Cal’s in a tight spot, no doubt. At 13-13 and riding a 4 game losing streak, the Bears take on a UCLA club has won 6 games in a row. It is a Sunday game, and the Bears do have the home floor advantage.
The key to the game, without a doubt, is the health of Allen Crabbe. We’ve seen how the Bears play without him, and it hasn’t been pretty. The offense (and defense) have not been the same since the freshman shooting guard left the game against Washington.
The key to the game will be Cal’s defense. The Golden Bears have been absolutely horrendous when the other team has the ball, as they’ve been the worst defensive team in conference play. Teams are shooting 40% from the 3 point line, which has been Cal’s biggest problem. The good news? UCLA is one of the worst 3 point shooting teams in the Pac-10, with Lazeric Jones being the biggest threat as a 39% 3 point shooter.
The Bruins are very good. They’re not great, they don’t win pretty, and they can’t blow anybody out. Yet they’re 10-3, very much in the conference race. Joshua Smith is the best offensive rebounder in the nation, and UCLA can easily trot out 5 guys who are above average offensive players, and that doesn’t count solid players Tyler Honeycutt and several others. UCLA has been the best defensive team since Pac-10 play began, and they’re still a good offensive team.
This team is going to be very hard to beat. With Smith and Reeves Nelson, UCLA has a great frontline. With Malcolm Lee, Honeycutt, and Jones they also feature a solid backcourt. They play the kind of defense Howland craves while still scoring the basketball well.
KenPom Prediction: 72-71 Cal.
My take: If Allen Crabbe is out, UCLA wins by 6 or more. If he plays, then it’ll be a very close game that I think comes down to the final minute. I see the Bruins still taking it, but it’ll be a close game.