The Washington State Cougars face the Cal Bears in Pullman on Wednesday night (8 p.m. PT, ESPNU). While the game will be televised, it will also be broadcast by CougCenter's own Neil Roberts on KUGR.org.
Neil will be working hard on the broadcast, but I didn't do the same for tonight's preview. Instead of paragraphs and any semblance of a thesis, I'm offering up bullet points. Enjoy.
When WSU has the Ball
- Cal plays primarily man-to-man on defense. They will look to force opponents off the 3-point line and into taking contested 2-pointers. Cal opponents are taking just 26 percent of their shots from three in Pac-12 play, third lowest in the league.
- That clashes with WSU's style, especially with DaVonte Lacy on the floor. The Cougs will be looking to shoot from long range, and for good reason. WSU is shooting 3s (36 percent) almost as well as 2s (38 percent) in conference play. If Cal forces WSU inside the arc, it will struggle in the mid-range and interior game.
- Cal opponents are shooting 52 percent at the rim, 62nd-lowest nationally.
- The one positive for WSU? Cal plays the third-fastest defensive possessions in Pac-12 play, averaging 17 seconds. The Cougs are much better inside the arc when they are getting shots early -- shooting 68 percent at the rim in the first 10 seconds of the clock (that's considered transition offense) and 57 percent at the rim in non-transition (10-30 seconds). Where things get tough for WSU is in the last five seconds of the clock, where it is shooting just 41 percent at the rim.
- 2-point jumpers will likely be a nightmare for WSU. The Cougs shoot just 32 percent on those, 44th-worst nationally. Cal is also allowing just 32 percent on 2-point jumpers.
- The Golden Bears are also a good defensive rebounding team, thanks in large part to Richard Solomon. Combine that with WSU's tendency to pass on offensive rebounds in an effort to get back on defense, and second-chance opportunities should be few and far between for the Cougs.
- Cal isn't going to take chances for turnovers. It's just 9th in defensive turnover percentage during league play, forcing them on 17 percent of possessions.
When Cal has the Ball
- Cal isn't going to give the ball away. It's tops in offensive turnover percentage in Pac-12 play. Justin Cobbs has a lot to do with that. Taking care of the ball is the driving force behind Cal's efficient offense. They gave it away just 9 times the first time these two teams played.
- WSU is only average in forcing turnovers, so Cal should be able to limit the number of giveaways tonight pretty easily.
- The Cougs have one of the worst interior defenses in the league. Cal's bigs shredded WSU in Berkeley. Solomon and David Kravish combined to go 10/16 from the floor for 20 points.
- Cal isn't overly aggressive to the rim, but is excellent at running its sets to get clean looks. The Golden Bears have the 45th-best non-transition effective field goal percentage nationally, thanks to hitting 62 percent at the rim and 38 percent from 3 in non-transition situations.
- Cal shoots a higher percentage of its FGA from inside the arc than any Pac-12 team. Nearly 78 percent of Cal's FGA are 2-pointers. It's no surprise that Cal was able to dominate offensively from the first time around, considering WSU's inability to defend inside the arc.