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Previewing Cal MBB vs. Santa Clara

It’s Bears versus Broncos in Berkeley

NCAA Basketball: Legends Classic
Darius McNeill and the Bears are back on their home court.
Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports

The California Golden Bears men’s basketball team begins a set of three games against local West Coast Conference squads on Monday night at home against Santa Clara. The Broncos are 1-4 after defeating San Jose State on Saturday and went 11-20 last season. This is the second campaign for Santa Clara head coach Herb Sendek, who spent 2006-2015 with Arizona State. The Bears return to Haas Pavilion with a 1-3 record after two losses at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Santa Clara

Projected lineup

#1 Trey Wertz - 6’5” Fr G - 5.6 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 5.0 apg

Wertz shot poorly against the Spartans but dished out 10 assists. Overall, the freshman from Charlotte has yet to find his stroke from long range.

#2 Tahj Eaddy - 6’1” So G - 16.2 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 3.2 apg

Eaddy was the driving force behind Santa Clara’s comeback on Saturday as the Broncos trailed 11-2 early. He has a knack for finishing at the rim and getting open looks from the perimeter. Fun fact: Eaddy is eight inches shorter than the NBA’s Taj Gibson.

#22 Josh Martin - 6’7” Sr F - 4.6 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 0.6 apg

The Cal Poly transfer is a big help on the glass but has been held scoreless in two of his five appearances this season.

#13 Josip Vrankic - 6’8” So F - 11.4 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 0.8 bpg

Hailing from Toronto, Vrankic was an impressive 9-13 from the floor on Saturday. He has certainly gained Sendek’s trust over the last three contests.

#25 Fallou Ndoye - 6’11” Sr C - 0.8 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 0.4 ppg

Ndoye doesn’t get much playing time overall, but Sendek appears to prefer beginning games with the big man. The grad transfer and native of Senegal played for Cal State Bakersfield last season.

Key reserves

#14 Keshawn Justice - 6’4” Fr F - 11.8 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 1.0 apg

Justice has begun his career as a solid sixth man and hit at least two triples in each of his games. He’s also a threat on defense with seven steals to date.

#3 Henrik Jadersten - 6’11” Sr F - 5.0 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 0.2 bpg

Jadersten burst on the scene in San Jose, scoring 17 points after hardly figuring in the rotation previously. The man from Sweden played only sparingly in Santa Clara’s defeats.

Winning strategies

1. Keep up the physical play.

The Broncos are no great shakes on offense, hitting 46% of two-point attempts and a somewhat better 33% on threes. It’s early, but the Broncos are also one of the worst free-throw shooting teams in Division I. Nobody wants to rack up fouls, but there’s little reason to give Santa Clara easy buckets. As things stand, only 13% of their points come from the charity stripe.

2. Fight for good looks.

Santa Clara has defended two-point shots reasonably well for a 1-4 team, but they struggle to stop long-range attempts in allowing a conversion rate of 36%. Surprisingly, the Bears rank 6th in the country from downtown (small sample size alert) thanks to splashing nearly 46% of them. If those trends keep up, I like the odds for the home team. Darius McNeill has helped the cause, starting 11-24 in that department. Also, Matt Bradley has only missed two of his eight three-point attempts.

3. Win the rebounding battle.

Cal is near the basement nationally when it comes to offensive boards, grabbing them just 19% of the time. Nevertheless, the Bears have fared somewhat better than Santa Clara on the defensive glass. That could be an important area if this game comes down to the wire. Justice Sueing and Andre Kelly have been the biggest contributors in that category.

4. Respond to adversity.

The Broncos are expected to finish near the bottom of the WCC. Still, Cal cannot take them lightly. The Bears played a solid game despite losing to St. John’s but disappointed against Temple. They need things to fall into place before the short trip to Moraga next Saturday. That starts with establishing confidence and putting Tuesday’s 54% on field goals allowed behind them. Head coach Wyking Jones will be leaning heavily on Paris Austin, who has scored 16 points per game on 52% shooting along with an average of 4 assists.

Meaningless Prediction: Cal 73, Santa Clara 66

The Bears are favored according to Ken Pomeroy, with a 73% chance of victory. It’s certainly an easier matchup than the subsequent game at Saint Mary’s on December 1.

This game will be televised on Pac-12 Network/Pac-12 Bay Area on Monday, November 26 at 6 PM PT. The KGO 810 AM stream is available on TuneIn radio.

Go Bears!