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Cal vs. CSU Bakersfield: NIT Game 1 preview

Would you like to see another game between two teams with great defenses and broken offenses? No? TOO BAD!

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-CSU Bakersfield vs Oklahoma Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

CSU Bakersfield? Is that a school? No, of course I don’t have any experiences associated with their basketball team, why do you ask?

The CSU Bakersfield Roadrunners are one of the success stories in college basketball. They made the transition to D1 basketball in 2008, and for eight years they were independent school, untethered to a conference and ineligible for the post-season. They were also very not good, regularly struggling against a weak schedule.

But after nearly a decade in the wilderness, the Roadrunners are suddenly decent. They made the NCAA tournament last year, giving 2 seed Oklahoma a mild scare in the process. They won the WAC regular season title as a follow up in 2017, losing to New Mexico State in the conference tournament title game.

Whichever person(s) were in charge of scheduling this game need to be tarred and feathered. Cal failed to make the NCAA tournament because their offense couldn’t support their defense. The Bears are an extreme team - their adjusted defense is 146 spots higher in the national rankings than their adjusted offense.

But they aren’t the most extreme defensive team in the nation! That honor belongs to . . . CSU BAKERSFIELD!!! Yes, the Roadrunners are 21st in the nation in adjusted defense and 290th in adjusted offense.

You know how you’ve complained all year about watching slow, defensive, grinder basketball? WELL WHAT IF YOU ONLY GET SLOW DEFENSIVE GRINDER BASKETBALL FOR THE REST OF ETERNITY?!? BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA



PG Dedrick Basile - is it a problem when your senior point guard has identical assist and turnover rates? At least he’s probably CSUB’s best shooter
G Brent Wrapp - very low usage rate for a guy who plays 58% of available minutes. Defensive specialist?
F Jaylin Airington - probably CSUB’s best offensive player, a versatile guard who isn’t a great finisher but gets to the line and hits his freebies.
F Matt Smith - an elite shot blocker for his size, draws a ton of fouls.
C Moataz Aly - Dude blocks TWENTY PERCENT of opponent’s 2 point shots when he’s on the court. Even against WAC competition that’s nuts. Is also a stiff with gigantic turnover and foul rates.


G Damiyne Durham - crazy ball hog volume shooter comes off the bench and does a ton of stuff both good and bad. Elite ball hawk, takes way too many shots for somebody who can’t really shoot.
G/F Shon Briggs - undersized 4 struggles to finish and isn’t an outside threat
PG Justin Pride - back up point guard very turnover prone, barely played against NM St.
C Fallou Ndoye - How can somebody 6’11’’ tall shoot 45% for his career?

CSUB is a relatively balanced (bad) offense. They have a weird situation wherein a bench player (Durham) actually leads the team in shots for the season. They have a roster full of centers who play spectacular defense but apparently have trouble catching the danged ball. This one’s gonna be a rock fight.

Keys to the game

Can Cal hold onto the ball?

CSUB forces a higher percentage of turnovers than any previous defense Cal has faced this season. I don’t need to explain why that might be worrisome, right? If Cal limits their turnovers they’ll probably walk to an easy win, but with Jabari Bird questionable, ball handling may very well be a big problem.

But seriously, how is Bakersfield going to score?

In one of the rare cases when CSUB faced a defense of Cal’s quality, they scored 43 points in a 60 possession game.

Really, the only thing the Roadrunners do well on offense is pull down offensive rebounds. But that isn’t something they’ll be able to do often with Ivan, Kam, and King patrolling the paint. Unless Cal commits a bunch of fouls (or plays like they don’t want to be playing at home) there really isn’t any reason to expect CSUB to be able to get much more than 50 points.

Can Cal convert from behind both lines?

CSUB’s defense has two potential weaknesses - they give up lots of 3s, and they foul too often. That means that Cal may well need to be ready to hit their jumpers and their free throws, two facets that haven’t exactly been hallmarks of consistent strength.

Our Computer Overlords Predict

Kenpom sez: Cal 61, CSUB 52, 79% chance of a Cal win

CSUB is a good, solid, mid-major . . . which is to say that they aren’t pushovers, but they are a team that Cal should beat solidly at home. Then again, they’re kinda similar to teams like UC Irvine and Louisiana Tech; i.e., teams that Cal played at home without Jabari on the floor, and needed overtime to beat.

So hey. The NIT sucks. Winning it isn’t going to change a ton about how we feel about this season. But it’s better than the alternative. Cal, with home court advantage, should be considered the favorite to make it to MSG. May as well, right?