Breaking Down Cal

Stanford's biggest game of the season to-date comes tonight at Maples Pavilion. Does The Bootleg think the Card have what it takes to hang with the Bears and right their Pac-10 season? Daniel Novinson has the scoop before tonight's matchup!

Cal is 15-2 overall, 4-0 in the conference. Out-of-conference, they split against top-50 opponents, winning at Utah and UNLV, but losing to Florida State and at Missouri. In-conference, they swept the Arizona schools at home by double digits, then beat Washington State 57-50, and Washington 88-85 in triple overtime.

Cal is 5-1 outright as an underdog this year, and 11-3 against the spread, including eight straight covers. That's actually a good sign for Stanford fans – it suggests Cal's playing better than their true talent level and will regress to the mean as the season goes on.

Readers know I have a TON of respect for Vegas' opinion – it's right more often than anyone else's, mine certainly included. That they don't think that highly of Cal is great news for the Cardinal today. In fact, I was surprised to see Stanford is 2.5-point favorites over Cal. If we figure home court is worth about three or four points, Cal would only be the slightest of favorites over the Card on a neutral court, which I found surprising.

Home Court Edge
Stanford, 11-3 overall, is 8-1 at home, versus just 3-2 on the road. Cal is 11-0 at Haas and 4-2 away from it. Given the intensity of the rivalry, Stanford's youth and that Sixth Man (or what remains of it) is back on campus, home court could mean as much today as for any game.

Breaking Down Stanford
Cal will be the best team the Card have played all season by RPI. (Cal's No. 14; Stanford's No. 48). In fact, with their losses to Arizona State and Washington, the Card have yet to beat a team in the RPI top-50. As Stanford fans know well, the Card need this one badly to keep pace in the Pac-10 and keep postseason hopes alive after consecutive one-point losses in Washington last week. (I'm with MizzouCard on this – in my five years as a Stanford fan, Washington has been an absolute state of horrors for us.)

Cal's Roster
5-10 junior guard Jerome Randle (19 points), 6-5 junior guard Patrick Christopher (16 points), and 6-6 junior forward Theo Robertson (12 points) are the Bears' double-digit scorers. All are shooting over 47% overall, helping Cal shoot 49% as a team and 48% from deep. Randle is 49% from deep, Christopher 42%, and Robertson, my goodness, 59% on 54 threes this year. Now that Stanford's moving to an outside-oriented attack themselves, hopefully the team took a hard look at Cal on film this week – this is how a perimeter-based attack is supposed to run.

Cal has average assist and turnover numbers. The Bears come in with a +5 rebounding margin and wins its average game 78-65. Those numbers say two things: first, Stanford has to be careful not to get blown out on the boards, like it was against Washington (-16). Second, the Bears, as always, are still susceptible on defense. They're not Washington-level bad with their new coach, what's-his-name, but there's still going to be opportunity for multiple Stanford guys to have big nights.

6-8 junior forward Jamal Boykin and seven-foot junior center Jordan Wilkes are the other Cal starters, with 6-3 freshman guard Jorge Gutierrez and 6-8 sophomore forward Harper Kamp also seeing significant minutes.

I think Cal takes an early lead on some hot outside shooting, but Stanford, at home, doesn't panic, keeps it close, and chips away at that lead throughout the contest. It'll be close down the stretch, like most recent Stanford-Cal games, and so I'm going with the home team here. Besides, after last week, the Cardinal are due for a close one.

Vegas: Stanford 76, Cal 74. (Stanford -2.5, Total: 150.)

The Bootleg: Stanford 76, Cal 72

Pac-10 Predictions:
Prediction: Stanford 65, Arizona State 60 Actual: Arizona State 90, Stanford 60
Prediction: Arizona 69, Stanford 67 Actual: Stanford 76, Arizona 60
Prediction: Washington 78, Stanford 65 Actual: Washington 84, Stanford 83
Prediction: Stanford 57, Wash. State 53 Actual: Wash. State 55, Stanford 54

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