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Texas Longhorns Basketball: Texas - Cal Preview

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Texas takes on Cal tonight at 6 PM CST. The game airs on ESPN2.

Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

The California Golden Bears picked up a surprising win last night against Syracuse, and tonight face Texas in Madison Square Garden. First year head coach Cuonzo Martin's team has started off the season well, going 3-0.

The most striking thing about the Bears is how well they have shot the rock through their first three games. Last night, Martin's men shredded the Syracuse zone, going 8-19 from three point range. On the season, Cal has connected on 45 percent of their threes.

The easiest way to do this is to list all the shooters:

  • 6-5 Tyrone Wallace, who last season connected on 32 percent of his 134 long range attempts. That is by no means a great shooting percentage, but Wallace did have games where he was highly effective from behind the arc; when you shoot that many threes, some are bound to fall in, and you will eventually have some games where a bunch go in. Wallace is also good in the open floor, gets to the free throw line, and is one of the lead playmakers for Martin's attack.
  • 6-3 Jordan Mathews is most effective as a catch and shoot player who last season knocked down 38 percent of his 110 threes. The book on Mathews is that he is the sort of player that you need to make beat you with his dribble, and not with his shot, but so far in this early season he has done more than just shoot; he put up 22 points against Syracuse scoring in a variety of ways.
  • 6-6 Jabari Bird also likes to shoot the ball from deep. Last season, as a freshman, he hoisted 90 threes, connecting on 32 percent of them. Just like Wallace, he had games where his shot had a lot of impact. If you don't believe that, just ask Syracuse, who watched as Bird hit 4-5 from three point range last night.
  • 6-6 Cornell transfer Dwight Tarwater took 83 threes last season for the Big Red, and hasn't been shy about shooting this year in Berkeley.
  • Martin's other perimeter player, 6-4 sophomore Sam Singer, has been less prone to pull the trigger in his short college career, but he too has had a few games where he has knocked down a few shots from deep.

Now, I don't want to give you the impression that Cal is a team of mad bombers; so far on the season they actually haven't shot all that many threes. But many of the ones they have taken have gone down.

Martin's perimeter players have good size, and additionally he will also rotate four big men. Getting the most minutes inside is 6-10 senior David Kravish, who is an effective scorer inside and does a solid job on the glass. Kravish is Cal's best big man, but 6-8 junior Christian Behrens, 6-6 sophomore Roger Moute a Bidias, and 7-1 freshman Kingsley Okorah will also play.

The Golden Bear big men did a nice job against Syracuse's big front line. They put fouls on Rakeem Christmas, limiting his effectiveness, and mostly held their own against freshman star Chris McCullough.

A few things that I am thinking about early in the morning after the Cal-Syracuse game:

  • Um, how is Isaiah Taylor's wrist? Last night in the win over Iowa, Taylor fell hard, and was icing his wrist after the game. If Taylor is unable to go, Texas becomes a very different team on offense. As of 5:30 AM EST, the only real information I can find on Taylor is that Texas was still evaluating the wrist after midnight.

  • How will Texas match up against the tall perimeter shooters of Cal? The Bears throw a bunch of 6-4 to 6-6 wings at you, and they all can hurt you with their shot.

  • Will those Cal shots keep falling? The Texas interior defense is tough; with all due respect to Syracuse, it will be tougher than anything the Bears have yet faced. But the three ball keeps Cal away from this strength of the Horns.

  • Can the Longhorns get busy on the offensive glass? Second chance points are an important part of the Texas offense, and this will become particularly true if Taylor's effectiveness is limited. Against Iowa, the Longhorns rebounded 32 percent of their own misses, which is well below what I expect will be their season average.