While a two-game road trip to cap off a 3-26 season may seem inconsequential, there is a lot at stake for the Bears during their visit to Oregon, as they hope to reach the coveted five-win mark.
Unfortunately, history suggests that this dream season is unlikely to be realized. Cal lost by a combined 49 points to Oregon and Oregon State in previous matchups this season, both of these games taking place at Haas Pavilion.
The first leg of the Bears’ trip comes against the Ducks. Although the Ducks “ducked” up the Bears by 29 points in their previous matchup, Cal has some reason for optimism in this upcoming match. Oregon has been reeling as of late, dropping three of its last four games and sitting only a touch above .500 in conference play. Cal’s most emphatic win of last season came against Oregon, when the odds of victory also seemed slim.
Schematically, the Bears can try to exploit Oregon’s poor shooting. Oregon is inefficient from distance, hitting its triples at just a 32.1% mark. Of course it’s easier said than done, but if the Bears can pack the paint and force Oregon to get trigger-happy from distance, they can increase their odds of victory.
With that being said, having a reason for optimism and having a slim chance of winning are not mutually exclusive. Just looking at the surface-level statistics on offense alone illustrates how this game will likely go.
The Bears have had their fair share of trouble against even the least offensively dynamic squads, and Oregon comes into the matchup averaging over 70 points per game as a team. Meanwhile, the Bears’ leading scorer this season, Devin Askew, is out and Cal has averaged just 58.5 points per game on the season.
The Bears simply don’t have the offensive firepower or defensive prowess to truly capitalize on Oregon’s flaws; if they can make this a sub-20 point loss, consider that a moral victory. It may as well go in the win column.
Oregon State being Cal’s last game is very fitting, as it will be the showdown between the Pac-12’s two bottom feeder teams (4-14 and 2-16 conference records, respectively). If Cal wants to end the season off with a win, there’s no better game that the Pac-12 script writers could have put for the Bears.
While the last matchup between these two teams — a 68-48 Oregon State win — would not suggest it, the Beavers’ incompetence is slightly comparable to that of the Bears. Oregon State averages just 61.1 points per game this season, with its highest-leading scorer notching only 12.5 points per game. The Beavers also average a near-identical turnover rate to the Bears (13.6 to 13.2 in Cal’s favor) and also shoot abysmally from distance (32.5%).
Moreover, the Beavers are also reeling, losing six of their last seven matches. While Cal is no better, any marginal flaw an opposing team has is big for a team with three wins to its name.
If Cal can muster up whatever defensive ability it has left this season and capitalize off of the Beavers’ high turnover rate, it can give itself a puncher’s chance.
Nevertheless, the odds of the Bears’ coming away with another victory this season look slim. A 0-2 roadtrip to end an embarrassingly bad season looks all but inevitable.