The 2-0 Huskies versus the 0-2 Bears is one of those trap games that seems like a predictable blowout by the Huskies. However, it will still require effort and hard work to win. Let’s take a look at some of the keys to the game.
WHILE THE REST OF PAC-12 WON, CAL STRUGGLED IN NON-CONFERENCE
This season, the Pac-12 conference proved to be too strong for non-conference opponents, going 12-2 (.857) against Division I opponents.
The two-loss blemish on the PAC-12’s reputation? Blame CAL.
California lost — at home — to a San Jose State team that beat its first Pac-12 opponent in 11 years by a final score of 56-48. To add insult to injury, San Jose State shot 29% from the field overall and still won.
California also lost to Cal State Bakersfield, at home, 60 – 52.
One caveat to everything that is written here: CAL lost both games without playing sophomore guard Jazlen Green and freshman guard Alma Elsnitz.
It was announced December 2nd by head coach Charmin Smith that the projected starting guards will be out the rest of the season due to injury.
Clearly, CAL is missing guard play that would be needed against the 2-0 Washington Huskies.
NO OFFENSE, CAL DOESN’T SCORE ENOUGH POINTS
Overall, the California offense operates at a pace of 75.8 points per 100 possessions (Bottom 19% of all D-1 teams); meanwhile, Cal’s opponents score at a pace of 90.6 points per 100 possessions.
Smart money says, CAL will never have 100 possessions in a game so let’s look at their actual offensive output.
CAL scores an average of 50 points per game (ppg), while allowing their opponents to average 58 ppg.
Washington comes into this matchup averaging 69 points per game, while holding opponents to 53.5 ppg.
CAL HATH NO HALF-COURT OFFENSE, AGAINST MAN OR ZONE
California’s half-court offense is ranked in the Bottom 6% of all Division One teams.
CAL only averages 0.544 points per offensive possession (ppp) because the Bears are shooting 25.3% overall (22 made shots from 87 attempts).
And it barely matters which defense the Bears face.
California is ranked in the Bottom 6% of all D-1 offenses against player-to-player defense (man defense)– at 0.557 points per possession(ppp); and CAL is ranked in the Bottom 20% of all Division One against zone defenses (0.513 ppp).
California’s two non-conference opponents chose player-to-player defense against the Bears 71.3% of the time.
Likewise, against its two non-conference opponents, SDSU and BYU, Washington chose to play man defense 66.7% of the time.
So far, Washington has played a tough half-court defense that is best described as player-to-player with zone principles.
This defense visibly confused BYU’s experienced guards and it would be surprising if California’s (remaining) guards handled it with no problem.
PUSH PACE ON OFFENSE BUT LIMIT CAL’S TRANSITION OFFENSE OPPORTUNITIES
As mentioned above, California has not been able to match the scoring pace of their opponents.
However, CAL’s transition offense is surprisingly respectable — averaging 0.926 points per offensive possession(ppp), which ranks in the Top 43% of Division One teams.
But California only manages to get fastbreak opportunities 16.6% of the time, so clearly Cal’s opponents are severely limiting California’s transition opportunities — Washington should do the same.
Unfortunately, Washington’s transition defense has been far from stellar and this will the Dawgs’ weakness.
The Huskies’ defense is allowing 1.086 points per transition possession which ranks in the Bottom 18% of all Division One teams. A possibly more alarming fact is that the Huskies are allowing opponents’ transition offenses to shoot 52% overall.
Of course, the Huskies played two mid-major programs — in San Diego State and BYU — that are arguably much better than California. However, a weakness that matches your opponent’s strength is never good news.
Washington’s defense will have to focus on limiting California’s fastbreak opportunities or this game could get interesting.
DON’T UNDERESTIMATE OFFENSIVE REBOUNDS
California is actually pretty good at scoring off offensive rebounds, averaging 1.158 points per putback attempt which ranks in the Top 30%.
Meanwhile, the Huskies’ defense has only allowed a total of 5 putback attempts in their first two games.
The Huskies have done a good job of boxing out in half-court defense and limiting second opportunities for their opponents.
If the Dawgs continue this trend, it will eliminate California’s most efficient source of points.
Meanwhile, Washington is considered an excellent offensive rebounding team that averages a highly efficient 1.3 points per putback attempt — ranking in the Top 10% of all Division One teams.
However, California’s defense has surrendered only 8 putback attempts in their first two games, so something has to give.
The battle of the offensive boards may be a major key to an easy victory or a tight game.
A player to watch is California’s sole bright spot, 6’4″ Dalayah Daniels from Seattle (Garfield). Daniels is uber-talented (though injury-prone) and offensive minded.
Although Daniels is probably too inexperienced to lead CAL to a win over the Huskies by herself, she is talented enough to make an impact on the boards that keeps the game close.
Prediction: On paper, the Huskies should defeat CAL easily; however, this is a PAC-12 road game which means this could easily turn into a close nail-biter.
The Huskies do have the advantage of a positive non-conference experience, where they were tested and forced to elevate their play.
California, on the other hand, played down to the level of their opponents and still could be psychologically scarred from the experience