Game Preview: UW vs. Cal (Game #17)


With the quicker-than-normal turnaround between games, we’ll do a shorter-than-usual preview for the Cal game.

I’m also trying to streamline and experiment a little bit too with these previews, so I can spend more time on the stuff readers seem to respond to. Please let me know what you think about the new format, and thanks for coming:

Who: Washington Huskies (2-3, 11-5 overall) vs. Cal Bears (3-1, 11-5 overall)

When: Saturday, 11:30 AM

Where: Hec Ed

Huskies 101: Despite the rough start, it’s not inconceivable to imagine a Husky run, eventually resulting in a 10- or 11-win season. But, it all starts here. This is critical game for the Dawgs, as they try to get back to .500 in the Pac-10 and prove they can beat the conference’s best team.

Quincy Pondexter got back on track Thursday vs. Stanford, scoring 27 points in the 94-61 win.

Justin Holiday is expected to start again for the Huskies after propelling the team to a terrific defensive performance on Thursday.

Projected lineup: G – Abdul Gaddy, G – Isaiah Thomas, F – Justin Holiday, F – Quincy Pondexter, F – Tyreese Breshers

Cal 101: The Bears have won five of their last six, defeating Washington State, 93-88, on Thursday.

The Bears are not as deep as the Huskies, but have four talented seniors. Jerome Randle, Patrick Christopher, Theo Robertson and Jamal Boykin all have multiple 20 point scoring efforts this season, and average in double figures.

The Bears shoot almost 38% from beyond the arc, while the Huskies shoot just 30.5%.

Player-of-the-Year candidate Randle is coming off his career-high in points – he scored 39 in Cal’s victory at Wazzu.

Projected lineup: G – Jerome Randle, G – Patrick Christopher, F – Omondi Amoke, F – Theo Robertson, F – Jamal Boykin

The Huskies will win if: They play with the same intensity on the defensive end that we saw against Stanford.

We’ll win if they hit the boards and prevent big man Jamal Boykin from allowing Cal to engage in a truly inside-out offense.

We’ll win if they successfully employ Venoy Overton to keep Jerome Randle in check. This could be the game’s critical matchup, and a chance for Venoy to earn his spot on the all-defensive team.

The Huskies will lose if: They play sloppily with the ball. Against a talented team like Cal, there’s not going to be enough leeway to have wasted possessions. The Dawgs must be efficient and exacting in their execution.

We’ll lose if our big men continue to play like dogs. I don’t think this is a contest that can be won without someone on the inside stepping up. Cal is too good a one-dimensional Husky attack to be successful.

A humble suggestion: Tyreese Breshers can’t defend without fouling, nor is he looking super adept offensively; Clarence Trent is not ready; and Darnell Gant doesn’t make enough of an impact. Give Matthew Bryan-Amaning his starting job back, and just accept what he doesn’t do well. No one – fans, media, coaches, even teammates – seems very happy with the production the Huskies have gotten out of MBA so far, but it’s time to start focusing on what we have in MBA, rather than what we don’t. There simply isn’t a better option in the post right now.

Predictions: The way I see it, there’s two questions to answer when scouting this game:

1.  Which Husky team will show up? Thursday’s top-25 level squad, or the Huskies that showed up in Arizona?

I’m willing to bet we get the good Huskies against Cal. Guys play their whole lives for big games like this, and I don’t see effort being the problem Saturday. But the more pressing question is:

2.  Are the Huskies, at their best, capable of beating this experienced Cal team that’s shown they can win on the road?

This is the one I have trouble with. Texas Tech, Georgetown, A&M, Oregon, Arizona, Arizona State are the six best teams the Dawgs have played this season, and we’re 1-5 in those games (0-5 in the ones that didn’t involve a freak, horrific accident to an opposing player).

My heart says the Huskies will play with the heart they showed against Stanford. But my head is saying, da’ Bears. Sadly, I’m picking Cal in this one, 84-79.