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Cal Basketball

The BearInsider Scout: Cal vs UCLA

January 18, 2020

The first of two games in Cal’s Los Angeles trip didn’t go so well. But on Sunday the Bears will have a much more manageable opportunity for a win against the struggling UCLA Bruins. After shocking the rest of the league in a 66-64 victory at Washington in its Pac-12 opener, UCLA (8-9, 1-3, No. 147 in KenPom) has dropped three consecutive games. Now the Bruins are tied for last place in the league with Utah and Arizona State.

Full disclosure: I’m a Mick Cronin fan. His Cincinnati teams always played hard. Even if he wasn’t UCLA’s first choice, he was a solid hire and probably wouldn’t have left southern Ohio for much less than a position at a school with UCLA’s hoops heritage. That said, Cronin has his limitations and his work cut out for him in Westwood.

Despite taking Cincy to the NCAA Tournament nine consecutive seasons, Cronin’s teams only made it past the first weekend once. And that was just to the Sweet 16. Even in 2018 when Cincy had a two-seed, it bowed out in the second round. And even with some intriguing pieces, Cronin and the Bruins have struggled early with some putrid losses to Hofstra and Cal State Fullerton.

UCLA has no shortage of talent. It’s 2017 recruiting class ranked fifth in the nation and 2018 was sixth. But despite the slew of top-100 talent, the Bruins haven’t been able to put it all together yet and have a balance of decent scorers. Leading the Bruins in scoring so far is junior forward Chris Smith with 12.1 points. Forward Jalen Hill is averaging about nine points and leading the team with 7.4 rebounds per game. Tyger Campbell has looked pretty solid at point, averaging 7.4 points and 4.3 assists running point. And both Prince Ali and Cody Riley are averaging just under nine points per game.

When Cal has the Ball

Stat Cal UCLA
Adj. Eff. 99.2 (197) 103.5 (229)
Avg. Poss. Length 18.8 (314) 17.2 (137)
Eff. FG% 48.1% (224) 52.6% (290)
TO% 19.7% (201) 19.0% (189)
Off. Reb. % 24.4% (284) 23.3% (24)
FTA/FGA 35.2 (102) 40.0 (307)
3P% 34.8% (93) 39.7% (348)
2P% 46.6% (266) 48.4% (155)
FT% 72.0% (115) 70.6% (195)
Block% 8.9% (180) 10.7% (92)
Steal% 6.4% (8) 9.2% (162)
Non-Stl TO% 13.3% (338) 9.8% (213)

According to KenPom, UCLA’s defense is one of the worst Cal will face the rest of the season. The Bruins keep teams off the offensive glass very well and block shots at a decent clip, but don’t do much else well. In particular, UCLA sends opponents to the free-throw line frequently and are horrible at guarding the perimeter. On average, teams are shooting 39.7% from three, which places UCLA at about 348th in the country at guarding three-point shots.

When the Bears are at their best on offense, they’re attacking the rim and drawing fouls while also knocking down outside shots. 

When UCLA has the Ball

Stat UCLA Cal
Adj. Eff. 105.2 (74) 100.9 (166)
Avg. Poss. Length 18.5 (298) 17.5 (208)
Eff. FG% 47.5% (246) 48.7% (163)
TO% 19.1% (160) 17.6% (276)
Off. Reb. % 36.2% (13) 27.4% (135)
FTA/FGA 37.7 (61) 36.5 (266)
3P% 30.3% (291) 36.6% (301)
2P% 48.5% (192) 44.7% (53)
FT% 68.9% (211) 74.1% (323)
Block% 9.3% (207) 7.3% (240)
Steal% 7.6% (42) 6.0% (350)
Non-Stl TO% 11.5% (290) 11.6% (68)

UCLA’s offense, however, has been fairly decent. Campbell is one of the better young point guards in the conference and besides his smaller stature, the Bruins have length. The Bruins only have two players — Campbell and Ali — under 6-6. On offense, UCLA rebounds at an elite level and draws a lot of fouls. But they don’t shoot it particularly efficiently and they turn the ball over a decent amount.

Keys to the Game

Three-point shots. At times this year, Cal has been very solid at knocking down three-point shots. This is a game where Cal can do just that. The Bears have been thrown off from long-range a bit in conference play as the athleticism and size of opponents have increased. And while UCLA certainly has both of those, it's still been a very poor three-point defensive team. On the other hand, Cal has yet to shoot the ball well away from Haas Pavilion and is averaging just 54.4 points outside of Berkeley this year. Can the Bears break-through the mental barrier on Sunday and knock down shots?

Get to the free-throw line. When shots have not been falling this year, Cal (mainly Matt Bradley) has been able to manufacture some offense by getting fouled. UCLA ranks 307th in free-throw attempt to field goal attempt, meaning they send teams to the free-throw line a lot. If Cal is able to get to the bonus or double bonus early in each half, it will be a good sign.

Rebound. Cal got demolished on the glass against USC on Thursday. UCLA is a very good rebounding team. The Bruins have a low eFG%, but if they’re getting second and third shots on each possession, that low shooting percentage doesn’t matter as much. 

KenPom says … 69-64, UCLA (70% win chance)

As of now, KenPom has two teams in the Pac-12 projected to finish 5-13. That’s Cal and UCLA. This isn’t a must-win for the Bears as I think they’re likely to pull a few more upsets at home this year, but this would really go a long way in getting them away from last place in the Pac-12 and give them a shot at winning six or seven games in league play. But to do that, Cal will have to win its first game of the year outside of Berkeley and its first at Pauley Pavilion since 2012.

Discussion from...

The BearInsider Scout: Cal vs UCLA

5,416 Views | 5 Replies | Last: 8 mo ago by HoopDreams
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our offense is not very good especially on the road.
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Our guards better keep launching continuous attacks on the rim and then we will just cross our fingers that Bradley, Anticevich and South drop some 3's.
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Send my credentials to the House of Detention
I got some friends inside
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Lol at "this isn't a must win.". Had no idea we were still in the hunt for a pac-12 championship or tourney birth.

UCLA covers and we remember just how bad we are unfortunately.
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Another long team

Often the difference between 3 and 4 stars is length

3 stars have talent
4 stars have talent and size

Bears need to win the turnover battle, rebound well and play tough defense

If we do those three things I think we win
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