It's just been a quick look at the stats, but I'm getting a feel for how the Cal game is going to play out. We should have a Q&A session with the guys over at California Golden Blogs again, which will shine some more light on their team. Just by looking at stats, though, you know exactly what Cal is: a shooting team.
They are the best team in the nation at 3 pt %, by far. They have about a 2% over the #2 team. They can shoot the lights out. They're almost as good as Maryland is from the stripe (about 1% behind) and they're tenth in the nation in FG%. Maryland, by comparison, is 241st.
The stud of the team is Jerome Randle, who's averaging a solid 18 ppg, most of which comes from beyond the arc. He's a great shooter, which is surprising because he's only 5-10. You'd imagine he'd have trouble getting his shot off, but he doesn't. He's put up 171 threes and drained 80 of them, for 46%. Bowie has four inches on him, and I've yet to find anyone - maybe Ty Lawson - who is significantly quicker than Bowie is, so that's my guess as to who'll guard him. There's a chance Mosley could, as well, because he seems to be the lockdown defender of the team. I'm not sure how good the rest of Randle's game is, but he's 50% from the field. That's either a deadeye shooter or a lot of layups.
Theo Robertson is half automatic from downtown, shooting 49%. Cal's SG, Patrick Christopher, shoots a refreshing 37% from three; that's about what Jon Scheyer shoots. When the bad shooter is Jon Scheyer, you know you're in for some trouble. All this obviously adds up to no zone. They'll gladly shoot right over it. It's a shame, because the zone worked pretty well the past few games (minus Duke), but you gotta know when to give it up.
There's a gigantic positive about Cal, though; they're small. No, Maryland doesn't have an advantage - their center is 7-0 - but there's not a significant disadvantage, which is ****ing amazing after the we've gotten so used to it in ACC play. Cal has no low post game to speak of. That 7 footer must be soft, because he only averages 4 rebounds a game. Maryland has stood toe-to-toe with - or outrebounded - teams with massive size advantages, like Wake. Cal averages about 2 rebounds more than their opponent per game; Wake averaged 6, UNC averaged 7. If the entire team commits to rebounding, like the Wake game, it could get ugly on the boards. Guys like Vaz, Mosley, and Bowie, who rebound well anyway, should have it pretty easy. As soon as a three goes up (and there will be quite a few) everyone needs to turn to the basket right away and box out.
The one thing that struck me about them is that they're very similar to Duke. They're a bit more focused on the three, but they lack size, and their big guy is soft (or just sucks, both of which perfectly describe Zoubek). Cal doesn't have the athletes Duke does, but they beat Duke's shot.
Maryland needs to do three things to win this game: 1) make easy shots - there'll be a lot of mostly uncontested runners in the lane, as Cal's blocks total is just horrible, 2) rebound - if it's a team effort, Maryland could get a lot of second looks and limit second chances for Cal - give them two shots a three, and there'll liable to hit it, and 3) get out on shooters - if Randle and Robertson go up for a shot with no one in their face, they're money; if they're contested, there's a chance they'll miss. If those happen three happen, Maryland should win on Thursday, or at least give Vaz a chance to take the game over. Granted, these are just stats; hopefully I'll get a chance to talk to the Cal bloggers and see what goes deeper than the numbers.