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Previewing Cal MBB vs. Cal Baptist

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The Bears look to start the season 3-0.

NCAA Basketball: Southern California at California
Paris Austin and the Bears are back in action on Friday.
Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

It was a nail-biter, but on Tuesday the California Golden Bears men’s basketball team held on to beat UNLV in overtime by the score of 79-75. Friday’s opponent, the Cal Baptist Lancers of the Western Athletic Conference, are surprisingly projected to be a slightly better team than the Runnin’ Rebels. They enter play at 2-1 after a 67-54 loss to #25 Texas on Tuesday. However, the team from Riverside, California dominated much weaker competition in Jackson State and Cal Lutheran prior to that. This regional game is part of the 2K Empire Classic benefiting Wounded Warrior Project.

Cal Baptist

Projected lineup

#35 De’jon Davis - 6’7” Sr F - 10.7 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 1.3 spg

The Oakland Tech product led the WAC in rebounds by averaging 9.2 of them last season.

#12 Glenn Morison - 6’10” So C - 3.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 1.3 bpg

Hailing from the Australian capital of Canberra, he has only averaged 12 minutes so far.

#15 Brandon Boyd - 6’1” Sr G - 11.0 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 2.7 apg

Boyd scored 14.2 points per night for Idaho State last year before choosing Cal Baptist as the setting for his final season.

#0 Milan Acquaah - 6’3” Jr G - 18.3 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 5.7 apg

Acquaah spent the 2017-18 season with Washington State before taking the WAC by storm last season. To be fair, Riverside is a bit closer to his hometown of Bakersfield.

#31 Ferron Flavors, Jr. - 6’3” Jr G - 17.7 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 2.0 apg

With a last name of Flavors wearing number 31, does this guy have a Baskin-Robbins sponsorship yet? He previously played at Fairfield University before sitting out during 2018-19.

Key reserves

#33 Zach Pirog - 6’11” Sr C - 4.5 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 1.0 bpg

Pirog previously played at Nebraska-Omaha and compiled 51 blocks for the Lancers in 2018-19. Now I’m craving a plate of Polish pierogies for dinner.

#25 Ty Rowell - 6’2” Jr G - 7.7 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 0.7 apg

The Canadian drilled 55 threes last season, so he is someone to watch off the bench.

#4 Omar Lo - 6’9” Sr F - 8.7 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 0.3 bpg

The Los Angeles native played at two junior colleges before finding his way to Cal Baptist and is 12-for-13 from the floor in his first three games.

Winning strategies

1. Maintain the hot hand.

Matt Bradley has averaged 24 points per game so far to lead the team, so don’t expect Mark Fox to deviate from trying to get him the ball as much as possible. He is shooting 60% from the field and is also 8-for-14 from behind the arc despite the slightly longer three-point line. Bradley made 47% of his threes last season.

2. Lock down the perimeter.

So far, CBU has been very reliant on the three-point shot. In fact, 42.9% of the team’s points have come from long range. So far, the Lancers have converted 39.6% of threes but just 43.3% of two-pointers. Acquaah has gone 11-for-25 behind the arc with Flavors making 10-of-19 triples in the early going.

3. Emphasize ball movement.

The Lancers have not run a very active defense so far. They are near the bottom of Division I in block rate (5.6%) and steal rate (3.3%). Even though Texas hit just 25% of its three-point attempts against them, there seems to be little deterring offenses from working to get good looks at the basket.

4. Go South.

The Bears played a balanced guard rotation against UNLV, with Joel Brown and Kareem South playing 29 minutes each. Paris Austin got 22 minutes and Juhwan Harris-Dyson received 21 minutes off the bench. I was impressed with the freshman Brown, who went 3-for-3 from downtown on Tuesday. However, South could be an even bigger key to this season after now that he has transferred from Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. In the long run, his blend of craftiness and experience will be essential on such an otherwise young roster. Getting him comfortable should lead to more shots like this one.

Meaningless prediction: Cal 76, Cal Baptist 71

Ken Pomeroy expects a 61% probability of a Cal win. The game will take place at Haas Pavilion on Friday, November 15 at 7:00 PM PT. It will be shown on Pac-12 Bay Area and the KGO 810 AM feed can be streamed on TuneIn radio.

Go Bears!