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Know The Enemy: California

With California currently on a three-game losing skid, is the chance there for the Beavers to steal a road win in Berkeley?

NCAA Basketball: California at Arizona State Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

California Golden Bears (18-9)

  • Latest BTD Pac-12 Power Rankings: 4th Overall (9-6)
  • Head Coach: Cuonzo Martin (3rd Season)
  • Top Performer: Ivan Rabb (14.6 PPG, 10.7 RPG)
  • Points For: 69.4 PPG (T-267th)
  • Points Against: 62.9 PPG (14th)
  • Last Game/Streak: 68-65 Loss v. Oregon (3L)

The Skinny

In the midst of their first three-game losing streak of the season, California enters Friday night’s contest against Oregon State on some shaky ground, as an intriguing Golden Bears’ team needs to protect their NCAA Tournament chances with just three games left in the regular season.

In their last outing, California collapsed during a strong comeback effort from Oregon, who echoed a similar sentiment to their previous loss to rival Stanford, where the Golden Bears just seemed to look panicked and disjointed down the crucial stretches of the game. It’s that kind of glaring deficiency that can end up costing a team when it comes down to make-or-break time, like for example, if there was a scenario in which you’re hosting a 5-24 Oregon State team in a game that you simply cannot lose. Oh, is that type of thing happening or something?

When the Beavers do take on the Golden Bears on Friday night in Berkeley, Oregon State needs to make a concerted effort to slow down California’s balanced offense attack, which is spearheaded by senior guard Jabari Bird (15.1 PPG) and versatile forward Ivan Rabb (14.6 PPG). When the Golden Bears’ offense, who has been known to stall-out through large portions of games, does get working, Bird and Rabb can be found operating as a delicate balance of a strong interior presence and an electric playmaking guard. It also helps when the myriad of California’s other options step up their level of play as well.

Freshman guard Charlie Moore (13.0 PPG) has been one of Martin’s best recruiting gets (not named Jaylen Brown or Ivan Rabb) since Cuonzo Martin arrived at California, and when Moore and Columbia transfer Grant Mullins (10.2 PPG) are clicking in their roles, the Golden Bears are a tough team to stop. Up-front, California also gets strong contributions from efficient juniors Kameron Rooks (5.1 PPG) and Kingsley Okoroh (5.0 PPG), who work to protect the paint for what has a tendency to become a perimeter-oriented Golden Bears squad.

For Oregon State, the plan is simple, as they must slow down the leading duo of Bird and Rabb and use strong defensive pressure to turn California from a methodical offensive group into a creative one. Offensively, the Beavers must continue to develop some more balance, which could be aided by a stand-out contribution from someone deeper on Oregon State’s roster than the starting five. Bench scoring has begun to be one of the Beavers many glaring issues to add to a full plate of problems across the board.

At this point, the Beavers just need to go out and seize the opportunity like they did against Utah, when Oregon State just played an effort-filled forty minutes to give themselves a chance to win it at the end. California will be cautious to not have a slip-up that could ruin their NCAA Tournament resume, which makes this one even all the more of an intriguing contest.

Players To Watch

Ivan Rabb (Sophomore - Forward)

The rock on the interior for California, Rabb has used his second season in Berkeley to continue to develop into the transcendent talent he was expected to be, after graduating high school as one of the country’s top ranked talents. Rabb is a nightly double-double threat, who needs to be the Beavers main focus in this one.

Charlie Moore (Freshman - Guard)

Personally, Moore is one of my favorite new players in the whole conference, as the freshman plays with a healthy mix of youthful energy and veteran steadiness, that’s just simply hard to find in any player. Moore burst onto the scene early in the season with some monstrous outings but he’s looked to have hit the freshman wall more recently. However, this kind of match-up could be a return to form for the rookie talent.

Grant Mullins (Senior - Guard)

When Mullins transferred into California from Columbia, it was a bit unsure of what his role would be in his final college basketball season, but as the season has progressed, Mullins has continued to fit as the exact long-range threat that California needs with this group. The Beavers must contest all of Mullins’ attempts and force him to become a playmaker off-the-dribble.

Game Info

Date: Friday, February 24th
Time: 7:00 PM PT
Location: Haas Pavilion (Berkeley, CA)
Coverage: Fox Sports 1