What to watch when Arizona Wildcats men’s basketball visits Cal

The Arizona Wildcats are playing the second leg of their 3-game road trip through the Golden State on Sunday, when they visit the California Golden Bears in Berkeley.

Third-ranked UA (15-1 Pac-12), just came off a dominant 85 57 win at Stanford Thursday night, increasing its NCAA-leading win margin to 24.4. The Wildcats have won five of their first five conference matchups. Average 21.6 points, best since the 1987-88 squad that went to the program’s first Final Four.

Cal (9-9-2-5), has lost four straight and has lost nine straight games to the Wildcats. Last winning in 2016 was 2016. The six previous meetings were decided by an average 17.8 points. Arizona won the three meetings in Berkeley by an average 19.7 points.

Here’s what to watch for when the UA and Cal get together for some Sunday Funday Pac-12 action:

Azuolas’ availability

As thoroughly enjoyable as Thursday’s result was, the big win was at least partially damped by the loss of Azuolas TubelisEarly in the second half, Tubelis suffered a left ankle injury. Tubelis, who scored 32 points against Utah and was a career-high scorer, had ice on his ankle after returning from the locker room. He then wore a protective boot for half two.

Coach Tommy Lloyd did not go into detail on the severity of Tubelis’ injury, which came when his legs were taken out by a Stanford player going for a loose ball, but it didn’t look too significant. The 6-foot-11 forward can return to play if he has more time to recover.

If he can’t, though, Oumar BalloHe demonstrated that he is capable to fill the void in some way fashion. Ballo scored 21 points in his career-high 22 minutes of action. He made 7 of 8 shots, and 7 of 9 free throws.

“We have a lot of good players that can do a lot of good things,” Pelle Larsson, Who played a record-breaking 33 minutes against Stanford. “I think we’ve faced a lot of adversity this season but we’ve responded every single time. So it just feels good to be with these guys.”

With Kim Aiken Jr. still away from the team and Tubelis’ status unknown, Arizona could be facing a 7-man rotation for all or part of a third straight game. With another game at No. Lloyd may be able to sub in 6-foot-6 freshmen from 9 UCLA Adama Bal—who played in the first half against Stanford—and Jaylen NowellThis can only help with fatigue.

Clean up the glass

This season, Stanford was the second team to surpass Arizona in rebounding. They won 42-39. That edge didn’t help the Cardinal much, nor did collecting a ridiculous 21 offensive boards, which it only converted into 14 second-chance points.

Cal is at the bottom of the Pac-12 for offensive rebounding percentage. However, Cal is 6-foot-8 forward Andre Kellyis ranked in the top 10 for this category. Lloyd couldn’t have been happy with all the extra opportunities his team gave up, though having Tubelis and Christian Koloko Those numbers were possible because only 16 minutes of play was allowed.

The UA allowed 21 offensive rebounds, the most since a 2016 loss against Colorado. Pac-12 Tournament. The Wildcats fell to ninth in league offensive rebounding defense during conference games.

No live ball turnovers

The Wildcats gave it up 14 times against Stanford, which was their lowest in over a month, but still too many when you consider that nearly 24 percent of their possessions ended in a turnover. Eight of those TOs were scored on steals, giving Stanford plenty of opportunities to score in transition (though it only managed to do so once).

Cal averages less five steals per game in Pac-12 play. Guard Jordan ShepherdThe only player who averages more than one swipe per contest.

For as fast as Arizona plays on offense—it’s tops in the country in average possession length, at 14.4 seconds—making the opponent take longer on the other end as often as possible is also part of the game plan.

Keep up with the record books

Although Arizona is almost certain to be in the NCAA Tournament, there is no guarantee. Thursday marked the halfway point in the season in terms schedule games (31 in regular season, one Pac-12 tourney).

The Wildcats are halfway home and on pace to break many individual and team season record.

The UA is currently at 696 assists per game, which is the highest in the country. The school record is 677 from 1997-98. This was more than 35 games. If the UA plays the same number of games this season, it would have 763 assists.

Arizona’s 107 blocks through 16 games means the school record of 192 in 1999-2000 (in 34 games) is also likely to be broken, and Koloko (52) is on pace to top Loren Woods’mark of 200 set in 1999-2000.

Expecting Arizona to maintain its massive average scoring margin is unrealistic, but there’s some leeway to still beat the school record of 20.9 from the 1987-88 squad. This team still has a chance to beat the 1997-98 single-season school record of 90.8 with 88.3 points per match.

And though their 34.4 percent accuracy is nowhere near the best in school history—that would be the 1987-88 squad’s 48.3 percent—the Wildcats’ 8.2 made 3-pointers per game does make breaking the season 3s record doable. The record is 296 and was set in 38 games in 2010-11. So a deep run of the same make could see that number in 37 games.

Final note: Koloko (63.5%), and Ballo (61.9%) would finish in the top 5 in school history in field goals percentage if they keep making close ones. The record is 66.7 % Al Fleming 1973-1974

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