When: 6:00 PT, Monday night
Kim Mulkey is the head coach for Baylor. She gets lots of attention, whether its for her embarrassing court-side behavior or her embarrassing post-game comments. She is an avatar of the idiot extreme homer fan, except in charge of an actual basketball team, and good at it.
OK, we’ve gotten that out of the way. Let’s focus on what matters.
The Baylor Bears are probably the 2nd best team in the country. They regularly crush other teams like bugs. They have 19 wins this season by 30 points or more. They’re fresh off quadrupling the score of poor Texas Southern. This is going to be a tall task.
Baylor has 3 losses on the season - an 11 point road loss to UConn, a 6 point home loss to Texas, and a shocking 11 point loss to West Virginia in the Big 12 tournament. Baylor can be beaten . . . it just tends to be against top 25 level opponents and still happens rarely.
PG Kristy Wallace, 5’11’’ Jr. - 3:1 assist/turnover ratio, a pass first point but still 40% from 3.
G Alexis Jones, 5’9’’ Sr. - combo guard is probably Baylor’s best pure shooter, not as strong around the basket
G Alexis Prince, 6’2’’ Sr. - Baylor’s most versatile player shoots 42% from 3 but also their best driver/finisher at the wing
F Nina Davis, 5’11’ Sr. - undersized post a master of positioning and movement.
C Kalani Brown, 6’7’’ So. - skilled big is an accomplished finisher, shot blocker, rebounder. Can’t hack her because she’s a 75% shooter from the line.
C Beatrice Mompremier, 6’4’’ So. - On a per minute basis, might be Baylor’s best rebounder.
F Lauren Cox, 6’4’’ Fr. - stretch 5 an effective back-up big.
C Khadijiah Cave, 6’3’’ Sr. Just another versatile post off the bench.
G Natalie Chou, 6’1’’ Fr. - Erstwhile Cal recruit is mostly a 3 point specialist off the bench as a frosh.
F Dekeiya Cohen, 6’2’’ Jr. - Christ, even their 4th string back-up post has a 2:1 assist to turnover ratio?!
Baylor is, typically, very deep. They’ve got the veteran core of four upperclasswomen starting, then bring five players 6’1’’ off the bench, and everybody fits their role very well. Wallace, Jones, Prince, and Chou are the shooters, while everybody else is an efficient interior scorer who blocks tons of shots. When Baylor wants to play big they can play Davis at the 3, but they can also play her at the 4 and bring in a stretch 5 like Cox to play ‘small.’
What’s impressive is the balance. Baylor’s 4 main scorers have all attempted between 307 and 350 shots on the season and all average between 15.4 and 12 points/game. With Wallace pulling the strings and a bunch of bench players able to hit shots when ignored, you’ve got the makings of a damned good team.
Which you knew already. Oh well.
Keys to the Game
Find a way to hold Baylor at bay on the offensive boards
What to hear a crazy scary stat?
Baylor offensive rebounds, 2017: 603
Baylor opponent defensive rebounds, 2017: 668
Yep. Baylor rebounded 47% of their own misses, a big part of why they average a +21.5/game margin on the boards. When Baylor loses, it’s in part because they run up against a team that doesn’t allow them to build a gigantic edge in rebounds (and as a consequence, shot attempts). Cal hasn’t exactly been great on the glass this year, but holding their own on the glass is basically a prerequisite to even having a chance.
Find a way to get off good shots
Baylor leads the nation in blocked shots - 275 in total, which means that they block 13% of opponent’s attempts.
Which goes directly against Cal’s primary offensive strategy. Throwing balls up in the paint to Kristine isn’t going to work against this defense, and even IF Anigwe comes down with the ball her looks just aren’t going to be very good. Cal is going to have to find other ways to score the basketball, and other ways to get their best player involved.
Hit those shots
Remember when Louisville somehow beat Brittany-Griner-led Baylor in 2013? Louisville had to hit 16 of 25 3 pointers just to barely escape with a 1 point win. Cal will need a similarly improbable shooting performance to have a shot in this one.
Our Computer Overlords Predict
Sagarin Predictor: Baylor by 29.3 points
To get a sense of how Cal might fare against Baylor, take the example of Iowa St. The
Hawkeyes Cyclones are a team roughly as good as our Bears - they earned a 9 seed in the tournament and would be ranked somewhere in the 30s nationally. Baylor beat ISU by 26 points at home and 31 points on the road.
So no, it’s not an exaggeration to say that the Baylor Bears are somewhere in the vicinity of 30 point favorites over the Golden Bears. That’s the magnitude of an upset we’re talking about here.
I’d rather have the chance. Go Bears!