A couple of the guys (Kodiak and Ohio Bear) over at California Golden Blogs took the time to answer some questions I had about Cal's basketball team, as we preview Iowa State's matchup with Cal tomorrow for the Big 12/Pac 10 Hardwood Series.
How would you characterize this team? They go out and beat quality teams like New Mexico and Temple, but stink it up against Notre Dame and Boston College. Why?
Kodiak: Young, but gritty. Pretty good on the defensive glass. Decent effort on D, but inconsistent with fighting through screens and closing out on shooters. Offense is a work in progress. We have capable post scorers, but struggle at times working the ball down low. We lack a dominant point guard who can set tempo, settle guys down, and run the offense. When the outside shots aren't falling, we tend to try to do too much and get away from executing our sets.
Ohio Bear: Because Cal is young. With this many freshmen on the team, bad stuff is bound to happen, especially away from home.
Last year, Iowa State fans had high hopes of their team heading into Berkeley. Cal exposed Iowa State as a passive, less physical team. This year, Iowa State is a little more physical, but not a good rebounding team. Cal outrebounded ISU on the offensive boards 19-11, and overall 51-32, which really helped fuel the blowout. How would you characterize Cal's rebounding this year?
Kodiak: Our two starting bigs(Kamp/Sanders-Frison) aren't going to jump out of the gym, but are solid fundamentally and very physical. We have a couple of young guys who are more athletic and are learning to use their length.(Crabbe, Solomon) Our starting PG(Gutierrez) is pretty hard-nosed and tough. If you let us beat you up physically and don't box out, all of those guys have shown a nose for the ball and a willingness to mix it up.
Ohio Bear: Cal has held its own on the defensive glass so far this season. Cal has outrebounded all but one opponent (Notre Dame), I believe, but none of the games except UC-Davis had a wide rebound disparity. Not a whole lot of offensive rebounds this season for Cal so far, though.
What is the team's bread and butter? What will they try to do?
Kodiak: We try to get the ball to our low post scorers to set up inside out or cuts to the basket. We usually do this off of a high low entry. Our two best passers are the bigs, Kamp and Sanders-Frison. So, we try to get the ball in their hands early and let them either score or set guys up. We'll take the open 3 when it's there...accuracy has been hit or miss. We've gotten in trouble when we fall in love w/ the outside shot and go cold. We also like to push the ball in transition because our defensive boardwork is pretty solid. The young guys and our PG are more comfortable in the open court than in the half court.
Ohio Bear: That's part of Cal's problem: we don't know yet. It seems that Cal is a perimeter team, but we haven't really found the consistent go-to guy who can get hot. Gary Franklin (freshman guard) wants to be that guy and has the shooter's mentality to be that guy, but he hasn't been consistent enough. We're still trying to find this team's true offensive identity, I think.
Fill in the blanks: Cal will win if: ____________. Cal will lose if _______________.
Kodiak: Cal wins if we dominate the glass, don't turn the ball over, and are able to pound it inside. Cal loses if we don't close out on shooters, are unable to pass the ball effectively on offense, and settle for shooting deep shots at low percentage.
Ohio Bear: Cal will win this game if it does not give up too many second chance opportunities and makes its open shots. Cal will lose this game if it plays with the same lack of defensive intensity that it had in the Boston College game.
How do you see this game playing out? Who wins?
Kodiak: No idea. I don't know if the steely-eyed team that out-hustled Temple is going to show, or if it will be the wide-eyed gang that struggled against ND and BC. I don't know much about your team - looks like you lost a lot of firepower and have a returning star with a lot of young guys. I think our strength on the glass and in the post helps us pull this one out, but it'll probably be an ugly game. 48-43 Cal.
Ohio Bear: I have no idea. Honestly, though, with a young team like ours playing its first genuine road game of the season, I don't really expect a victory.
Thanks again to the guys over at California Golden Blogs. Tomorrow morning, I'll put up a quick preview of my own leading up to the game!