For much of the season, the Cal women’s basketball team has been on a roller coaster ride of highs and lows. At times, Cal has looked like a team poised to go on a long run and break away from the pack, but at other times, the Bears have looked like a team with no identity, struggling to score and play quality defense.
After three straight losses against ranked opponents knocked them out of the top 25, the Bears will finally feel a bit of a reprieve when they takes on Colorado and Utah this weekend.
While the Bears are all but out of contention for a Pac-12 regular season title, there is still a lot to play for. If the season were to end today, Charlie Creme of ESPN has the Bears as an eighth seed in the Albany region of the national tournament.
With six more games, including two against rival No. 17 Stanford, Cal cannot afford to make many more mistakes if it wants to compete in the big dance.
First, on Friday, Cal will look to take care of a reeling Colorado team that has lost seven of its previous eight games.
The Buffaloes currently sit in a tie for ninth place in the Pac-12 and have lacked balanced scoring all season.
Despite this imbalance, one player that the Buffs have consistently relied on has been junior guard Kennedy Leonard, who is averaging 15.0 points and 6.6 assists per game. Cal will look to freshman guard Kianna Smith to limit Leonard from causing too much havoc on the offense side.
On Sunday, Utah will come to town looking to break away from Cal in the standings.
The Utes have been a quality team that has been in a lot of tightly contested games in the Pac-12 conference thus far, as seven of their 11 games have been decided by 10 points or fewer. Utah comes into this game desperate for a high-quality win, needing a strong finish to have a chance at March.
Utah, unlike Colorado, is a well-balanced team with multiple scoring threats.
Of particular note are redshirt junior forward Megan Huff, junior wing Daneesha Provo, and senior forward Emily Potter. The three are all averaging double figures in scoring and have posed daunting challenges for oppositions.
As for the Bears, they will look to feed junior forward Kristine Anigwe and get her the ball more often down low. The junior has been as dominant as in seasons past, but she has been underutilized on the whole, taking fewer shots per game than last season. Instead, the team has relied on the jump shot when higher percentage shots are available down low.
Overall, at this point, the Bears are at a crossroads in their season, but dealing with adversity is a reality for most young teams in the regular season. Now is the time for Cal to show what it is made of and make a strong statement.
With the Bears favored in both matchups, they will look to remedy some of the woes that have plagued them in the past few games. The team has the capability and the personnel, but it is now all about execution. It’s now or never.
Praveen Kuruppu covers women’s basketball. Contact him at