Cal Men's Basketball: Golden Bears Can't Score in Tempe
Arizona State runs away in the 2nd half in an easy 71-44 win
When it was announced that Andre Kelly was going to miss the regular season, I thought that Cal’s offense would implode. Take away the only efficient interior scorer on a team that otherwise mostly takes a bunch of jumpers? That’s a dangerous situation.
And yet the data so far would indicate that the Bears were doing OK without their best offensive player. Before playing ASU, here’s what the Cal offense has done in Pac-12 play, with and without Andre Kelly:
Cal vs. Pac-12 opponents WITH Andre Kelly: 0.98 points/possession
Cal vs. Pac-12 opponents WITHOUT Andre Kelly: 0.95
That’s not an insignificant difference (about 2 fewer points/game at Cal’s pace), and it’s worth noting that Cal’s conference schedule after losing Andre to injury has been easier than the games they faced with a healthy Andre. But it’s not the dramatic downfall I might have predicted immediately following his injury.
Against ASU, we saw that kind of dramatic difference. The Bears scored 44 points in 65 possessions, for 0.68 points/possession, by a wide margin their worst offensive outing of the season.
It was exactly the worst-case-scenario I envisioned without Andre. The Bears were largely relegated to taking a bunch of jump shots. As a consequence they drew hardly any fouls, and when they did try to get the ball inside the risk of turnovers rose. And on a night when everybody’s jumper was cold, the offense shriveled up and died.
There are reasons to be concerned about the defensive effort as well. Cal allowed a bad 2 point shooting team to shoot 25-43 inside the arc, largely on a bunch of shots near the bucket. But it’s worth noting that ASU’s offense seemed to find some kind of answer three weeks ago, so their scoring isn’t perhaps as odd as it might have looked back in January. Either way, when you can’t score, the defense doesn’t matter nearly as much.
I try not to spend too much time thinking about next year until the season is actually over, but when the drama left is to find out if your team finished 10th or 11th in the standings, the mind wanders where it will.
And I can’t help but wonder what Cal will try to do offensively next year if Andre Kelly elects to grad transfer.
Jordan Shepherd will be gone, Grant Anticevich will be gone . . . if Andre leaves as well, Cal’s most experienced scorer is Jalen Celestine I guess?
There are reasons to think that Cal’s defense could improve next year, but it’s hard seeing how this team scores enough to make that matter unless Cal’s coach hits the transfer portal HARD. And while I’ve appreciated Jordan Shepherd more than I thought I would prior to the season, Cal’s current staff haven’t exactly wowed with their ability to recruit transfers.
When Cal lost to USC on January 29, we were prepared to let out a sigh of relief; the hard part of the Pac-12 schedule was over, and Cal was going to begin a stretch of 8 games that looked manageable. The toughest game in that stretch was a road game against Oregon.
We didn’t really let out a sigh of relief because Andre Kelly hurt himself just prior. Cal has now ended that stretch 3-5, shockingly winning the toughest game in that stretch and happily winning the one game we cared about the most emotionally.
But now it’s back to tougher tests. Cal will play Pac-12 champion Arizona on their home floor, on senior night. Arizona only has one senior and he’s a role player, but still. Kenpom gives Cal a 3% chance to pull the road upset and even that feels optimistic after watching Arizona toy with Cal in Berkeley.
And then comes the Pac-12 tournament, though the middle of the conference standings are still so jumbled that it’s silly to try to guess who Cal will play even though there’s only one more game each to play.
If you’re more curious about what Cal’s administrators might be thinking, I wouldn’t blame you . . .