Cal (10-4) is no slouch on offense either with future first-round pick Ivan Rabb (15.2 ppg, 10.3 rpg) and freshman point guard Charlie Moore (15.3 ppg, 3.5 apg) leading the way, but the Bears’ defense is coach Cuonzo Martin’s calling card. Cal leads the Pac-12 in scoring defense (60.3 ppg), field goal percentage defense (37.5%) and 3-point percentage defense (28.5 %). In fact Cal ranks 11th, 12th and 12th, respectively, in the country in those categories.
UCLA’s largest concern, however, may be Cal’s pace of play. The Bruins adjusted tempo is 12th in the nation, according to kenpom.com. Cal’s is 255th. The two teams other than Oregon and Arizona picked to finish in the Pac-12’s top four are deep enough into the season that those numbers hold weight.
UCLA plays fast, to put it lightly. Cal does not. Whoever dictates the pace will have a decided advantage in a fairly critical game regarding the conference standings.
UCLA’s only loss this season came on the road against an Oregon team that could easily turn out to be one of the best in the country for a second consecutive season. But now the onus is on the No. 4 Bruins to defend their home court against a team capable of competing for a conference title. It’s not exactly an easy place to be for a team led by two freshman. Read more about why in my preview of Cal versus UCLA.