Game Preview: Cal

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BY: John Chase

Huge set of games this week against Cal and Stanford. The Huskies only get one shot at each this season and, thankfully, we get to play both at the comfy confines of Hec-Ed. Cal and Stanford currently sit a half game up on UW tied for first, while UW has sole possession of third. To say these games are critical is an understatement. Losing either makes the chase for the Pac-12 title tough and places it in the hands of whoever wins said games. If the Huskies can win both and jump at least a half game up on both schools, they will take not only the lead, but also control the tie breaker for seeding in the Pac-12 tournament.

Neither of these games will be easy, especially with C.J. Wilcox out for the week. While, Terrence Ross‘ performance on Sunday was spectacular, it is going to take a major team effort to pull off these wins. The Dawgs are working with what is essentially a 6-man rotation supplemented by 3 or 4 small minute players. The Huskies need everyone on the court to find productivity offensively, no matter what defense is thrown at them. Fully expect Stanford to run a zone for a majority of the game and Cal to likely start in a man-to-man with zone coming at different times to rattle our guys.

Cal comes into the game 15-4 on the season, 5-1 in conference. Picked as a preseason favorite to win the conference title, Cal has been playing fairly solid basketball. Like the rest of the Pac-12, Cal failed to capitalize on its games against top tier opponents. In their last game, Cal crushed Utah by nearly 40 points. Speaking of Utah, Josh Watkins has been kicked off the Utes squad, adding to the list of Pac-12 players no longer with their respective programs.

Cal is led by a trio of guards standing between 6-2 and 6-6. Allen Crabbe leads the Golden Bears in both scoring and is second in rebounding with nearly 16 points and 6 rebounds per game. After nabbing the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year award, Crabbe continues to impress with his stellar game and impressive shooting. Crabbe is currently hitting over 45% from the field and from deep on top of an impressive 81% from the free throw line. Not only is Crabbe shooting with deadly accuracy from dead, he is doing it in huge numbers with 51 3-pointers made on the year. Crabbe stands at 6-6 and 205lb and will require our best efforts to contain. While I think Tony Wroten can play excellent defense at times, I would be more comfortable seeing Ross draw the assignment. I think Ross understands Crabbe’s style of play a little better and will be able to shut him down more effectively.

Jorge Gutierrez is second in scoring with 15 points and 5 rebounds per game. He is also averaging over 4 assists per game, good for second on the team. Gutierrez is a preseason pick for the Pac-12 Player of the Year award and has been playing like one through most of the year. While Gutierrez does not have the outside shot of Crabbe, Gutierrez can certainly do damage of his own outside, but does the majority of his scoring inside the paint by attacking the lanes with authority. I believe Tony Wroten will be asked to shut down the senior guard as Wroten plays the same style of aggressive basketball and will be able to anticipate the drives, while also picking his sleeves once or twice. Gutierrez is a solid FT shooter with an 80% average on the year, so Wroten can ill afford to give Gutierrez the easy ones, nevermind how much his foul trouble would hurt our team.

Justin Cobbs is third in scoring with a 13 point average. He also leads the team in assists with nearly 5 per game, while committing only 2 turnovers a night. Cobbs is perhaps a better shooter than Crabbe, but doesn’t take nearly the volume of shots that Crabbe does as Cobbs is more of a play-maker. Cobbs is hitting nearly 60% of his 3-pointers (19 of 33) and a 52% field goal percentage. Cobbs is also hitting 81% from the foul line and, like most of the Cal squad, is not someone you want to be giving freebies to.

Harper Kamp is the leading big man for the Bears. With 9.4 points and 5 rebounds a game, Kamp is a productive player with a solid inside shot. He has yet to attempt a 3-pointer yet this season and will likely stay in the paint against the Huskies, but the 6-8 245lb forward is an athletic big man who can be semi-productive from mid-range. Kamp has struggled with injuries the past two seasons, but is dominate when healthy and must be taken care of.

Richard Solomon is another productive big man for the Golden Bears who is averaging around 7 points per game and a team best 6 rebounds per game. News came down that he is out for the season after becoming academically ineligible. It’s just the break that the Huskies needed.

Predicted Starting Line-Ups:

California:

Justin Cobbs 6-2 195lb
Jorge Gutierrez 6-3 195lb
Allen Crabbe 6-6 205lb
Harper Kamp 6-8 245lb
David Kravish 6-9 210lb

Washington:

Abdul Gaddy 6-3 185lb
Tony Wroten Jr. 6-5 205lb
Terrence Ross 6-6 195lb
Desmond Simmons 6-7 220lb
Aziz N’Diaye 7-0 260lb

Keys to the Game:

  • Rebounding – Cal averages around 35 per game and Washington dominated their latest outing against WSU. Washington will need to crash the glass hard to beat Cal without Wilcox providing a solid scoring option. Cal is super athletic and their guards provide as much rebounding talent as their big men. Our defenders need to prevent the offensive boards to minimize the second chance points that Cal can capitalize on.
  • Free Throws – This should be a close game without a doubt. Free throws tend to be one of Cal’s strong points, while it is a weakness for the Huskies. If the Dawgs want to prevent the upset, they will need to make the easy ones. If Ross and Wroten can get to the line and make their freebies, the game will be much easier. This was seen against SU when the Dawgs missed 22 and only won by 8. Free throws win ball games, plain and simple.
  • Solid Shooting – After miserable percentages against SU and WSU, the Dawgs need to find someone who can drill the whole game. They also need to find several people willing to bang inside and drive the lanes. Wroten is a consistent force in the paint, but Ross and Gaddy need to force the inside as well. The Huskies should be averaging around 45% from the field and, hopefully, 40% from range. We have the talent. It is mainly a matter of mindset.

Final Thoughts:
This is a very winnable game. The Dawgs are (tend to be) great at home and often have their best shooting stroke on the Hec-Ed court. If the Huskies can get some defensive stops and control the outside shooting of Cal, I think the Dawgs should come out on top.

I’ll call it, UW-80 Cal-77.