Cal (6-7) and Stanford (6-7) men’s basketball teams both find themselves in very strange territory. Not only are they the only two teams in the Pac-12 that do not have winning records, but for the first time since the 1971-72 season, both teams will enter conference play having piled up more losses than wins. On top of earning the bragging rights that come with a rivalry matchup, both teams will look to get their heads above water while drowning the other.
Both squads enter Saturday’s game after suffering sour blowout losses. No. 11 Kansas bested Stanford 75-54, holding the Cardinal to the fewest points they’ve recorded this season, while Portland State defeated Cal 106-81, scoring the most points against Cal’s defense of any opponent this season.
Stanford redshirt junior Reid Travis recorded the least points in a single game in the loss to Kansas, but the Cardinal’s star forward has been excellent all season, averaging 21.4 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. Travis has touched double digits in every game this season and has failed to hit 20 points only three times this year.
Travis makes his money from inside the 3-point line, converting 57.1 percent of his 2-pointers this season, but he’s begun to experiment from beyond the arc. After attempting only one 3-pointer in his first three seasons with the Cardinal — one that he missed, at that — he’s jacked up 27 this season, or about two per game.
The 3-point shot isn’t exactly Travis’ forte — he’s only drained seven, which puts him at 26 percent on the year — but he’s been heating up a bit from deep, hitting at least one in each of his past three games. Should Travis get the ball on the perimeter, the Bears should force Travis to shoot and make him beat them from deep instead of down in the paint.
Travis will only be two games removed from his best scoring game of the season, a 29-point, eight-rebound performance while hitting 11 of 18 shots from the field including two 3-pointers. Over Travis’ past six games, he’s averaging 22.5 points on 55.3 percent shooting.
Similar to Cal, Stanford has relied on its freshmen to take on big minutes. Freshmen Isaac White, Daejon Davis and Oscar Da Silva are all averaging more than 25 minutes played per game and have started in the majority of their appearances. Fellow freshman Kezie Okpala made his season debut against Kansas after sitting for his team’s first 12 games for academic reasons.
While White and Davis have both at least 300 minutes this season, their growing pains have been more intense than those of Cal freshmen Darius McNeill and Justice Sueing. White is shooting a mere 38.7 percent from the field and Davis is averaging an atrocious 5.3 turnovers per game, a total which distracts from the 9.0 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.1 assists he’s averaging per game. Davis has led the turnover charge for Stanford as the team ranks 308th in the giveaway department, averaging 16.3 per game.
In the past two games, Stanford has rolled out a big starting unit, which may force Cal head coach Wyking Jones’ hand. With Travis standing at 6’8” and both Da Silva and senior Michael Humphrey at 6’9”, the Bears would be undersized if Jones rolled out the recent starting five of seniors Nick Hamilton and Marcus Lee, junior Don Coleman and freshmen Darius McNeill and Justice Sueing.
Lee and Sueing, standing at 6’11” and 6’7”, respectively, can cover two of Travis, Da Silva and Humphrey, but Jones’ recent starting five may need one more big body if Stanford head coach Jerod Haase rolls out all three once again.
Should Cal best Stanford, it will be the first time they’ve been at .500 since the team’s victory over Cal Poly in the second game of the season.