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Cal WBB vs. LSU: NCAA Tournament Round 1 Preview

Can the 9 seed Bears capitalize on an unexpected ticket to the dance?

NCAA Womens Basketball: Connecticut at Louisiana State
Hello old friend!
Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

When: 6:00 pm Saturday
Will I be able to watch? It probably depends on where you’re located, as ESPN broadcasts WBB games geographically.
What if I’ve made the mistake of moving away from California? Try visiting

Well well well, Nikki Caldwell Fargas. We meet again!

LSU finished the season 20-11, 9-9 in a typically rugged SEC. Their resume is what you would expect for a team in the 8-9 seed range - No bad losses, a couple of reasonably impressive wins at home, and a bunch of losses to excellent teams. They have recorded three wins over NCAA tournament teams (5 seed Texas A&M, 6 seeds NC State and Missouri).

As you might expect if you remember some of the hideous games Cal experienced against Caldwell, her teams thrive on forcing turnovers - more than 20 a game. LSU’s offense and rebounding are comparatively pedestrian, but when you can regularly get more shots off than your opponent because of a big turnover deficit you can paper over various weaknesses.


PG Raigyne Moncrief, 5’10’’ Jr. - ball dominant point guard will drive drive drive all day long, and on a team of ball hawks she’s the leading thief.
G Chloe Jackson, 5’9’’ So. - combo guard is the closest thing LSU has to a shooter
G Jasmine Rhodes, 5’10’’ Sr.
G Rina Hill, 5’7’’ Sr.
F Alexis Hyder, 5’11’’ Sr.


F Ayana Mitchell, 6’2’’ Fr. - LSU’s only true post player is reasonably efficient close to the basket, can be foul prone.
G Shanice Norton, 5’8’’ So.
F Tatum Neubert, 6’2’’ So. - May see brief minutes if they get desperate against Anigwe, but has not been a significant contributor.
G Jaelyn Richard-Harris, 5’4’’ Fr. - Back up point guard has received very few minutes down the stretch, unlikely to play a significant role.

LSU is a weird team. They’re basically a bunch of undersized wings that play a ton of pressure defense and then charge pell-mell into the lane. They barely shoot any 3s (less than 5 attempts/game) and they don’t shoot well from . . . well, anywhere. But what they lack in size they make up for with intensity and athleticism - skills that keep them even on the boards against bigger teams.

Keys to the game

Can Cal exploit LSU’s Achilles’ Heel?

LSU has very, very little interior defense, and that weakness was exploited by high end interior scorers. South Carolina’s Alaina Coates, Tennessee’s Jaime Nared, Kentucky’s Evelyn Akhator . . . they all piled up big, efficient nights against LSU’s undersized lineup.

Enter Kristine Anigwe. Mitchell is the only Tiger who would presumably have much of a prayer one-on-one, but she plays limited minutes and would likely foul out. Which means LSU will probably try a bunch of doubles. This feels like it should be a big night for Cal’s best player.

Can LSU exploit Cal’s Achilles’ Heel

The one concern? Cal has to get Anigwe the ball, and to do so a turnover prone Cal team will have to pierce the pressure defense of a turnover forcing defense. The onus will obviously be on Asha Thomas, Mi’Cole Cayton, and Mikayla Cowling to stay composed against hounding pressure and make smart decisions.

LSU is going to force turnovers regardless, but if Cal can limit them and not let LSU turn them into transition opportunities then it seems unlikely that they will be able to find enough offense to win the game.

Stay in front of LSU’s drivers and funnel them in the right direction

Cal doesn’t need to respect LSU’s shooters - they barely attempt 3s, and they are awful at hitting them when they do (an almost unfathomable 24% as a team). Any disciplined defense with the size and athleticism that Cal can draw on should be able to shut a team like LSU down by going under every screen and knowing that Kristine Anigwe’s rim protection is available close to the basket.

But LSU is quick and aggressive, so easier said than done.

Our Computer Overlords Predict

Sagarin Predictor: Cal by .01 points

Yes, you have read that correctly. The Sagarin Predictor gives Cal a rating of 84.03, and LSU a rating of 84.02. This is the coin flippingest coin flip to ever flip. If your goal was to watch a competitive game, then this would have to be the first round game of choice.

The Bears have been afforded a chance that not many expected them to get, and they have a very real chance of turning the opportunity into a 2nd round appearance. Make it happen! Go Bears!