Dec 7, 2013; Madison, WI, USA; Marquette Golden Eagles guard Deonte Burton (30) attempts a basket as Wisconsin Badgers forward Sam Dekker (left) defends at the Kohl Center. Wisconsin defeated Marquette 70-64. Mandatory Credit: Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

Gameday Preview: Cal vs. Nevada Wolfpack

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Dec 2, 2013; Berkeley, CA, USA; California Golden Bears guard Justin Cobbs (1) fights for the ball with UC Irvine Anteaters guard Alex Young (1) and guard Luke Nelson (10) during the first half at Haas Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Cal will attempt to rebound from a disappointing loss last week against Santa Barbara by taking on one of the worst teams on their schedule in the Nevada Wolfpack:

Location: Haas Pavilion
Conference: Mountain West
Record: 4-5 (NR)
Ranking: Unranked
Notable Wins: at. San Francisco (92-90)
SOS: 125th
Television: Pac-12 Network

When Cal went into the Thunderdome last week, the UC-Santa Barbara Gauchos absolutely took out the Golden Bears. I am sure most people looked at it as a rough loss, but it can easily be looked at as the kind of game that can inspire something in the Golden Bears that could lead them to be even stronger going down the stretch later on in the year. Tonight, we take the first glimpse at whether Cal took the lessons they may have been taught through that loss and learned something. Tonight, they must take out the Wolfpack and keep them from being in the game at any point tonight.

WHO ARE THE WOLFPACK

The Nevada Wolfpack could be the worst team on the Cal Golden Bear schedule. Yes, I know people will point to the Southern Utah Thunderbirds as the lowest team on the schedule, but the Wolfpack are not far behind. Nevada is a team that plays poor defense (teams are averaging 79.4 points per game against them), they’ve gotten ripped by nearly every team they’ve lost to and barely scratched out wins over the four teams they’ve beaten this year. Not to mention that Nevada’s best win was against an underwhelming San Francisco team that decided not to play defense that night. 
The Wolfpack’s best player is senior guard Deonte Burton. The 6-foot-1, 190 pound spark plug is averaging 23.6 PPG, 3.1 RPG and 2.5 APG. The offense begins and ends with Burton, who lost his best teammate (Malik Story) this past offseason. Burton’s averages (through nine games) are way above his numbers from last season (16.3 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 3.6 APG); essentially, this man is red-hot to start the year, though that could be because Burton is basically the only legitimate offensive threat for this team.
The Wolfpack do also feature guards Michael Perez and Jerry Evans (both of whom average double-digits in points per game and over 4 rebounds per game) but they can easily be negated and are usually important only when the Wolfpack’s first scoring option, Burton, is covered. 

KEY MATCHUP

The Wolfpack defense is terrible. Their front court has allowed their opponents to rebound at a 34.4% clip as well as letting them shoot an astounding 55.4% in eFG percentage. The backcourt really doesn’t defend anyone, they work as shooters more than defenders. To top it off, the Wolfpack averaging 79.4 points per game against this season (310th in the nation). Basically, Cal should still win by a lot even if they have a bad night shooting the ball.

Why is this the key matchup?

Because Cal needs this win. They didn’t have the expected outcome in Maui, they lost to Santa Barbara and now sit at 6-3 (which is disappointing to say the least). Cal needs their mojo back. In order to get that, you want to see them blow a bad Wolfpack team out of Haas Pavilion tonight and shoot the lights out of the building. Those shouldn’t be tough tasks, but then again, this team is mired in a little slump since starting the season off 5-0.

PREDICTION

Cal is a 14.5 point favorite tonight. The game should have a bigger differential than 15 points if everything goes well. I see Justin Cobbs going out and torching the Wolfpack for twenty or so, and quite frankly that’s a must in order for this game to be a success. Nevada has the innate ability to make decent teams look great, so I can only imagine what happens when a good-potentially-great Cal team, which features one of the most exciting backcourts and some of the the best NBA prospects in their lineup, has them at home.

I expect this game to be done at halftime and I expect Cal to have their 7th win by the time the night ends.

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Tags: Cal Golden Bears Deonte Burton Jerry Evans Justin Cobbs Malik Story Michael Perez

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