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Cal Basketball

The BearInsider Scout: Cal vs Wazzu

January 8, 2020

When Washington State comes to Haas Pavilion on Thursday it will be Cal’s first and only Pac-12 game in which it’s favored to win, according to KenPom. The computer projections give Cal a 51% chance of winning at a projected score of 68-67. Cal’s next highest projected win chance according to KenPom? A 41% win chance when Utah comes to Berkeley on February 29th. KenPom still projects Cal to win four conference games overall, but the path to that win total gets tougher if it doesn’t beat Wazzu (10-5, 1-1) at home.

The Cougars were at the forefront of the Pac-12s topsy-turvy opening days. Of the eight teams in the conference that have already played two games, every single one is 1-1. After losing to USC by nine last Thursday, Wazzu took down UCLA by eight in overtime on Saturday. Both games were in Pullman. 

While sophomore wing CJ Elleby has been the focal point of the offense and still leads the team in points (19.0) and rebounds (6.8) per game, he had quite an inefficient start to conference play. Against USC, Elleby went 3-of-22 from the field for nine points while fouling out in 31 minutes. He still contributed in other ways, for example, snatching 10 rebounds including five on the offensive glass. Against UCLA, his efficiency got a bit better (4-of-13 from the field for 15 points), but Elleby still fouled out with just 29 minutes of playing time in a game that went to overtime.

Junior point guard Isaac Bonton has picked up the slack, however, leading the team in scoring in both conference games with 18 against USC and 17 against UCLA. Bonton and Elleby are the only Cougars currently averaging double-digits in scoring per game. 

When Cal has the Ball

Stat Cal Wazzu
Adj. Eff. 99.0 (204) 96.6 (102)
Avg. Poss. Length 18.8 (310) 17.2 (148)
Eff. FG% 48.8% (201) 47.6% (117)
TO% 20.2% (219) 23.1% (37)
Off. Reb. % 25.8% (253) 24.7% (48)
FTA/FGA 37.4 (70) 30.8 (154)
3P% 36.9% (43) 30.4% (70)
2P% 46.3% (264) 48.5% (159)
FT% 72.8% (101) 68.2% (114)
Block% 9.2% (204) 6.5% (269)
Steal% 6.5% (8) 9.5% (136)
Non-Stl TO% 13.7% (342) 13.6% (6)

The one thing Wazzu is really good at on defense is forcing non-steal turnovers. That also happens to be Cal’s worst offensive quality, according to the KenPom stats. Overall on the season, Wazzu is forcing teams into a 23.1% turnover rate. Cal is averaging a 20.2% turnover rate. Holding onto the ball will be key for Cal. Wazzu likes to play faster than Cal so it will also be interesting to see if Cal is able to slow things down and play at the pace it’s been playing so far this season. While Wazzu is the second-lowest ranked team in the conference at No. 138, according to KenPom, it’s actually a somewhat decent defensive team, ranked No. 103 in adjusted efficiency, which is ahead of Cal, UCLA, Utah, and Oregon State.

When Wazzu has the Ball

Stat Wazzu Cal
Adj. Eff. 98.9 (206) 101.4 (184)
Avg. Poss. Length 16.9 (129) 17.7 (266)
Eff. FG% 45.2% (312) 48.9% (170)
TO% 14.7% (4) 17.5% (287)
Off. Reb. % 30.2% (105) 27.8% (157)
FTA/FGA 28.2 (263) 34.0 (224)
3P% 28.6% (327) 36.7% (297)
2P% 46.6% (259) 45.2% (73)
FT% 72.8% (98) 74.7% (327)
Block% 8.9% (183) 7.7% (213)
Steal% 6.2% (6) 5.9% (350)
Non-Stl TO% 8.5% (39) 11.6% (76)

So far this season Wazzu is really bad at offense. In KenPoms adjusted offensive efficiency ratings, Wazzu ranks last in the conference at No. 206. That’s two spots behind Cal. The Cougars are very good at not turning it over (ranked fourth in the country at turnover percentage), but pretty bad at just about everything else. Wazzu ranks 312th at EFG%, which includes being ranked 327th at three-point shooting percentages. At 72.8%, the Cougars have a decent team free-throw shooting percentage, but ranks 263rd in free throw attempts to field goal attempts.

Keys to the Game

Free throws. Cal has been able to manufacture some offense by attacking and getting to the free-throw line. That’s what it needs to do on Thursday. CJ Elleby has fouled out of both conference games so far this season. The Bears — and specifically, Matt Bradley — needs to attack Elleby and get him in foul trouble early. In doing so, it’d be good to see Cal getting free throws early and often.

Three-point shooting. Let’s get Bradley, Kareem South, and Grant Anticevich going. Bradley has been in a slump and is due to break out for a big game. It’d be great if that game was tonight. The Bears are still a top-50 three-point shooting team when it comes to percentages, even if it shoots fewer threes per field goal attempt that virtually all Division 1 teams. 

Frontcourt. This is the one opponent in the Pac-12 where Cal won’t be at a disadvantage in the post. It’s a perfect game for Lars Thiemann and Andre Kelly to get back on track. Wazzu only has two players in its main rotation taller than 6-6 and senior center Jeff Pollard has been the only real production the Cougars have gotten inside. The Bears can and should dominate the paint. 

KenPom projection: 68-67, Cal with a 51% win chance.

Discussion from...

The BearInsider Scout: Cal vs Wazzu

1,620 Views | 3 Replies | Last: 5 mo ago by SFCityBear
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" The one thing Wazzu is really good at on defense is forcing non-steal turnovers. That also happens to be Cal's worst offensive quality, according to the KenPom stats."

Key to game.
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I got some friends inside
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My daughter and I are grabbing dinner before the game. I'm really wanting this game to be a much needed sweet dessert.
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bearister said:

" The one thing Wazzu is really good at on defense is forcing non-steal turnovers. That also happens to be Cal's worst offensive quality, according to the KenPom stats."

Key to game.
I think if Fox will slow the pace a bit, the team would eliminate many of the turnovers. When not-yet-competent players all trying to learn a new system play any faster than they are capable of playing, that is a recipe for a lot of turnovers, and that looks like part of what has been happening lately in moist of our games with lots of TOs. It isn't just in transition but in the half-court set as well. There should be no need to play faster than necessary in a half court set with such a liberal shot clock.
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