Big Game Preview: A look at the Cardinal

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Note: There will be a live blog tomorrow at 3:30 during the game. Come in and join the fun!

Tomorrow is probably the biggest game of the season for the Bears. Sure, it is a game against a team that is in the bottom 4 of the conference. But in a season where the team is not going to the NCAA Tournament, a home game against your biggest rival means a lot. Those are the stakes heading into Saturday’s game.

Stanford is coached by Coach K disciple Johnny Dawkins, so they run a man to man defense. Their defense has been merely so-so in conference play, but has been above average for the season. Their offense, decent out of conference, has turned terrible in Pac-10 play. It’s not that they do anything overwhelmingly poorly, but they haven’t done anything well. Most teams have one thing they do better than most, but Stanford is just average or below in everything, conference wise.

Stanford’s problem is that they absolutely no depth. In Jeremy Green, Josh Owens, and Dwight Powell, Stanford has 3 pretty good players that carry the load. Green is the only guard of the bunch, and the junior carries the load for Stanford. Green plays 80% of his team’s minutes, while still remaining pretty efficient. He makes 42% of his three pointers, which could be a big problem for the Cal zone. Both Powell and Owens are post players for the Cardinal. Owens should be a big problem, as the 6-8 junior doesn’t miss much and creates big problems with his shot blocking. He’s also terrific on the boards and is just a solid all-around player. Powell has a lot of upside as just a freshman, and he did rip apart Cal in the last match-up. He’s good offensively and gets to the foul line, but he is definitely not as good as he looked against Cal earlier. He is a bit of a match-up problem on our post players, but I expect the Cal defense to be prepared.

Stanford does have several other solid players. Aaron Bright and Anthony Brown aren’t bad out of the backcourt; neither of them will hurt the team much, but they don’t provide a lot either. John Gage and Andrew Zimmerman are solid big guys off the bench, but nothing special. Jarrett Mann is the point guard of the team, and while I hate to say this he’s the weakness of the team. He turns the ball over a ton, and he’s a very bad shooter. He’ll pick up a lot of assists, but at what cost?

KenPom prediction: 73-66 Cal, 75% confidence.

My take: Cal is undefeated at home as the team with the better Ken Pomeroy ranking. Their only loss to a worse team is to Stanford on the year. Considering the Bears are at home and should be highly motivated, this should be a relatively easy Cal victory. Go Bears!