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WBB Conversations: A split as Stanford looms

The Bears fall to Utah before blitzing Colorado with 3 point shooting, but the mind can’t help but wander towards the coming week . . .

Stanford v South Carolina
Cal’s next men’s basketball coach, in my dreams
Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images


  • Lost to Utah 87 - 74
  • Beat Colorado 80 - 60

Currently: 13-6 (4-4, T-6th in Pac-12); RPI = 28


  • vs Stanford at Haas Pavilion, 8pm Thursday, January 31, TV = Pac-12 Networks
  • at Stanford, 4pm Saturday, February 2, TV = Pac-12 Networks

Reef, Wednesday

Charlie Creme’s latest January 21 bracketology has us currently projected as a 5 seed, despite a 30 RPI that would indicate a seed a bit lower, and only one top 25 RPI win on our resume (at BYU).

What do you make of this projection? I realize we have a multitude of challenging games remaining in the conference schedule and the Pac-12 tournament, but is our dream of a home (4th) seed for the NCAA tournament still a realistic possibility?

Nick, Wednesday

Interesting. The challenge here is figuring out where Cal ranks compared to the nation at large, which I will hopefully find time to devote resources towards later in the week. But I’ve followed Charlie Creme’s projections long enough to know that they’re not useless but they’re also far from iron clad . . . and often a bit slow to react to shifts in team performance, sometimes for the good, other times not.

In Cal’s favor is the generally top-heavy landscape of WBB. The WBB RPI top 25 collectively have just 61 losses, while the MBB top 25 in the NET ratings have 76. Of those 61 losses the WBB top 25 have suffered, 35 came against other top 25 RPI teams and only 26 came to teams outside the top 25. Which is to say that there just aren’t a ton of teams building obviously excellent resumes, because the best teams in WBB generally don’t lose except to each other.

What I think that means practically is that Cal has a tremendous opportunity with at least four shots at a top 25 win left on the schedule. More if OSU’s RPI rises to match their actual performance, and more depending on the Pac-12 tournament draw. Three or four of those games come at home. The opportunity is there. So we must ask ourselves: how realistic is it that these Bears beat teams who, collectively, have only lost three games to teams outside the RPI top 15? Because I’m guessing we need to get at least two wins like that to entertain NCAA home games as a possibility.

Nick, pre-game before Utah

Well, it’s just about game time. I took a glance at Utah’s Pac-12 only stats, and their profile is of a team that plays evenly on rebounds and turnovers, but wins games by winning the shot making battle pretty decisively. I can’t say a ton about their defense without having seen them play much, but their offense seems simple enough. They surround the interior scoring of Megan Huff and Dre’Una Edwards with lots of shooting.

We’ve been talking a lot about Kristine’s defense, so I’m particularly interested in seeing how Kristine does defending Huff and/or Edwards inside, and whether or not Kristine can get one or both of Utah’s main interior scorers into foul trouble on the other end. Also, it’s worth noting that Huff can shoot, which makes we wonder if we’ll see Kristine following her out to the arc or if Cal will play more zone to keep Kristine in the key.

Reef, pre-game before Utah

I’d add a couple things. Dre’una Edwards dislocated her shoulder in their last game and left in the 2H. Unsurprisingly, I can’t find any info on her status. If she is out, it may very well be enough to slide the edge ever-so-slightly toward Cal’s side of the ledger.

And this. We have to win this game if we aspire to even dreaming about that top 4 seed. I mean, yeah, sure, we could theoretically win 3 of 4 in our coming stretch of sick teams. We could split those 4 and then run the table. We could win the Pac-12 tournament. All those things are possible and pretty unlikely. Any reasonable path involves putting a top 50 road win in the bank, as we approach the toughest (and most exciting) stretch of the season. Put differently: Top 16 teams win these kinds of games. Period. I’ve been nervous about this all week, and I’m in full fan mode tonight. Let’s get it.

Reef, Sunday night

I think we’re both kind of just stunned and deflated from the Utah defeat. Notwithstanding the fact that Utah may in fact be pretty darn good (they beat stanford today), it’s still disappointing to seemingly never be able to close the deal against high level competition. We’ve got, what, one win against legit top 25 competition in the last two seasons?

