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Cal Basketball

Cal Hoops: Bears Kickoff Final Homestand Against Colorado

February 26, 2020

Cal kicks off its final homestand of the 2019-2020 season against Colorado (21-7, 10-5) on Thursday night at Haas Pavilion. In the first meeting between the schools earlier this month, the Buffs used a second half run to pull away from Cal (11-16, 5-9), winning 71-65. Since then, Colorado has gone 3-2 while the Bears have gone 1-4.

This is an interesting matchup as the Bears have been very good at home and even though KenPom loves Colorado this season, ranking the Buffs 24th, Colorado has been vulnerable. On one hand, the Buffs should be motivated as they’re playing for what could be the school’s first Pac-12 hoops title as well as NCAA Tournament seeding. On the other hand, Colorado has had some head-scratching losses, including losing at home to Oregon State and being swept by UCLA.

But when the Buffs are good, they’re very good. Colorado dominated Oregon at home, beat Utah by 39, took down Arizona State in the desert, and destroyed USC by 21 in Los Angeles. Let’s take a look at how Cal might pull an upset and officially derail the Buffaloes’ shot at the Pac-12 title.

When Cal has the Ball

Stat Cal Colorado
Adj. Eff. 99.5 (214) 91.1 (19)
Avg. Poss. Length 19.2 (331) 17.8 (250)
Eff. FG% 46.9% (292) 46.0% (37)
TO% 19.7% (234) 19.7% (120)
Off. Reb. % 25.0% (275) 24.2% (33)
FTA/FGA 35.3 (107) 25.1% (28)
3P% 34.1% (134) 33.6% (198)
2P% 45.2% (326) 43.9% (20)
FT% 72.3% (125) 70.3% (150)
Block% 9.6% (259) 7.9% (208)
Steal% 7.5% (32) 8.5% (209)
Non-Stl TO% 12.2% (332) 11.2% (62)

On the season, Colorado’s defense has been one of the best in the country (currently 19th in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency). But in Pac-12 games only, the Buffs rank fifth in the conference with a defensive efficiency of 97.5 — much lower than its season mark of 91.1. Cal had its best offensive performance outside of Berkeley of the entire season in Boulder. The Bears shot 55.6% from the field including going 7-of-13 from the three-point line while posting an offensive rating of 105.3. The only thing that went wrong offensively for the Bears was at the free-throw line where Cal shot just 47.1% (8-of-17). 

In the first meeting between the schools, besides knocking down outside shots, Andre Kelly had his way in the paint, going 6-of-7 from the field for 12 points and seven rebounds. Colorado’s Evan Battey, who has been a force at times this season, struggled with foul trouble, playing just 19 minutes and netting just four points.

Besides knocking down three-point shots, Cal might find success exploiting the matchup between Kelly and Battey again. Both are eerily similar players in terms of size and style of game. Kelly just happened to get the better of Battey in the first meeting between teams.

When Colorado has the Ball

Stat Colorado Cal
Adj. Eff. 110.0 (39) 100.0 (138)
Avg. Poss. Length 17.9 (225) 17.6 (212)
Eff. FG% 51.2% (94) 49.4% (168)
TO% 19.6% (225) 17.7% (251)
Off. Reb. % 31.1% (82) 26.7% (119)
FTA/FGA 37.9 (57) 38.0 (288)
3P% 37.2% (24) 35.6% (292)
2P% 48.4% (217) 46.8% (80)
FT% 73.7% (80) 73.6% (306)
Block% 9.1% (202) 6.8% (271)
Steal% 10.8% (328) 6.0% (350)
Non-Stl TO% 8.7% (57) 11.7% (35)

Colorado’s offense has been a bit of a surprise in conference play. In Pac-12 games only, the Buffs are leading the conference in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency at 107.9. That’s more than two points ahead of the conference’s next best team, Arizona at 105.6.

When the teams first met, Tyler Bey and McKinley Wright did what they’ve been doing to a lot of teams this year. The junior tandem combined for 38 points shooting 11-of-15 from the field. D’Shawn Schwartz added another 14 going 2-of-3 from three. The Bears were able to hang close thanks to a rare off-night of shooting from long-range. Colorado, which ranks 24th in the country in three-point percentage, bombed 24 threes, only connecting on seven. 

Keys to the Game

Three-point shots. Colorado has been the most efficient three-point shooting team in Pac-12 play. Cal has been second-to-worst, only shooting better than Oregon State. The Buffs have multiple outside threats including Wright (35.9%), Schwartz (40.2%), Lucas Siewart (40.2%), and Shawn Gatling (33.6%). Bey can also knock down outside shots but doesn’t shoot at the frequency of the foursome above. 

Despite taking 11 more three-point attempts against Cal in Boulder, the Bears made the same amount of threes, essentially creating a wash in that category. Knocking down three-point shots is an obvious way to win, but the outside shot is just so important in college hoops. If Cal wants a shot at winning this game, it needs to knock down three-point shots while limiting the same from Colorado.

Free-throws. Again, in the first meeting, Colorado knocked down free-throws at the end of the game and Cal did not. The Buffs rank 56th in the country in percentage of points that come from free-throws. The Bears rank 57th. Whichever team is able to get to the line with greater frequency will have a distinct advantage in this game.

Containing Bey. Bey is a matchup problem for a lot of players. But as an athletic and quick 6-7 forward, he’s a particularly tough matchup for Cal. While Kelly got the best of Battey in the first game between teams, Bey got the better of Grant Anticevich.

PG vs. PG. Paris Austin had a very solid game in Boulder. Wright had a better one. The point guards are set for another dual and if Austin can play with — or out-play — Wright, it will go a long way for Cal’s chances.

KenPom says … 69-60, Colorado win chance 79%.

This feels like a game Cal could win. Or it feels like a game Cal could lose by 20. It really just depends on which Cal and which Colorado team show up. 

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