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Cal Basketball

The BearInsider Scout: Cal vs Fresno State

December 11, 2019

After starting the season 4-0, Cal’s men’s hoops team has found itself in some early adversity. Since that undefeated start, the Bears have gone 1-4, winning a too-close for comfort game against UC Davis and dropping the other four by double-digits. Losing to Duke and Texas was expected. But double-digit losses to San Francisco and Santa Clara were not. The Santa Clara game was especially a tough one as the Bears were basically out of it by the end of the first half.

Cal has one more tossup game tonight (Wednesday, December 11) before taking on a much tougher St. Mary’s team on Saturday (December 14). Fresno State (2-6) is coming off a couple tough losses to UNLV and Utah State. The Bulldogs took the Runnin’ Rebels to double-overtime before losing by one point at home. On the road, Fresno State led Utah State late before eventually losing by seven in overtime.

Fresno is similar to Santa Clara in that it’s not a great three-point shooting team, but has a very solid frontcourt duo in senior forward Nate Grimes and freshman forward Orlando Robinson. Grimes, who enters his fourth year at Fresno State, is averaging nearly a double-double at 13 points and 9.9 rebounds a game. The 6-8 senior can play in the post and stretch the floor as he’s shooting 35.5% from three on 31 attempts. Meanwhile, Robinson (6-10), who plays at the five position, is averaging 9.9 points and 5.8 rebounds per game.

Freshman guard Jarred Hyder is the only other Bulldog averaging in double-digits for scoring at 12.7 points per game. Hyder mainly runs the point but also plays off the ball at the two spot. Fresno uses a balanced approach and has nine players averaging between 15 and 34 minutes per game. It also has three guards that are averaging between 8.2 and 8.5 points per game after Grimes, Hyder, and Robinson.

This would be an ideal game for Cal to figure out its recent turnover and three-point shooting woes. Fresno State ranks 346th in the country at opponent turnovers. And it’s pretty average at guarding the three (teams are shooting 32.1% against Fresno State). One thing Fresno does do well is block shots. But hopefully, Cal can find some production from beyond the arc like it has at Haas so far this season.

While Fresno State is pretty horrible at turning teams over, it’s actually pretty good at not turning it over itself. The Bulldogs are pretty good at two-point shots (52.7%) and pretty bad at three-point shots (29.9%). Of course, Santa Clara also wasn’t great at shooting threes and we all saw what happened there on Saturday. Cal will need to keep an eye on Mustafa Lawrence when he’s on the floor as the 6-1 junior guard is Fresno State’s most consistent three-point threat (39.4% on the season).

Keys to the Game

Make Your Threes

Fresno State is currently ranked No. 128 in KenPom’s standings. When Cal played Pepperdine, the Waves were was ranked No. 126 and when it played Santa Clara, the Broncos were ranked No. 130. Cal beat the Waves by 16 and lost to the Broncos by 19. Against Pepperdine, the Bears shot 52.6% from three. Against Santa Clara, Cal shot 23.1%. This could be a game similar to Pepperdine where the Bears go off from three. Or it could be more like UC Davis or USF or Santa Clara where the offense bogs down and the Bears are unable to keep up with the Broncos.

Guard The Perimeter

At 54.9%, Fresno State takes more three-point shots per field goal attempt than any other team in the nation. The Broncos jack up a lot of long-range shots. Cal has been pretty bad recently at switching on ball screens and off-ball screens and closing out on open three-point shooters. Fresno State obviously already shoots a ton of threes. If it’s getting open threes, this game could get ugly like Santa Clara. 

Try To Defend The Post

Grimes is better at scoring and rebounding than both San Francisco’s Jimbo Lull and Santa Clara’s Guglielmo Caruso. Overall Fresno is not a great offensive rebounding team, but Grimes ranks 84th in the country for offensive rebounding percentage and 48th in defensive rebounding percentage. The dude cleans up the glass when he’s in. I’m not sure who you put on him. Grant Anticevich might be the best option since they both play similar stretch-forward positions. But if the three-point shots aren’t falling for Cal, it will need to get stops on the other end and that starts with slowing down Grimes.

KenPom Projection: Cal - 63, Fresno State - 62 (Cal win chance 52%)

If this game were on the road, Fresno would be the heavy favorites. But it’s at Haas where Cal has looked much better than it has on the road. This is a very important game for Cal and the trajectory of the season (and potentially program). 

Discussion from...

The BearInsider Scout: Cal vs Fresno State

4,374 Views | 4 Replies | Last: 4 yr ago by bearmanpg
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I saw Fresno when they played St. Marys at the Golden One in Sacramento.... the two freshmen, Hyder and Robinson are for real...they lost to St Marys by 10 on a neutral court....I think we have our hands full tonight...Grimes will be a handful for us as he has an NBA ready body (we definitely don't have anyone like that at the 4 or 5).....Hope Grimes gets in foul trouble and Hyder is not shooting it well or it may be a long night...
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I certainly expected the double digit loss to USF. They blew us out by 17 last year at home in Haas, They had everybody back but Frankie Ferrari and the coach. Ferrari was a big loss, but Bouyea is a heck of a player. Golden was expected to continue Smith's system, and most of his players have spent 2-3 years in his system. The Cal players had spent only a half dozen or so games in Fox's system. Cal came within 12 in that tiny unfriendly gym, and didn't play too well doing it, so it gives me hope. I expected that the Santa Clara game would be closer, but again, it was on unfriendly turf.

As to using KenPom or anyone else's rankings to set odds for victory, do these rankings take into account individual matchups? As Don Nelson famously said, "Basketball is all about matchups." It applies maybe a little more in the NBA, because players often have a longer history of individual matchups with other players than college players do. And when Nelson said it, there was no help defense. Still, most of the time, the primary defender has the initial and most important responsibility to stop his man, or to slow him down until help arrives.
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Like in boxing, if A beats B and B beats C, it doesn't mean A beats C.
Cancel my subscription to the Resurrection
Send my credentials to the House of Detention
I got some friends inside
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bearister said:

Like in boxing, if A beats B and B beats C, it doesn't mean A beats C.
I put my money on A...
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