After snatching their first win of the season, the blue and gold will jump right back into the fire for a showdown at No. 4 Stanford. The Cardinal are at the top of the Pac-12 with a staggering 21-2 overall record, due in large part to their current 10-game winning streak. Clearly, escaping this matchup with a victory will be no easy feat for the Bears.
The last time these teams faced off, the result was an 83-38 beatdown in favor of Stanford. Given that the blue and gold have had much more time to gel since then, they will surely be better prepared for the Cardinal’s offensive firepower.
Having confidence is an essential part of finding success in sports. Cal head coach Charmin Smith’s squad is coming off of a solid first win against 10-win Arizona State, which should lift spirits. Beyond that, the weight of being a winless team is officially off of the Bears’ shoulders, so they should feel more relaxed.
One thing that makes Stanford so hard to stop is its overwhelming depth. The team has four players who average at least 10 points per game and two players shooting above 40% from three. Furthermore, many of the Cardinal’s main rotation players are capable of going for 20-plus points in a game, which is why teams can’t afford to double-team anyone on the floor.
Stanford also has a size advantage over many teams, and its rebounding numbers are indicative of this. The Cardinal outrebound teams by 10.7 rebounds per game, which can be attributed to the fact that they have nine players who are 6 feet or taller.
On top of that, the Cardinal average six blocks per game compared to their opponents’ 2.5 and force an impressive 15.8 turnovers per game.
If Cal wants to upset Stanford, it must come with the same defensive energy it beat Arizona State with. The Bears forced the Sun Devils to shoot an atrocious 28.6% from the field and a mediocre 33.3% from three. If Cal can put together a similar defensive performance against Stanford, the blue and gold give themselves a shot to win. Also, while the Cardinal have a couple of great 3-point shooters, they only shoot 35.6% from three overall compared to 47.1% inside the arc.
Stanford’s top three scorers actually shoot below 35% from three, so the Bears’ best bet would be to bait these players into shooting long-range shots rather than press up and allow them to dish off to a big or shoot a high-percentage shot from the key.
While it will be tough to replicate the overall 48.8% field goal percentage they shot last game, the Bears do have control over their free-throw shooting. The blue and gold capitalized at the charity stripe last game, shooting an impressive 78.6%. If they can keep that up, their odds at a second win will go up.
Tune in to Cal’s upset bid against Stanford on Sunday at 1 p.m.
Justin Kim covers women’s basketball and men’s water polo. Contact him at [email protected]