The 12-4 Arizona Wildcats visit Berkeley tonight to play the 5-10 Cal Golden Bears. The Cats are 3-0 in conference play while the Golden Bears are 0-3 and are looking for their first conference win of the season.
#3 Paris Austin 5’11” G (Jr.) (Transfer)
#1 Darius McNeill 6’3″ G (So.)
#20 Matt Bradley 6’4″ G (Fr.)
#10 Justice Sueing 6’7″ F (So.)
#22 Andre Kelly 6’8″ F (Fr.)
Key Bench Players: Juhwan Harris-Dyson, Grant Anticevich, Connor Vanover, Jacobi Gordon.
Offense: Cal has a pretty well balanced scoring offense that depends a lot on perimeter weaves, screens, and dribble drives. 4 of their 5 starters average double digit points and the fifth, Andre Kelly, is just shy of that averaging 9.3 points per game. They also have 9 players averaging double digit minutes but Austin (14ppg), McNeill (12ppg), and Sueing (13ppg) are this team’s Big 3. Cal, on the year, shoots 37% from 3 and is 13th in the NCAA shooting 77% from the free throw line. They are averaging 73 ppg compared to Arizona’s 74.
Defense: The Golden Bears have played both half-court man defense and 2-3 zone defense this year. These teams matchup very well in regards to size and athleticism and are almost mirror images of one another in that regard. Cal does have the 7’3″ Vanover coming off the bench, but other than that these teams are quite evenly matched and Cal may feel that their man defense will give them the best chance of winning. They are not, however, a great defensive team and are susceptible to dribble penetration and good post play.
Cal is 350th in the NCAA in total rebounds. There are 351 teams playing NCAA Division 1 basketball. They are allowing 79.7 points per game this year which puts them at 328th. Arizona–in conference play–has been shooting very well and is averaging just under 40% from 3 and 80% from the free throw line.
Arizona’s defense is allowing only 66 points per game this year and, in conference play, they are 1st in the Pac12 in opponent turnovers. In their three Pac12 games, opponents are averaging 18 turnovers against the Cats.
Strengths: Cal has decent depth and, overall, quite a bit of talent. They shoot from the perimeter fairly well, have good athleticism, and seem to be able to matchup with most Pac12 teams. This is not a great team by any stretch, but I’m not sure the Pac12 has any team that can make that claim.
Weaknesses: Average to poor defense. This is a team that has yet to play to its potential. They did play St. John’s earlier this year and played them pretty tight. They have lost their last 4 games by an average of about 12 points. Point guard Paris Austin has missed the last 2 games due to injury but is expected to play tonight. This is a much better team with Austin in the lineup. With Austin, Cal is averaging 10.5 turnovers per game. In the two games without him they are averaging 15.5. If Austin is out for a breather or is hurt they are especially vulnerable to pressure defense.
Summary: Cal basketball has had a rough couple of seasons. Last year they had only 2 conference wins. You have to go back to the 1961-1962 season to find the last time they won 2 or less conference games. And that was when they played in the 5 team AAWU (Athletic Association of Western Universities) with UCLA, Stanford, Washington, and USC. Also, last season, they only had 8 wins overall. The last time they had single digit wins for the year was the 1987-88 season.
This will be an interesting game and one, again, that seems to be pretty evenly matched in terms of size and athleticism. Arizona has more overall talent and it is these kinds of games that they are going to have to win in order to get a chance to play in March. This wouldn’t be a terrible loss but it would be a bad one for the Cats. One that would be perceived poorly by the committee come tournament time. This is a very important game because if the Cats can return to Tucson with a road sweep and a 4-0 conference record it will go a long way to improving this team’s confidence as they then get the Oregon schools at home.
The Cats are averaging 20 free throw attempts per game and are a very good free throw shooting team. Getting to the basket and drawing fouls goes a long way for the Cats. In their last 2 losses they shot only 9 and 6 free throws. In the 12 games they’ve won they have averaged 22 free throw attempts.