Cal opened up against an experienced Mississippi team with Harper Kamp practically on his death bed and Markhuri Sanders-Frison out with a dislocated shoulder. It seemed like a recipe for disaster.
Instead, Kamp played and the resilient Bears played terrifically against a quality Ole Miss team. Leading almost the entire way while still getting 32 minutes out of a bench that usually gives 10 is incredibly impressive and looks good for next season. Every player that appeared last night will be back next year.
The backcourt played pretty well. Brandon Smith was a little careless with the ball and didn’t play very well, but everybody else stepped it up. Emerson Murray finally showed some impressive flashes from the talent we knew he had, with 5 quality points and some impressive plays. Allen Crabbe continue his assault on opposing defenses with a 20 point night where hit 4 of the team’s 5 3’s. Jorge Gutierrez continued his terrific late season run with 25 and 6 assists.
The depleted frontcourt also played well. Harper Kamp played well given the circumstances, putting up 11 efficient points. Solomon got banged up but still got his 10 boards. His hands need work, but he’ still impressive for his youth. Bak Bak and Robert Thurman didn’t embarrass themselves off the bench, and Bak didn’t play too poorly.
The defense played alright, forcing 17 turnovers and holding Mississippi to 41.7% shooting. The zone was much improved from how it’s played most of the year, and they didn’t let a good 3 point shooting Ole Miss team hit a ton of them. Overall, the team is definitely improving, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
Now for a look at Colorado. Colorado is the #1 seed in the NIT, and for good reason. They deserve to be in the tournament, and have lost just twice on their home floor this year. Cal will have their hands full.
Alec Burks is the go to guy for the Buffs, shooting nearly 50% from the field as a slashing guard. He gets to the foul line a ton and won’t turn the ball over. You’ll be seeing him in the NBA sometime soon. Cory Higgins and Levi Knutson will join him in the backcourt. Knutson is an incredible shooter, as one of the top 5 most efficient players in the country. He shoots nearly 50% from beyond the arc and over that mark from inside of it. He’s lethal. Higgins is another potentially dangerous shooter from the outside, although not at the level of Knutson.
The frontcourt of Colorado is a bit of a weakness. No player above 6-10 sees many minutes for them; 6-9 Austin Dufault is the tallest contributor. He’s a decent rebounder on the offensive glass and can do some nice things, but he’s not going to hurt you very much. Andre Roberson maybe just 6-7, but he’s a rebounding machine who is also a presence against anyone coming in the paint. When he shoots, the ball typically goes in. He just doesn’t shoot much. Marcus Relphorde is the most prominent of the Buffalo big men. The 6-7 senior logs big minutes, and is another threat from the outside as a 41% 3 point shooter. He’s a bit soft on the glass, but he’s still a nice little player.
KenPom Prediction: 82-75 Colorado, 72%
My Take: Two teams that don’t play a lot of defense, but can score the ball and like to go up-tempo while doing it. This game is really a toss-up if Cal is fully healthy; they’re not, so I’ll take Colorado because of their perimeter shooting against the Cal zone and the home floor advantage.