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Cal Basketball

The BearInsider Scout: Cal vs Saint Mary's

December 13, 2019

Cal’s season-long undefeated performance at Haas Pavilion will be seriously put to the test on Saturday when Saint Mary’s visits from Moraga. For reference, Saint Mary’s currently sits at No. 46 in KenPom’s standings and is flanked by Texas at No. 45 and Georgetown at No. 47. While the computer models put the Gaels and Longhorns right next to each other, they have very different styles of play.

The main difference is Saint Mary’s incredibly efficient offense. The Gaels rank No. 14 in KenPom’s adjusted offense rankings. Cal will only play two better teams that currently have better offenses than Saint Mary’s — Oregon and Arizona. 

Saint Mary’s has had a bit of an odd season so far. After beating Wisconsin in overtime by two at a neutral court in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the Gaels lost their season home opener to Winthrop by two. Winthrop made the game ugly enough to steal a big road win against Saint Mary’s. After losing that game, the Gaels went on an eight-game win streak before losing last Sunday to Dayton in Phoenix.

Jordan Ford is the player to watch for the Gaels. The senior guard from Folsom is leading Saint Mary’s with 19.4 points and 1.7 steals per game. The other two notable players are forward Malik Fitts and guard Tanner Krebs. Fitts is averaging 14.5 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. And Krebs is shooting 54% from three. 

Saint Mary’s defense has not been great this year — ranked No. 105 in KenPom’s adjusted defensive rankings. In particular, teams have shot very well from three against the Gaels (36%). However, teams are not getting a lot of threes off against the Gaels as Saint Mary’s has a decent 3FGA to FGA ratio. Cal should be able to get off its normal amount of threes and potentially more. 

This is the scary part about this game. The Gaels are shooting a collective 42.2% from three, which is third in the nation so far this year. They are a very elite three-point shooting team and while they’re not taking a huge amount of attempts, it’s enough to bury the Bears if Cal is not better at perimeter defense. The Gaels don’t get a ton of offensive rebounds, they don’t draw a ton of fouls, and they turn it over a bit. Saint Mary’s plays slow and methodical on the offensive side of the ball. They don’t get it stolen from them often and have a high eFG%.

KenPom Projection: Saint Marys - 67, Cal - 60 (Cal win chances: 29%)

If Cal can hit threes and get to the line as it has at Haas Pavilion, this could be about the score. If Cal struggles from three and perimeter defense, this game could be more like the Santa Clara game. Let’s hope for the former and to see some more growth from the team. 

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The BearInsider Scout: Cal vs Saint Mary's

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