After starting their season 6-0, they went into a bit of a slump, lost a few games, and seemed to be headed to the NIT, at best.
However, a late-season surge has this team 8-2 over their last ten games, including wins over the ranked Pac-12 teams in Arizona and Oregon. They’re led by a lengthy wing player, someone who shoots around 36% from beyond the arc but can still create a shot near or inside the paint. And, because of this recent run, with a couple of lucky breaks, they could see themselves at or near the top of the Pac-12 at the end of the regular season. Who is this mystery team? You tell me.
The preceding paragraphs is accurate for not one, but two teams: Cal and Colorado. And, Saturday at 2 PM PST, they’ll meet in Berkeley for a crucial conference matchup. Last time they played in Boulder, Colorado handled the Golden Bears, winning by ten. You know how people sometimes say “It was much closer/worse than the score indicates”? I think this was a game where the ten-point margin was relatively indicative of the game’s flow. Cal kept the game in reach at times, but their performance was far too top-heavy, with Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs handling most of the load. Conversely, four of the Buffs’ starters were in double figures, including really strong performance from the “other” guard, Askia Booker.
However, this time, the Bears are in a much better place; not only are they 8-2 over their last ten games, but they are on a seven-game winning streak. Colorado is hot in its own right, but Cal is grabbing a little more attention because of The Shove. By the way, if Cal keeps up its strong performance and goes far in the Big Dance, this storyline will be played up tenfold. Here is where I’d say “You heard it here first,” but it’s not exactly groundbreaking given the state of the
sports media right now. But I digress.
Anyway, Cal’s recent surge comes in large part because of their better performance inside, particularly from Richard Solomon. Can he keep it up? This will be a much tougher test for him, as Colorado brings conference-leading rebounder Andre Roberson to the table. Also, despite his inconsistencies, freshman Xavier Johnson has proven to be no walk-in-the-park (he put up 18 and 12 last time they played). Solomon, David Kravish, and Robert Thurman have their work cut out for them.
Crabbe going one-on-one with Spencer Dinwiddie, and vice versa, will be a ton of fun to watch, but another matchup to keep an eye on will be Cobbs-Booker. Both of these guys went for 20+ on January 27th, and I expect nothing less this time around. Either way, how these four players play will ultimately decide the fate of the game. Cal has been grinding out wins as of late, but their ball movement needs to be much more disciplined along the outside, especially this afternoon.
These teams are separated by 1.5 games in the Pac-12 standings, and a win here would go a long way in securing that coveted first-day bye in the conference tournament. Again, the game is on at 2 PM PST, and it’s on ESPNU.