Marching to Vegas: Cal Wins Ugly, But At Least Cal WinsPosted by AMurawa on February 22nd, 2013
From the moment it was first rumored, the relocation of the conference tournament to Las Vegas has created quite a buzz among Pac-12 basketball fans. Adam Butler (@pachoopsAB) of PacHoops will be here every week as he offers his unique perspective along our March to Vegas.
I got a text from my Cal buddy last night, “You’re welcome for Cal again… But 48 points…” This of course set off a chain of text exchanges that culminated in a conversation about whether or not I’d be joining him at Bonnaroo in June – a welcome digression, albeit extremely tangential. But my dear friend had a point. Those 48 points are a less-than-exciting, underwhelming, slow score. It’s for this very count that many of us declare Bo Ryan an eye-ripping excitement-suck for whose style we’d wish the NCAA death penalty upon our own program before enduring a season. The funny thing about that is Bo Ryan wins. Not one of my friends who attended Wisconsin or cheer for the Badgers has seemed to have a problem with his .725 winning percentage. Wisky wins and so too did the Cal Bears on Thursday night. And this is the only stat that matters this time of year.
We are on the cusp of March and by most accounts (check this aggregation out) the Golden Bears are shoving (get it?) their way into the madness. And they most certainly will not be dancing with a statistically intriguing loss. That’s to say, had they shot 48%, outrebounded the Ducks, and committed just 10 turnovers en route to disappointing loss, 74-71, the committee would’ve seen just another loss on a team that’s already wearing nine of them (including a home loss to Harvard). Statistically speaking, Cal had a 27% chance of winning that game. The projected final was 71-64, which is to say that based on the standard game for these two, Oregon was going to win relatively handily. Something different had to happen. So Cal forced a deviation from the norm, limited the game’s possessions, and adjusted the dynamic of the game’s pace.
It’s the same work both Clemson and Virginia implemented in taking Miami to the brinks of 45-43 and 54-50. That’s a Miami team scoring 69 PPG this season. “Just win” becomes the motto of the month because it’s all there’s left to do. The beauty pageant is over as fates are beginning to be sealed. There’s in fact less pageantry than hot-or-not. Or whatever you want to call it. On their current stretch, the Bears have used the hot hand of Allen Crabbe to pull away from teams. On this night, the POY contender was a pedestrian 5-of-12 for 12 points while sitting stretches of the first half with foul trouble. Again, no matter the recipe, the end result tastes like Golden Bear victory.
Because this is a game of adjustments. For all the speak of offensive sets and defensive strategies, a team is limited by the talent and personnel it has. If this were a static event, we’d need to do little more than plug and chug into an algorithm to discover a victor. But that’s not the case. The games are played and adjustments made to exploit strengths and weaknesses. For example, as Cal was beginning to lose ground to the Wildcats two weeks ago in Tucson, watching Arizona pull away late in the first half, Montgomery moved his team into a zone. A move generally not pulled by Monty but a necessary evil if he wanted to win the game. From approximately that point forward, the Bears outscored the Wildcats 50-33 and won the basketball game. They pulled the same switch with about five minutes remaining in the first half last night in Eugene. At that point they were trailing by 11. They’d go into the half down just five and then… well they won the basketball game.
Before the texts turned to concerts in Tennessee, with regards to Cal’s 48 points, I replied, “But who cares, if you’re dancing? A moment passed before my friend responded, “Let’s dance.”