Cal men’s basketball’s Wednesday night matchup against San Francisco, back in Haas Pavilion, will likely be one — of many to come — that provides some lessons for the young, inexperienced Bears.
The Dons currently boast a ripe 7-1 season record. USF’s sole loss, determined by only 4 points, was to Buffalo who is ranked No. 17 and remains undefeated thus far. Unable to recover from the deep hole they dug in the first half, the Dons ultimately couldn’t slide over Buffalo’s offense.
Although the Dons will arrive in Berkeley with their first loss of the season still fresh in their minds, each of their seven wins has been decisive, as the Dons have outscored their opponents by an average of 26.3 points in their wins so far this season.
Cal, in contrast, records a negative scoring differential, naturally accompanying its four losses. Yet the Bears’ latest 84-71 loss at Saint Mary’s had some positive takeaways, with freshman Matt Bradley continuing to prove his vital role in Cal’s lineup.
The guard notched 11 consecutive points for the team to kick-start the Bears during the second half of the game, but the Gaels were already far ahead. Cal surrendered the game to Saint Mary’s along with giving up a season-high 13 3-pointers.
While Bradley was an undeniable strength in Saturday’s game, his scoring run came a little late, and his teammates failed to bolster his efforts. In Cal’s game against Santa Clara, Bradley again scored 13 of his 15 points in the second half. The Bears will need each of their players to come out of the gates at full force Wednesday night.
The Bears are running the most inefficient offense in the Pac-12 and are subpar in the NCAA as a whole. USF is ranked 34th for defensive efficiency according to kenpom.com, so the combination is not looking too bright for the Bears.
USF’s defense is led by senior Nate Renfro, who is the only player in his conference to average at least one steal and block per game, while senior Frankie Ferrari is averaging nearly two steals of his own.
Although Darius McNeill is racking up steals of his own, the Bears have struggled with blocking in their first six games of the season, visibly missing the presence of Marcus Lee and Kingsley Okoroh, who Cal lost to graduation.
Matt McCarthy has also been a valuable force offensively for the Dons, shooting 70.8 percent from the field on 8.13 attempts per game.
It’s clear that USF has a put-together roster. The Dons’ strongest forces are upperclassmen, allowing them to boast sound leadership and execution on the court, which are aspects the Bears lack.
Age provides teams not just with experience playing the game at a higher level but also with experience playing with each other as a cohesive unit. Cal’s Paris Austin — a junior transfer — has proven he is surely the Bears’ leader on the court. But Cal’s lineup is filled with freshmen and sophomores who still have lots to learn, both in terms of playing together and playing the kind of fast, tough collegiate ball that USF will certainly bring.