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Cal Basketball

The BearInsider Scout: Cal Goes for Washington Sweep

February 21, 2020

After Cal beat the Washington Huskies on January 11, the Huskies returned home to beat the Oregon State Beavers, 64-56. It was a shaky start for the Huskies that were 2-3 in the Pac-12 after the win over Oregon State, but there was still a lot to play for. And now, UW hasn’t won since. A season that began full of promise (the Huskies are the only team in the country to beat Baylor so far), got derailed when stud point guard Quade Green was ruled academically ineligible hours before UW played Stanford in January.

It’s truly been an impressive display of bad luck for the Huskies. Washington’s 2019 recruiting class which ranked in the top-10 in the country — highlighted by blue-chip frontcourt players Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels — has been slumping. And heading into Thursday night’s game against Stanford (another loss for UW), the Huskies’ once-formidable frontcourt was depleted with both Hameir Wright and Nate Roberts sitting. Both are still questionable for Saturday’s game against Cal and the Bears might once again be timing their meeting with the Huskies perfectly.

Let’s take a look at Cal’s potential path to beating a Washington Huskies team leaking some serious oil.

When Cal has the Ball

Stat Cal Washington
Adj. Eff. 100.2 (207) 92.7 (34)
Avg. Poss. Length 19.3 (332) 18.7 (349)
Eff. FG% 47.6% (261) 44.0% (9)
TO% 19.6% (221) 19.0% (162)
Off. Reb. % 24.9% (279) 32.1% (326)
FTA/FGA 33.9 (146) 28.7 (88)
3P% 34.7% (95) 30.7% (58)
2P% 45.8% (312) 42.7% (7)
FT% 71.9% (140) 70.4% (159)
Block% 9.2% (218) 16.7% (2)
Steal% 7.4% (31) 10.0% (104)
Non-Stl TO% 12.1% (326) 9.1% (266)

Washington’s defense is still top-40 in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metrics. Opponents are shooting just 44% eFG% against the Huskies, which puts UW in the top-10 in the country at holding opponents to low shooting percentages. In particular, teams are struggling inside the arc and are shooting 42.7% against the Huskies for two-point shots. Washington is second in the nation in block percentage. Both McDaniels and Stewart have been blocking machines.

The past two games, Cal has looked better shooting the ball. Wednesday night’s first half against Wazzu looked particularly good as Cal jumped out to a big lead. The ball wasn’t sticky and flowed through the offense fluidly as Cal had eight assists in the first 20 minutes. Cal could benefit from a similar performance against the Huskies. If they’re able to knock down some shots early, this game could play out like the Wazzu one.

When UW has the Ball

Stat Washington Cal
Adj. Eff. 103.8 (149) 99.9 (131)
Avg. Poss. Length 16.2 (41) 17.6 (216)
Eff. FG% 50.1% (143) 48.9% (146)
TO% 21.3% (307) 17.5% (271)
Off. Reb. % 27.1% (210) 26.5% (105)
FTA/FGA 36.5 (74) 37.6 (278)
3P% 32.5% (209) 35.1% (271)
2P% 50.9% (208) 46.6% (77)
FT% 70.7% (182) 73.0% (283)
Block% 5.6% (2) 6.7% (277)
Steal% 9.6% (247) 6.0% (349)
Non-Stl TO% 11.7% (310) 11.5% (45)

As we learned during the teams’ first meeting, UW struggles to score without Quade Green. He was a deft floor general. And the Huskies have yet to be able to fully adjust to his absence. In the 10 games UW has played since leaving Berkeley, it's only scored more than 67 points twice. The Huskies are led in scoring by Stewart (17 points per game), McDaniels (12.5 points per game), and junior wing Nahziah Carter (12.2 points per game). Beyond those three, UW doesn’t have any real consistent scoring threat.

In the first meeting, Cal was able to stifle Stewart to just 13 points on 4-of-7 shooting. The Bears mainly used soft doubles to throw Stewart off. And it worked very well. On Thursday night, Stanford threw a hard double at Stewart virtually every time he touched the ball. And it worked very well as Stewart struggled to 14 points on 4-of-10 shooting and five turnovers. 

Keys to the Game

Containing Stewart. First of all, Stewart isn’t the only Husky capable of scoring in bunches. Fellow freshman McDaniels can also go off and had 12 points against the Bears in Berkeley. But Stewart is the one that can be tough to stop once he gets going. Cal will surely do hard and soft doubles on Stewart every time he touches the ball. If the Bears can keep Stewart off his game like they did in Berkeley, it will be a solid advantage tipped towards Cal.

Turnovers. UW commits a lot of them. The Huskies have a turnover rate of 21.3% which is 307th in the country. It’s their biggest weakness on offense, which is overall average at best. The Bears are not at all great at forcing turnovers (271st in the country), but winning the turnover battle is a real possibility. 

Hit the offensive glass. As stated, UW is really, really good at forcing teams into poor shooting nights. But the Huskies are also really bad (326th in the country) at keeping teams from rebounding their own misses. At times this year, Cal has been really good at snagging its own misses. This would be another opportune time to create second-chance points for itself.

Get Bradley … or someone going. What makes UW tough is its length, especially in the two- and three-positions where Jamal Bey and Carter both go 6-6. UW’s most frequent lineups have guys that are 6-3 to 6-10. That’s some extreme length and can make it hard on defenders. Early on in the game in Berkeley, Cal was able to find openings in the soft spots of UW’s zone with Grant Anticevich making a few mid-range shots around the top of the key. The Bears need to get him, Paris Austin, or Matt Bradley going on offense early.

KenPom says … 69-59, UW win-chance 83%

UW is easily the highest-ranked 15-loss team in the KenPom metrics. No team in front of the Huskies even has 14 losses. Just two teams in front of UW (Minnesota at No. 33 and Purdue at No. 24) have 13 losses. I’m a KenPom homer and disciple but this is where the metrics seem to be a bit limited. UW could absolutely come out and beat Cal by 10. But looking at the way both teams have been playing as of late, it’s tough to see that happening — especially if Wright and Roberts sit out. But we’ll see, that’s why they play the game.

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