When: 1:00 pm Saturday, PT
TV: The Larry Scott happy time boondoggle network
I’m not usually the type to dance on the grave of a coach, even at a rival school. And especially when his continued employment is probably in Cal’s benefit. But Alford was given 3.6 million to leave, has a more than checkered moral past that hasn’t stopped him from weird moralizing on his way out. Good riddance.
Former UAB, East Tennessee St., and South Florida (interim) head coach Murry Bartow is the UCLA interim while the Bruins spend time being perpetually disappointed that John Wooden’s reincarnated soul hasn’t yet been identified. He led UCLA to an impressively easy 22 point home win over Stanford on Thursday night, and will be looking to do the same against Cal tonight.
UCLA is a mediocre team, and UCLA basically grew tired of watching mediocre basketball, which was mostly what Steve Alford provided. Nothing much on UCLA’s stat profile stands out at particularly good or particularly bad, and only the precocious athleticism of freshman Moses Brown particularly stands out on a team that’s supposed to impress with individual talent.
PG Jaylen Hands - High risk passer piles up assists and turnover in equal measure. Not much of a shooter or finisher, but he takes plenty of shots anyway.
G Prince Ali - UCLA’s most disruptive perimeter defender is pretty much an average offensive guard/wing in every category.
G Kris Wilkes - Best shooter/slasher on the roster, reliable ball-handler and foul-drawer
G Chris Smith - Stretch four who struggles to finish inside or hit enough shots from the outside.
C Moses Brown - 5 star, shot blocking, offensive rebounding monster that Cal’s roster probably has zero hope of defending against. Let’s just foul him because he’s 37% from the line.
F Cody Riley - He and Smith basically platoon at the 4. Less of a shooter but more of a rebounder and shot blocker than Smith.
G Jules Bernard - Iffy shooting wing who has massive turnover problems, draws tons of fouls, and somehow commits 6.7 fouls per 40 minutes. His stats make me think he’s basketball chaos personified.
F/C Jalen Hill - your standard rebounding, shot altering back-up big with stone hands.
G David Singleton - 11-22 from three, but he doesn’t get a ton of minutes and doesn’t take many shots.
UCLA is a weird mish-mash of skills this year. On the bright side they are very long and very athletic. Kris Wilkes is 6’8’’ and is frequently the 3rd tallest player on the floor for the Bruins. As a consequence, UCLA excels at altering 2 point shots and pulling down rebounds on both ends. Between those rebounds and plenty of slashing to the basket, they draw a solid share of fouls.
On the other hand, they don’t really have any shooting so they miss a ton of free throws and their offensive spacing is pretty crummy. Also, they have a tendency to shut down effort-wise, as seen in the Alford-era-killing 15 point loss to Liberty.
UCLA is going to have one gigantic match-up advantage over the Bears in the form of freshmen Moses Brown. Brown pulls down 4 offensive boards a game and scores a bunch on put backs. He’s shooting 67% from the floor mostly from dunks and put backs, and he’s good at all of the things that Cal has been incapable of defending against. He just got finished destroying Stanford’s front line, scoring 17 points on 9 shots. He’s going to have a massive strength advantage over Connor Vanover and a massive height advantage over Andre Kelly, and I can’t even guess as to what would be a good strategy to mitigate that problem.
Our Computer Overlords Predict
Kenpom sez: UCLA 83, Cal 70, 13% chance of a Cal victory
Other than a visit to Pullman in two weeks, this game probably represents Cal’s best shot at a road win until the regular season finale at Maples.
Keys to the game
- Hack-a-Moses? A player that our defense is completely ill-equipped to defend is also a 37% foul shooter. If he ever gets the ball in the low post or comes down with an offensive board I’d vote for fouling him straight away.
- Take and make lots of 3s. UCLA’s interior defense, led by Brown, is stingy and dribble drives from Cal’s wings aren’t probably going to accomplish a ton. UCLA’s 3 point defense is much more tractable and plays into Cal’s offensive strengths anyway.
- Get back in transition. Cal isn’t a good offensive rebounding team, and UCLA’s great at securing the defensive glass. UCLA also loves to run. If you’re looking for some small semblance of hope that Cal is figuring things out on defense, pay attention to whether or not Cal can stop UCLA from creating transition scoring opportunities.