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NCAA Basketball: Washington State at California Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

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What to Watch For: Scouting WSU vs Cal

WSU looks to start the Pac-12 Tourney right

The Washington State Cougars secured the five seed for the Pac-12 tournament, and that means they draw Cal in the first round. WSU looks to go on a Cinderella run, starting with a team that hasn’t won a game since January 6th.

The game tips off at 2:30 PM PST today- March 8th, and can be watched on the Pac-12 Network.

Cal Golden Bears


Cal is the worst offense in the Pac-12 according to Kenpom’s Adjusted Offensive Efficiency. They rank 12th in the conference in two-point percentage, 9th in three-point percentage, 9th in turnover rate, and 11th in offensive rebound rate. There is not much they do well on that end and they are very reliant on Joel Brown to do a lot of playmaking and bad shooters to make shots.

Cal’s base offense involves a lot of pick-and-roll and double-drag sets. Their main tactical wrinkle is that they run a lot of dummy actions to kill time so that they can use as much of the shot clock as possible. For more a in-depth look at their offense, read here!


Cal is also the worst defense in the conference. They are dead last in the Pac in opponents turnover and opponent two-point percentage, while also ranking 11th in opponent free throw rate. They rank 8th in opponent three-point rate, and 7th in opponent three-point percentage. There is not much they excel at defensively, and competent offenses are able to abuse them consistently. Cal likes to high-catch with their bigs, but they are at a major athleticism deficiency at the big spot and they give up a lot of open looks.

Players to Watch

Joel Brown had a great game against the Cougs in their last meeting, which happened to be Cal’s senior day. He scored 13 points, grabbed 7 boards, tallied a block and a steal, and he added an impressive 9 assists. He also ended his season with a career-high 22 points against Oregon State. He is a great playmaker and an average scorer who is hurt by the lack of talent around him. He is certainly at the top of WSU’s scouting report, and containing him is vital.

Grant Newell has been one of the best freshman in the Pac-12 and the rare bright spot for Cal this season. He has had some efficiency struggles, but he excels as a mid-range scorer and Mark Fox consistently goes to him in isolations and as a cutter. He is not consistently contributing to winning yet, but there is some interesting potential there and he did win a Pac-12 freshman of the week award earlier in the season.

Washington State Cougars

Players to Watch

TJ Bamba is in the midst of the best stretch of his collegiate career and he is looking to take that momentum into the Pac-12 tournament. Going up against Cal is a great opportunity for Bamba to really get some momentum for the tournament, and it would be great to see him keep up his hot streak. WSU needs a huge tournament from Bamba if they want to pull off the Cinderella story, and that all starts against Cal.

Conference tournament play is all about players getting hot, and one of WSU’s stars with the potential to shine the brightest is Jabe Mullins. Mullins is a high-level shooter and shot-maker, and he could go on a stretch like he did back in early January, which could be enough to propel WSU to some huge wins. Mullins hasn’t scored in double digits in WSU’s two games against Cal, but that wasn’t for lack of shot attempts. If one or two more fall, it could get Mullins going in a big way.

What to Watch For

Not messing around sounds simple, but is a big key for WSU here. The last game against Cal was needlessly frustrating and it was mostly because no one outside of Bamba and Mouhamed Gueye could score. Andrej Jakimovski scored 0 points, DJ Rodman scored only 3, and Justin Powell was held to single digits too. If WSU could just hit a couple of their open shots, then they should be able to take care of the Golden Bears with a bit more ease.

Question of the Game

Will WSU shoot over 38% from 3?

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