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Cal Preview: This Is A Must-Win

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Tonight at 10pm on ESPNU, ISU will play their annual Big 12/Pac 10 Hardwood Series Game. After playing Oregon State the last two years, I'm excited to be playing against Cal. Make no mistake about this one Cyclone fans. We HAVE to win this game. With non-conference games against Bradley, Houston, and Duke still on the schedule, we have to show that we can beat respectable teams. If we lose to the good teams in the non-conference, how could anyone think we'd do well against the Big 12, potentially the strongest conference this year?

Cal has had a much tougher schedule than ISU. They've lost to both Syracuse and Ohio State. They are coming off a loss against New Mexico as well, but if you look at New Mexico's Sagarin and Pomeroy ratings, they are much better than UNI and Northwestern.

Here's a high level look at the teams:

Records (6-2) (4-3)
Pomeroy Rank 74 28
Sagarin Rank 54 41
Vegas Line +8.5 -8.5
Sagarin Line +6 -6

Now before I go on to the Efficiencies and Four Factors, I wanted to explain a little of what I am doing. I am going to be comparing ISU's performance the last 3 games, first. This is how we've been playing recently, and I think it shows why many are implicitly worried about this matchup tonight:

ISU - Last 3 Games Cal Adv
Off Efficiency 1.02 pts/poss. 1.11 pts/poss. Cal
Def Efficiency .887 pts allowed/poss. .989 pts allowed/poss. ISU
eFG% 47.9% 51.7% Cal
TOV% 18.3% 18.3% Push
OREB% 30.6% 33.7% Cal
FT Rate 23.1% 33.6% Cal


In short, if we play tonight like we have the last 3 games, we're toast. I think people on here think we've had 2 bad games, but when I'm breaking down Saint Louis, I think we've had 3 bad games.

If you take the whole season into consideration:

ISU Cal Adv
Off Efficiency 1.13 pts/poss. 1.11 pts/poss ISU
Def Efficiency .887 pts allowed/poss. .989 pts allowed/poss. ISU
eFG% 56.5% 51.7% ISU
TOV% 20% 18.3% Cal
OREB% 36.4% 33.7% ISU
FT Rate 29.1% 33.6% Cal


Again, you have to be cautious when looking at the season totals, due to strength of schedule.

I cannot make a prediction in this one. I just have no clue which ISU team is going to show up. I think it's clear we have to play much better than the past 3 games. If they can play against Cal like they have against the Mississippi Valley State's of the world, then they will win, but let's be real here.

I want to see how this team responds to basically being punked physically by 2 teams. I want to see the Cyclones man-up, and be physical against somebody. Dunk it on somebody, get teed up, do something. This team is missing that "badass" factor.

The first few minutes of the game will dictate this one. If they're motivated, hungry, and physical, I'll be feeling good about this one. If they're flat, and McDermott has his head in his hands, then it's going to be a LONG night.