CALIFORNIA AT OREGON STATE - PREDICTIONWe promised to keep picking against the Golden Bears, since we've won two of the last three games in which the Hill forecast a Cal loss. But we can't do it. We really think Cal's going to win this game, and there are two numbers that tell us so.
The first number that jumps out to us with respect to the Beavers is 18.8. That's OSU's rating on the Pomeroy Free Throw Rate statistic, which measures how often teams get to the foul line. Teams that attack the basket tend to have high FTRs; teams that settle for the perimeter game tend to be low (BTW, Cal's not very good at 22.6, which ranks 238th in the nation). OSU ranks 311th, because too often they settle for jump shots from players like Sasa Cuic, who's 6'10" but plays a lot on the perimeter. Marcel Jones also gets to the line infrequently for a scorer.
FTR is a pretty important statistic in any event, but it's particularly relevant when you're playing a depleted team with only two reliable scorers like California. Teams that are efficient offensively (i.e., shoot a high % from three-point range) can get past a low FTR. OSU's perimeter game has dropped off from last season, though. Thus, we believe the Beaver's best hope tonight is to get Cal's front line in foul trouble - and their recent history suggests that this isn't likely.
The other number is 47. That's how many rebounds Cal hauled down against Washington, and it perhaps signals the type of improvement on the glass that Bear fans have been calling for since DeVon Hardin's injury.
Put those together with the fact that OSU plays a deliberate style, and Cal looks to be in good position to win the all-important first game of this road trip. The downside risk? OSU's shooters - especially Cuic and Jones - could get hot and Cal might be forced to go to the bench because of foul trouble more than they'd like. Not enough risk for us to change our minds.