We’ve talked about team defensive concept, and how we never seem to be quite as airtight as the best defenses in the conference, but I’ve been thinking more lately about the composition of our defensive personnel. Kristine has developed into an ultra-high level defender, and Kianna and Jaelyn are plus defenders alongside her. But seeing the rest of the team get regularly exploited on Friday was discouraging. Asha, for all her heart, is undersized, and she got caught on so many screens. Teams have been attacking Recee all year. Kenzie took two steps forward recently, but she now she’s taken a big step back.

I was a little jealous watching Utah, because they have what I’ve dreamed of -- a plethora of shooting threats that let them run precision offense off the defense’s need to attend to the perimeter. [Oh look, there’s someone else getting beat back door by a Utah cutter.] We were simply not sharp enough to stop them. Granted, that’s no easy task -- you have to be consistently aware, energetic, communicative through the whole shot clock, every single possession. But if we can’t do it against Utah, what hope do we have against stanford, Oregon, OSU?

Too pessimistic?

Nick, Monday

I don’t think so, no. On twitter I mentioned that the Pac-12 has sorted itself into three tiers of four teams each. The tier 1 teams (Ore, OSU, Stan, Utah) have only lost to each other and to ASU, who should arguably be a tier 1 team because their schedule has been brutal. Tier 3 (UW, WSU, USC, Colorado) have only one win over a tier 2 team and none over a tier 1 team.

Cal is in tier 2, having already beaten every tier 3 team without too much trouble. But Cal is also 0-3 against the other teams in tier 2, with (agonizingly close) losses to UCLA, ASU, and Arizona. And I guess what I’m getting at is if Cal can’t close the deal with wins against the average teams in the Pac-12, what are the chances that they will manage wins against the elite teams in the conference? Utah, recent upset of Stanford aside, is probably the weakest team competing at the top of the Pac-12 . . . and they just looked comprehensively better than Cal did. This wasn’t a game where, after watching, I thought that if Cal fixed a minor problem or two, or simply hit a couple more shots, that they could’ve pulled the upset. That’s likely to be the story now that the heavy hitters are up next on the schedule.

Of course, Cal teased us against Colorado by reminding us of the only potential solution to this problem. With Kristine Anigwe picking up two fouls in about 90 seconds and mired in foul trouble the rest of the game, Cal turned to their guards against the Buffs, and they responded by shooting a very absurd 11-14 from three, including 9-11 in the first half when Cal needed those buckets to establish dominance without their best player able to play with her usual precision.

Shooting 79% from 3 would give Cal more than a shot against any team on the schedule, but is obviously a silly thing to ask for. Shooting, say, 42% might allow Cal to hang around and even claw out a win or two. I am afraid that Cal has already had their Black Swan game and had it against Colorado rather than Stanford or Oregon, but those are the breaks.

Does this mean that I’m not going to Maples next Saturday to watch Cal? No, I’ll still be there, in the hopes that Cal will set what I imagine to be an unbreakable record with two wins at Maples Pavilion in one season. Sometimes you just gotta believe, man.

Reef, Tuesday

I think you’ve already landed in the place I have to get to this week.

It’s stanford week.

My rational brain knows that all our information points to this being an 8th seedish squad this year. We’ve discussed ad nauseum the gaps on both ends that put us in that position. We can deal with the implications later.

It’s stanford week.

Despite whatever level of expectation we do or do not meet this year. Despite whatever frustrating flaws are evident when we watch our team play. Despite wherever we are in the standings. Despite all of that, I really love this team, these players, and especially our seniors. This is our last chance to see them defeat our rivals.

It’s stanford week.

I’ve gained a tremendous amount of respect for Tara and what she’s done in her career. She’s one of the best coaches I’ve ever seen. But I don’t think I have to justify to our audience my hatred of stanford, and this week, that’s all there is. We need to beat stanford because we are Cal and that is what we do. I’m going to yell and scream and laugh and cry and bleed blue and gold for two games this week. I’m going to appreciate our players and what we do. I’m going to glory in being the superior institution, regardless of outcome.

It’s stanford week.

Go Bears.