The Golden Bears enter Wednesday’s match-up with an identical 9-5 record, though their conference record is 1-1 vs. the 1-0 record of the Washington Huskies. California is led by junior guard Allen Crabbe who is averaging 21.4 points per game, good for 10th in the nation and 1st overall in the Pac-12. At 6-6 and 210lbs, Crabbe is a dynamic and ultra athletic players with too much talent to contain. Much as with Brock Motum and the Washington State Cougars, the Huskies should aim to contain Crabbe as much as possible and ensure he doesn’t explode for 30+ points.
Desmond Simmons did a tremendous job in limiting the impact Motum could have throughout Saturday’s season opener. Though Motum did end with 15 points on the night, he did not have a field goal in the final 7 minutes and his only points during the last critical stretch came off a pair of free throws with 2 minutes left in the game. While this is impressive, I do believe that Crabbe presents much more of a problem to the Huskies due to his ability to score in absolutely monstrous ways. Not only has Crabbe scored over 20 points in 9 of the seasons 14 games thus far, but he has also made the last 19 free throw shots in a row. This includes 7 of 7 against Harvard to end the month of December and most recently an 8 of 8 performance against USC. Crabbe has recorded perfect free throw records in 7 games this season: 9-9, 6-6, 4-4, 2-2, 7-7, 1-1, and 8-8. Crabbe’s season high is 33 points. The biggest concern for Cal fans at the moment is the recent shooting slump Crabbe has been suffering through when attempting to connect from deep. Following an 18 point performance against then #21 UNLV Crabbe went 0 of 8 from the 3-point line and in his past 6 games is shooting 5 of 24 from outside, 17% below his average.
Justin Cobbs is the only other Golden Bear averaging double digit scoring and is unsurprisingly the only other member of his squad to average over 30 minutes per game. At 15.6 points a night, Cobbs is doing a fantastic job of backing up his star guard with nearly as amazing production. Cobbs is a bit smaller at 6-3 to Crabbe’s 6-6, but is a solid playmaker to help compliment his ability to shoot. Unlike Crabbe, Cobbs is most comfortable inside the lane where he takes 84% of his shots. A well executed zone defense should keep Cobbs from penetrating the lane at will, though a man-to-man defense is a much more likely scenario with Crabbe demanding so much personal attention. In this instance, avoiding foul trouble with our big men is critical as a player like Aziz N’Diaye goes a long ways towards keeping a player like Cobbs off balance.
Richard Solomon and David Kravish form an intimidating duo in the frontcourt. Standing 6-10 and 6-9 respectively, the combo account for 14 of the Golden Bears’ 40 rebounds per game. Both are solid shooters on the block, while they also both struggle from the foul line and outside the arc. N’Diaye will likely draw Kravish for his assignment while, Simmons or perhaps Jernard Jerreau could be called upon to take on Solomon.
The Golden Bears are a well rounded team with some remaining talent from the 2011-2012 NCAA squad that was embarrassingly blowout in the “second” round. Cal should definitely make some noise in the Pac-12 this season, but with a loss to a solid UCLA in Pauley Pavilion and a win coming on the road against a struggling USC team it is hard to gauge exactly how good this team is. Certainly expect Crabbe to continue his dominating season and battle for the Pac-12 Player of the Year award. Also expect Crabbe to declare for the draft following the conclusion of 2013.
The Dawgs have their work cut out for them, especially given the hostile crowd they will face late Wednesday night. After pulling out a gutsy win over rival WSU on Saturday, the Dawgs will be looking to play a more consistent match instead of blowing another huge lead.