05.Jan.2012 Basketball: Cal @ Oregon State
The Beavs open their league home schedule tonight against Cal. Both teams have been inconsistent to start league play. But Cal managed to use their home court advantage to eke one out against USC and to demolish UCLA last weekend, while the Beavs played tentatively to start games, which forced them to work and search for their successful non-con identity.
It’s going to be a matter of which teams show up tonight. Cal has historically had problems at Gill, and the Beavs clearly favor their home rims. But will it all be that simple?
Cal’s leader is the tough as nails senior PG Jorge Gutierrez (6’3″). He does a lot of things well, but what he does best is his on-ball defense and penetration on offense. He just finds ways to get in the lane and either get his teammates involved or get to the rim. He will likely be matched up with Jared on both ends tonight. And Jared will likely be run off a lot of screens to try to get Jorge free. Secondary help will be key when Gutierrez looks to control the key.
Soph Alan Crabbe (6’6″) has only upgraded his game slightly from his frosh campaign. But there wasn’t much to upgrade. He’s shooting better from the floor this year, and his boards and assists are up slightly. But all that seems to be at the expense of defense and getting to the line. While he remains an offensive threat… always… the numbers say he’s doing less of the actual heavy lifting and tough work maturity adds to most kids’ games. Still, his primary role is the scorer on this team, and he does fill that role.
Senior PF Harper Kamp is doing precisely what junior PF Harper Kamp did last year. He’s the interior work horse for this Cal squad. He’s always active on defense, and he’s always hanging around the rim on offense, waiting for the ball to land in his hands for an easy deuce. While I thought the under-basket no charge zone might have affected Sir Flopsalot’s defensive game, he has managed to break that dangerous habit in favor of stepping out a little. But he will kill the Beavs if he’s allowed to roam freely on offense and if the man he defends doesn’t run him around the court.
Soph big Richard Solomon (6’10″) began December by being suspended indefinitely for two games for what was rumored to allegedly, possibly and/or maybe be questions of academic integrity. He returned for two more before he went down with a stress fracture in his foot. While he hadn’t played through last weekend, he has made the trip to Oregon. And it’s unlikely he made that trip to just sit on the bench. It’s unclear what he might provide other than boards and an extra big body inside for Cal. He really has not had that great a season thus far, and his presence might do more harm than good.
Then again, just having him for depth might help Cal more than anything.
Transfer soph G Justin Cobbs (6’2″) has had a breakout year for Cal. He’s been an outstanding shot from everywhere and has provided a third scoring option behind Crabbe and Gutierrez. And he’s pretty secure with the ball while also getting teammates open looks. He could be a problem if he gets warm.
Frosh big David Kravish (6’9″) proved early he could play, and he has been thrust into the starting role with Solomon’s eventful December. In my opinion he provides a much more viable option in the low post than does Solomon despite the latter’s size and athleticism. Kravish still plays on both ends like a frosh at times. But his teammates are savvy enough to force his play only when they know he can make that play. He might be a black hole, but he gets the ball in good position and takes good shots off his feeds. His downfall might be that he defends on-man about as well as a frosh big with slow feet can defend. He’ll be solid once he learns to stop defending with his arms and shoulders.
Other than those six, junior G Brandon Smith (5’11″) seems to be the only player Monty trusts to be on the floor. He’s not a great shot, and his defense leaves a little to be desired. But he does facilitate, and that helps when Gutierrez and Cobbs need help or just a breather. But I don’t expect either of those two to be yielding minutes on the road unless we run them ragged or they get into foul trouble.
Cal has had problems with pressure teams who throw waves of depth at them. They will try to make the game a half court struggle. And they have the personnel to control that kind of pace. But their depth can be run off the floor if the Beavs are even slightly on their game.
While I suspect the Beavs will come out much more focused to start their league home opener, I still have questions about whether or not they will do so. Their games up north began with them trying to get the ball to the perfect spot and then taking the perfect shot by aiming it instead of just letting it go. The free and easy Beavs that played in the non-con schedule were gone, and these robots had replaced them. It’s like they thought they had to turn their games up a notch and be perfect just because it was Pac 12 time.
Have they seen the Pac 12 this year?
Just play your game boys. Let the other team figure you out for once.
But until that wildfire play returns I have to say one game is understandable, but two games is a habit. There’s a lot of time to right the ship, and tonight is a great opportunity to begin. If the Beavs come out with the rabid defense and loose transition game, they do match up well with Cal. And it could lead to a fun night.
But I’m going to need them to prove it to me first.
The habit is coming out stiff and tentative, wanting to be perfect and doing anything but. If that habit continues, then Cal will push off yet another late Beavs run to win this one going away.
Cal 67 – Beavs 61
Tonight's game will be all about the energy and execution out of the gate. If the Beavs come out and take an early lead, I like their chances. They seem to be a different team at home.
Cal is tough. Gutierrez and Kamp killed the (Calvin Haynes led) Beavs last season. Gutierrez isn't flashy, but he has a knack for getting into the lane and creating or scoring. Kamp also doesn't look the part, but he's a workman inside, cleaning up the glass and even taking it to the hoop at times.
What is scary about Gutierrez and Kamp is that they play to the Beaver's weakness. The Beavs have had a hard time stopping penetration in the lane, and they've had an equally difficult time boxing out and disallowing second chance scoring. For this reason, I think Cal has the advantage. But, like I said, the Beavs are a different team at home, and if they come out hungry for the win (which should happen being 0-2 in conference) they could pull this one out. Beavs desperately need a win to salvage any momentum accrued during the pre-conference schedule.