The Washington State Cougars travel to Berkeley, Calif. to face the Cal Golden Bears on Saturday at 1 p.m. PT. The main storyline on the Pac-12 Networks will likely be the the scoring matchup of Brock Motum and Allen Crabbe, who are among the league's best offensive players.
Crabbe is nearly as important to Cal as Motum is to Washington State. He plays 88 percent of the minutes and uses 27 percent of the possessions while he is on the floor, including taking nearly 30 percent of the shots. He has been highly effective in those uses, posting a 116.3 offensive rating. He built his reputation as a three-point specialist in his first two years, but has added more to his game.
He now is dangerous inside the arc, where he knocks 54 percent of his twos. Crabbe also gets to the free throw an average amount of the time, and hits 86 percent when he is there. At 6'6, 210 he is a tough matchup for anyone, and expect to see Mike Ladd, Will DiIorio, and Dexter Kernich-Drew taking turns on him.
Outside of Crabbe, the Golden Bear offense isn't all that efficient. Justin Cobbs can drive the lane and make plays, but he can be turnover prone. The next four most usage-heavy players all possess well-below average offensive ratings. Cal seems to suffer from the same problem that WSU has in that they lack much support for their star player.
Teams that take a lot of threes can be dangerous for WSU, as the undpredictability of three-point percentage can lead to superlative offensive nights for the opposition (see Stanford and Kansas). Fortunately, Cal isn't a team that hoists much from the outside, as they are 346th in three-point attempts per field goal attempts. Crabbe is the only guy that has been consistently good from outside, but the Cardinal showed that doesn't always matter.
As for when WSU has the ball, expect to see quite a few blocks again against the Cougs. They are among the worst in the country at getting their two-pointers sent back, and Cal has three guys in Richard Solomon, Robert Thurman, and David Kravish that can send the ball away.
That ability to block shots has been helpful in defending the paint for Cal. They are 49th in the country in defensive two-point percentage, allowing opponents to hit just 43 percent. That doesn't bode well for WSU, who relies heavily on the inside. Motum will just have to be his usual creative self to get good looks and be efficient down low. He struggled with that against Stanford's bigs, and eventually had to rely on outside shots to draw the defense out.
Cal is not as talented, or as good, as the Stanford team that WSU faced on Thursday. KenPom predicts a 65-61 Golden Bears win with just 66 percent confidence, so the game is likely to be close. WSU is due for some good luck on outside shooting from their opponents, and they have an excellent shot at winning if they get some today.