Remember that Cal game a few weeks ago? That was, uh, pretty fun, huh? Well, they're playing Colorado again.
Since their last meeting Cal, as you might expect from a young team, has had their ups and downs. A few days after blowing out Colorado, Cal preceded to do the same to Utah, who was coming off an exhausting overtime loss in Stanford. The Golden Bears didn't continue blowing out opponents and instead lost three consecutive road games to Oregon, Oregon State and Stanford, all by small margins. Cal didn't continue losing games after that, instead they hosted and swept Arizona State and then-No. 12 Arizona. And, believe it not, Cal broke their win streak with a Wednesday night loss in Salt Lake City as they couldn't clear the Poeltl hurdle.
There are a few common trends to Cal's past results:
(1) Cal is nearly unbeatable at home. Los Ojos Dorados son 13-0 esta año al Pabellón de Haas y todos menos de cuatro eran grandes victorios ... Sorry, their home dominance is too impressive to express in English. As such, their win over Arizona should never have been considered an upset, especially considering that Sean Miller's squad may be the most overrated in the country.
(2) Cal kind of sucks on the road. They're only 1-7 away from home this year, and as impressive as their win over Wyoming and close loss to Virginia are, a team with aspirations as high as Cal need to get the job done no matter where they're at.
Colorado felt the wrath of the first theme to Cal basketball. Hopefully the Buffs will benefit from the second.
Cal will be without senior guard Tyrone Wallace, who is out with an injured (non-shooting) paw. Arguably their best player this season, this loss jeopardizes Cal's chances to dance in March. Cuonzo Martin will start Sam Singer instead. The 6'4 guard is a solid distributor and an adequate defender, a mighty fine bench player and emergency starter. That said, Singer is a limited offensive player who struggles with turnovers at times. Dominique Collier and Thomas Akyazili will try to get into his head with defensive pressure to spare, a task they're more than capable of.
Cal will look to Über-freshmen Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb to produce offensively. While Rabb was contained by Wesley Gordon and Josh Scott last time out, Brown busted out for a huge game as the Buffs were simply unable to match up with him physically. To keep him from doing the same on Sunday afternoon, Colorado will need to find a successful conservative approach to contain him. Brown hasn't yet defined his jumper, so the Buffs are inclined to cede perimeter shots to have a better chance of stopping his explosive drives.
Against Rabb, physical defense seems to be the best defense. Arizona's Zeus "Zeus" Zeuszeuski, the behemoth he is, and Oregon's Chris Boucher were able to defensively dominate Rabb from the get-go (Rabb played fairly well against Jakob Poeltl, but go with it anyway). If Gordon and/or Josh Scott gets in foul trouble guarding Rabb (as Zeus and Poeltl did), Tad Boyle could look to Tory Miller as more of a situational big to bring brute force to the block. And if Miller gets into foul trouble as a result, that small-ball lineup with Tre`Shaun Fletcher at the 4 isn't so bad.
Aside from the top draft prospects, Cal would love to remind you of a junior sharpshooter who happily ruined Colorado and Arizona's chances at victory. We remember you, Jordan Mathews, and your myriad three-pointers. Cal will need Mathews to get hot in order to shake their road woes, so the Buffs will be hard-pressed to find a defensive solution. Josh Fortune isn't exactly a lockdown defender, so Boyle will probably give Xavier Talton a chance to prove that his recent uptick in production is no fluke.
On offense, Colorado attempt to run, shoot and post up, the usual. As made obvious in the previous matchup, Cal plays stingy, hard-nosed defense. With so many great athletes on the court, it can be rather difficult to outrun their transition defense. And all that length Cal possesses is known to disrupt post entry passes, which could be problematic. George King & Co. shooting the top off the defense would ideally create the space required to feed Scott and Gordon down low, and if that happens, Roll Tad.
Colorado 73, Cal 68