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WSU Rains Threes and Cal Gets Swept on Road Trip

Bears Fall to 1-4 in Conference

NCAA Basketball: California at Washington State
Robert Franks is open for three.
James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse zone defense (shoutout atomsareenough) is unique in a number of ways. One of those is the concept called the “bump.” You often see the two baseline wing players a little higher than you’d expect in a 2-3. The reason for that is, when the ball is passed to the wing, their responsibility is to briefly guard the wing offensive player, while a player from the top of the zone recovers. Then, when the defender from the top rotates over, the wing defender bumps down to the lowest player on his side.*

Unfortunately, if there is an offensive player in the corner, he is going to be wide open for a moment. And if the offense is intent on getting the ball to that corner player, it takes an awfully long, quick, aware, energetic defense to do something about it. Unfortunately for the 2017-18 California Golden Bears, they are still new to this zone thing, and are not yet nearly long enough, quick enough, aware enough, and on many days energetic enough to get to the corner against a well-executed offense. Especially when the shooter in the corner is accurate and tall.

Meet Robert Franks.

Robert is 6 foot 7.

Robert came into today’s game as a 40% 3p shooter.

Robert’s coach Ernie Kent drew up a lot of action to get Robert open in the corner after passes to the wing, as the defender on his side was occupied with the wing player.

Now, Robert is not Klay Thompson. One of the best shooters in the world, Klay still never managed to drop 10 threes in a game during his college career in Pullman. Today, Robert Franks did.

If you were fortunate enough to watch today’s contest, you saw history. A WSU school record 10-13 shooting from three from Franks, led a spectacular 15-28 deep shooting day from the team as a whole.

That was essentially the story of the game. Final: WSU 78 - Cal 53.

Questions for the Reader to Ponder

  • The ostensible solution to the open corner three is for the center in the zone to run out to the corner. Was that a realistic solution given our personnel?
  • The Bears played only a handful of possessions in man to man, choosing to primarily rely on the zone against a very good shooting team that had clearly demonstrated the aforementioned effective game plan. Why did we stick with the zone as WSU buried three after three?
  • On Thursday night, Cal had success with the press against Washington, turning the Huskies over 20 times on 11 steals. As poor as UW is at taking care of the ball, WSU is worse and turns the ball over more. Today the Bears only used the press intermittently, and generated just 15 turnovers. Why didn’t they apply more full court pressure?
  • One strength of the Bears this season has been on the offensive glass, and today was no exception. They came up with a monster 19 offensive rebounds, getting back 42% of their misses. Yet somehow they turned those 19 extra opportunities into only 7 points. The inability to convert on the offensive glass led to a new Cal low in offensive efficiency at .80 points per possession, a mark they had just set on Thursday when they put up .82. Why are the Bears having so much trouble converting in situations when the offense has its biggest advantage?
  • Normally I try to close with a note of optimism by pointing out areas of clear growth. Other than Juhwan Harris-Dyson’s continued development as an energizer-disruptor (7 offensive boards from the guard position!), I’ve got nothing for you today. Am I being too negative? Did you see signs that encouraged you today?

Use the comments freely to answer any or all of those questions, or simply express your feelings on the 1-4 start to conference play.

The Bears return against national power Arizona for a gold out game on Wednesday. And anything is possible.

* I apologize to the visual learners out there. Were I a paid writer and at all artistic I would cook up a graphic. But since I’m neither of those things, and I’ve got a podcast to hop on in an hour, you just have to close your eyes and picture it. Or just picture what happened repeatedly in today’s game.