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Weak schedule makes Cal basketball's 9-1 start tough to judge
By SP_COP on December 19, 2014 | From www.sfgate.com
Weak schedule makes Cal basketball's 9-1 start tough to judge Ten games into Cuonzo Martin’s head coaching career at Cal, he’s 9-1 — the school’s best start since the 2001-02 season. But the impressive record may not accurately reflect the Bears’ level of play.

According to Kenpom.com, a ranking system that takes into account Cal’s strength of schedule, the Bears are 53rd in the country this year, compared with 64th last season. Cal, which plays Eastern Washington on Friday night, sits just outside the top 25 in the Associated Press and USA Today coaches polls.

Cal’s strength of schedule rates No. 280 out of 351 Division I teams. Aside from playing Syracuse and Texas in the 2K Classic in New York, the Bears’ schedule has been weak. Five of their last six opponents are ranked outside of Kenpom’s top 100 teams.

The way Cal has achieved its NCAA Tournament bubble-level ranking is completely different from last year. Martin has vastly improved Cal’s defense, while the offense has taken a step back.

The Bears rank No. 24 in the country in “adjusted defense,” which takes into account strength of schedule. They were No. 89 last season in this category.

Hoop-Math.com, which tracks the official play-by-plays of games to determine trends, helps explain why Cal’s defense has been so successful. The Bears are 16th in the country at forcing a team to take two-point jump shots, as opposed to shots at the rim or three-point shots.

“You want guys to take tough two” point shots, Martin said. “That’s the thing we talked about when we started practicing Oct. 3.”

Cal does a good job of defending these shots. Because of its athletic wing players, the Bears block 10 percent of two-point jumpers. They allow a team to make only 30 percent of those shots.

“You talk about professional guys, you probably name seven or eight professional guys that make pull ups consistently,” Martin said. “It’s a tough, tough shot to make.”

Meanwhile, Cal’s offense has taken a sizable step backward. The Bears rank No. 141 nationally in “adjusted offense,” after finishing last season at No. 67....
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