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The Big Preview: Cal

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The Hoos are coming off a big win over Villanova and now look to enter the holiday break with another win over a power-5 team. The Golden Bears came into the season with a lot of hype because of two big-time freshmen. They've lost twice, both to solid teams. But they've yet to play anybody near the caliber of the Hoos.

Unlike the previous matchup, the Hoos will need to keep up inside this week against Cal.
Unlike the previous matchup, the Hoos will need to keep up inside this week against Cal.
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off their big win over Villanova, the Hoos must regroup for a matchup against a very different opponent. While the Wildcats were a smallish guard-oriented team that played aggressive pressure defense, the Golden Bears are a much bigger team that wants to pound the ball inside.

Cal is led by senior PG Tyrone Wallace, a scoring PG who led the team in scoring a year ago as well as this year. He's not a great outside shooter (31% for his career), but he can hit the 3. Where he's most dangerous though, is getting into the paint and getting to the line. At 6'5" 205, he uses his strength and big body to fight through defenders. This will, of course, be tougher to do against the 6'5" 215 Malcolm Brogdon.

Behind Wallace is a pair of highly touted freshmen, Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb. Both were McDonald's All-Americans. Brown was the #4 overall player on ESPN.com recruiting last year and is a potential top 5 pick in the NBA draft. Brown is a slashing perimeter player, who has excellent athleticism at 6'7" and 225 pounds. He's also a good defender with long arms and quick feet. Where Brown struggles is shooting the ball (just 26% from 3 and 62% from the stripe). Against the pack-line, he's going to find his driving lanes closed down and he's going to have to either hit the outside shot, or get the ball in transition.

Rabb was 84th in ESPN.com recruiting. He's an interior player who has largely dominated against inferior talent. He hasn't really had to play against a team with the size to be physical against him. With 3 big bodies (Mike Tobey, Jack Salt and Jared Reuter), Rabb will be facing his toughest challenge yet. Rabb is also a good shot blocker, so the Hoos will be need to be aware of his presence on the interior.

The final 2 pieces are juniors Jordan Mathews and Jabari Bird. Both are bigger wings, in the same vein as Brown. Both are pretty good outside shooters, especially Mathews who is over 40% for his career. Bird is just a good all-around scoring guard who probably should be dominating the ball a bit more than he is.

Sam Singer will come off the bench and play both PG and off-guard. Stephen Domingo and Roger Moute a Bidias will see time on the wings, and Kameron Rooks is the only real post player behind Rabb. None of these guys are really much of a threat on either end of the court, and will only see brief playing time unless one of the starters gets into foul trouble.

This last piece is Cal's biggest weakness. They have very little depth. When Wallace is off the court, there is really nobody who can create a shot. Not surprisingly, he's not off the court very often. Brown is the best all-around player on the team, but his basketball skills are still behind his athleticism and he's learning how to play. He settles for jumpers too often and isn't a particularly good shooter. Also he's a black hole on offense and has been foul-prone in his young career.

The Hoos are used to having size advantages, but will not in this game. Especially on the perimeter, where Cal is very big. If Brogdon is on Wallace, as I expect, then the Hoos are forced to use a smaller player on Brown. That is, unless Tony decides to put Isaiah Wilkins on Brown, which would be an interesting matchup. Wilkins may not be as quick as Brown, but he's bigger and stronger and could frustrate the youngster. Wilkins, you may know, got his first career start against Villanova and is earning more and more playing time for the Hoos.

The key for the Hoos will be containing Rabb inside and not letting Cal get out in transition. The Cal offense isn't disciplined enough to really break down the Pack Line, and they don't have enough shooters to beat them over the top. Since the Cal defense doesn't force many turnovers, the Hoos should not have trouble limiting the transition offense for the Golden Bears.

Cal is a very good rebounding team, on both ends, and that is how they can beat the Hoos. If they can manage to control the glass, that would really trouble the Hoos. Getting somebody (Jordan Mathews, most likely) hot from outside would help as well.

This game looks good for the Hoos. They are much deeper, are playing at home, and are much more experienced. The main concern is a hangover after the big win on Saturday, and some players looking ahead to the 8 day Christmas break.