The California Golden Bears will probably be playing their last home game of the season at Haas Pavilion when they take on the Mississippi Rebels in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament. Cal is a small favorite, mostly due to having homecourt advantage.
The Bears will probably have to move the ball and get quality looks to get the win over the Rebels. Ole Miss has good shot blocking ability with Reginald Bucker and Terrance Henry, and will probably make it difficult for Cal's post players in Harper Kamp and Markhuri Sanders-Frison to get good looks at the basket on their own. Buckner and Henry are less proficient offensively, so we might see Cal's big men sag off and try a
The Rebels also have a speedy point guard in Chris Warren and a good strong steals leader in Trevor Gaskins, and Cal struggled in their Pac-10 tournament matchup with the USC Trojans with fast guard penetration. Brandon Smith might have his hands full with Warren, which will probably mean Warren will get Jorge Gutierrez. Finally, Zach Graham will have 50 pounds on Allen Crabbe, and both are strong offensive players, so something will have to give in their matchup of small forwards.
It's a pretty even matchup--Cal is ranked 67th in Pomeroy, Ole Miss 70th. The Rebels are a little more efficient offensively; the Bears a little more efficient defensively. Both teams shoot about the same, with Cal a bit worse in effective field goal defense. But the Bears are MUCH more effective at getting to the line and preventing other teams from going to the line too, so free throw shooting could be the difference in this one. Mississippi is a better offensive rebounding team, but Cal is generally pretty good at keeping teams off the glass.
Barring a huge upset by Texas Southern, the winner will likely take on the Colorado Buffaloes in the second round.