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Cal visits Pullman tomorrow night in what will be the Cougs toughest home test of the season. Don't let Cal's string of disappointing losses early on fool you, this team is good. They are an elite offensive unit and are very efficient on the defensive side of the ball. Washington State will have to be in top form to have a chance for the upset in this one and a little help from the ZZU CRU wouldn't hurt either. If you are in Pullman, we at CougCenter implore you to attend the games this weekend (they aren't on TV anyway). Show these young Cougs what a real homecourt advantage looks like.
A win here would be fantastic, as Cal may be the only team left in the Pac 10 that will actually give the resume a big boost come March. If WSU actually has a chance to go dancing, this is the type of game that they will need to pick up along the way (Unless, of course, Klay gets super hot and carries us through the Pac 10 tourney).
Click on for some analysis on the major factors impacting this matchup.
Shooting: Not suprisingly, Cal is a very good shooting team. They are not lights-out from the three point line like they were last year (when they were #1 in the NATION in 3pt%), but they are still solid outside and very good inside the arc. That's a bad sign for the Cougs, as they have been below average defending the two point shot and eFG% allowed overall. Jerome Randle is also a guy who can heat up and control a game against any team.
On the other end, Cal has been above average in terms of opponents eFG%, 3pt%, and 2pt%. One of the big question marks heading into the season was if the Bears would be able to defend enough to win a lot of games, and it is clear that they do.
Rebounding: The Golden Bears are a very good rebounding team. A couple of their key contributors off the bench, Markhuri Sanders-Frison and Omondi Amoke are big factors in that regard. Cal is excellent at keeping the opposing team off the offensive glass, as they are 24th in the nation in defensive rebounding percentage. They also get a significant number of their own misses, which is huge with scorers like Randle, Patrick Christopher, and Theo Robertson on the floor.
Offensive rebounding has been important for WSU's offensive efficiency (Kenpom gives it a correlation of +0.58 and denotes it as "significant with 95% confidence." It's importance is second only to eFG% for the Cougs). They will need to do better than Cal's previous opponents in this area if they are going to secure the victory.
Turnovers: As you would expect from a senior-laden team, Cal does not turn the ball over much. They give it away just 17.5% of the time, compared to 20.7% for WSU. The bright spot here is that Cal is not proficient at taking the ball away, as they are just 276th in the country in forcing turnovers. Hopefully we will see the Cougars of the second half against Arizona last week, and not the first. Turning the ball over against this team will carry a much greater penalty.
Free Throws: This is the area where Washington State really can create an advantage. Cal is a very perimeter oriented team and that shows in their free throw rate. They rank just 286th in the country in FTA/FGA. Conversely, WSU ranks tenth. While the Golden Bears have done well in limiting free throws, these Cougs have shown the ability to get to the line against anyone. Reggie Moore needs to continue the attacking style he showed against UA and create some offensive efficiency from the charity stripe. If he manages to get a few of those talented Cal guards in foul trouble along the way, then that would be just gravy.
Finally, there is one more topic that we must address with regards to taking on the Golden Bears.
What are really supposed to do when confronted with a bear attack?
Now, I figured I would employ the expertise of Mr. Dwight Schrute in this case. Here is what he had to say:
I'm going to have to disagree with Dwight on this one. I do not see how laying down and taking it from these Golden Bears will be beneficial at all. My hope is that Klay, Reggie, and company will have their rifles in hand and the Streit-Perham lobby will feature a brand new rug on Friday Morning.