford’s! But that means that there is the very real danger of Stanford playing spoiler. This is Cal’s 2nd most winnable game left in the regular season, and it would be a tough one to drop, emotionally as much as literal impact.

Luckily we’re better. Crush the Cardinal.