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Cal Basketball

Cal Starts Final Road-Trip At Oregon

March 4, 2020
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Coming off back-to-back wins against Utah and Colorado, the Cal Bears start their final two-game road trip at Oregon on Thursday. Last time the team’s met at the end of January in Berkeley, the Bears clawed and scraped to the end, but ended up a bit short in a 77-72 loss to the Ducks. Despite playing arguably its best basketball of the season — winning three of it’s last four — it’s going to take quite an effort from the Bears to keep this game close.

For one, Oregon (22-7, 11-5) hasn’t lost a game at home. Plus, Cal (13-16, 7-11) has generally struggled away from Berkeley, earning only one win outside of Haas Pavilion so far this season. The upshot: Oregon plays really well at home and Cal plays pretty poorly away from home. Not a great combo for what would be a massive upset.

But let’s take a look at the stats and see where the Bears could exploit some Oregon weaknesses.

When Cal has the Ball

Stat Cal Oregon
Adj. Eff. 101.9 (186) 96.6 (72)
Avg. Poss. Length 19.3 (333) 18.4 (339)
Eff. FG% 47.1% (286) 47.3% (78)
TO% 19.1% (197) 19.9% (109)
Off. Reb. % 25.6% (251) 31.2% (311)
FTA/FGA 36.1 (85) 29.9 (120)
3P% 34.4% (119) 32.5% (142)
2P% 45.4% (325) 46.3% (63)
FT% 72.9% (102) 72.7% (277)
Block% 9.3% (227) 9.1% (144)
Steal% 7.2% (22) 11.5% (24)
Non-Stl TO% 11.9% (322) 8.4% (318)

Oregon’s defense is good but definitely not great. In Pac-12 only games, the Ducks are giving up a defensive efficiency rate of 100.9, which is seventh in the league. Specifically, Oregon gives up a high offensive rebounding rate (31.2% on the season, 30.2% in conference games) and teams are shooting decently against them from three-point range (34.7% in Pac-12 games).

Last Saturday against Utah, Cal had its most balanced productivity night of the entire season with Matt Bradley, Grant Anticevich, Andre Kelly, Paris Austin, and Joel Brown all making very positive contributions. The Bears could really use another night like that.

If the Bears can grab some offensive rebounds, knock down some shots, and force the Ducks into some turnovers, they might be able to hang around for a bit to put some pressure on Oregon.

When Oregon has the Ball

Stat Oregon Cal
Adj. Eff. 115.8 (8) 100.7 (136)
Avg. Poss. Length 18.1 (249) 17.6 (200)
Eff. FG% 53.5% (29) 49.5% (174)
TO% 17.4% (67) 17.7% (251)
Off. Reb. % 32.5% (45) 27.0% (133)
FTA/FGA 28.6 (284) 36.9 (272)
3P% 38.4% (9) 35.1% (272
2P% 51.0% (109) 47.5% (99)
FT% 69.3% (233) 73.5% (311)
Block% 9.6% (256) 7.1% (256)
Steal% 6.1% (3) 6.1% (351)
Non-Stl TO% 11.3% (299) 11.6% (34)

The Ducks still boast a highly-efficient offense, ranking eighth in the country in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency rankings. Oregon shoots really well (53.5% eFG, 29th in the country), particularly from three-point range (38.4%, ninth in the country). They also grab offensive rebounds at a solid clip (32.5%, 45th in the country) and don’t turn the ball over much (17.4%, 67th in the country).

Oregon’s offense very much runs through Payton Pritchard, who is continuing his monster senior season, averaging 20.2 points and 5.4 assists in just under 37 minutes per game. A high-volume shooter and scorer, Pritchard put together a 38-point performance in a 73-72 overtime win at Arizona a couple weeks ago. He shot 14 threes in that game, making six. Pritchard is almost certainly going to get his points, so the key is slowing down his teammates.

One of those — Oregon’s second-highest scorer in Chris Duarte — is recently out with an injury. The JuCo transfer who was averaging 12.9 points and 5.6 rebounds per game has reportedly been playing with a broken pinky in his right hand since a game against Oregon State on February 8. But Duarte didn’t shut it down until after the Arizona game when he had surgery that will put him out indefinitely. It’s obviously a fairly big blow for the Ducks entering the Pac-12 and NCAA Tournaments.

The Ducks’ other player averaging in double figures in scoring on the season is sophomore guard Will Richardson, who is averaging 10.9 points per game. Richardson is averaging 47.2% from three-point range on the season.

Keys to the Game

Hang close. It’s somewhat obvious and easier said than done, but if Cal wants a chance to win this game, it has to keep it close. Cal doesn’t really have the ability to run with Oregon’s high-octane offense, so the Bears need to ugly up and slow down the game early. Keeping the Ducks out of rhythm by drawing fouls and forcing turnovers would help. This game has the potential to get out of hand quickly like when the Bears played Washington in Seattle a couple weeks ago. 

Create second- and third-chance opportunities. Oregon hasn’t been good at keeping teams off the offensive glass. And at times this season, Cal has been pretty good at grabbing offensive boards. It would be a good thing if Cal can snag enough offensive boards to keep the game close.

Guard the perimeter. Cal’s perimeter defense has gotten better throughout the season (although, it was a pretty low bar to start). Oregon is shooting about 36% from three as a team in league play and 38.4% on the season. When Pritchard, Richardson, and Anthony Matthis are on the court at the same time (which is going to happen a lot in Duarte’s absence), the Ducks have three perimeter players averaging at least 40% from three on the season. That’s a lot to handle on the perimeter. Cal has to communicate, be ready for rotations, and go above screens instead of sagging beneath them.

Get to the free-throw line. Cal’s — and Mark Fox’s — offense is best when its playing downhill, attacking, and getting to the free-throw line. As stated, it’s also a way to ugly up the game to Cal’s advantage and might be able to put some pressure on a shorter than usual Oregon bench.

Someone in addition to Matt Bradley stand up. The Bears are best when Matt Bradley is at — or near — his best and a couple other players also play well. Again, doesn’t matter who it is. It could be Anticevich, Austin, Kelly, or Kareem South. Cal just needs some production from others in addition to Bradley.

KenPom says … 73-59, Oregon (91% win-chance)

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Cal Starts Final Road-Trip At Oregon

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