Five questions about Cal Poly men’s basketball as they prepare for Big West play

Updated: January 3, 2018

Here are five questions I’m wondering as Big West Conference play gets started this week:

How did pre-conference season go?

Well, it went all right. Not great. There were a few good wins. Cal Poly got some victories away from Mott when they beat Santa Clara and College of Charleston to kick off the Great Alaska Shootout. They also beat Pepperdine at home. While they scrapped and made it close at Cal, the Mustangs didn’t really give themselves much of a chance to win in five of six games against top-100 opponents.

One reason is they had a hard time stopping opponents’ three-point shooting. While their two-point defense isn’t bad, the Mustangs have struggled to stop opponents from behind the arc this season. Maybe that’s an understatement. Let’s put it this way – there is only one other team in Division I college basketball whose opponents are shooting a higher percentage from three point range than teams than Cal Poly (Division I opponents only). UCSB is 34th in the country in three-point shooting percentage. 

The one game that got away is definitely Bethune-Cookman, where they almost certainly should have won. That’s one that everybody would probably like to have back. (They’ll get it back when Bethune-Cookman returns the trip). The Central Michigan game, when they scored 53 points and only lost by three. That’s another one they’d like back. So, yeah. They maybe could have won two or three more games. 

If they play exactly like they did in the first half, they’ll be a bottom-four Big West team in the regular season. 

Consistent scoring?

Early-on it seemed Joe Callero’s team had a rhythm between Donovan Fields, Victor Joseph, and Marcellus Garrick on the perimeter. After the Great Alaska Shootout, the team had a three-point percentage above 40 percent and looked like they’d be able to shoot their way into a lot of games. 

Things have fallen off though. In their past four games against Division I opponents, Cal Poly averaged just a hair over 58 points per game. They’ll have to do better than that in conference play if they want to compete night-in and night-out. Unless Callero somehow brings back the 2-3 matchup zone. Then 58 might be plenty… . 

Sharpshooters or nah?

Cal Poly’s shooting is a huge key for them. It’s a key for everyone really, but how much are the Mustangs playing in synch and in rhythm offensively has a lot to do with who’s getting good shots and whether they’re taking advantage of the good looks they get. 

Joe Callero will point to guards Victor Joseph (20) and Donovan Fields (3) to help get Cal Poly off to a positive start this week at home. By Owen Main

This is a streaky and sometimes mercurial Mustang squad. Their ability to stay engaged offensively for a full 40 minutes and avoid major shooting slumps within games could be the difference in staying with some of the best Big West teams. 

What role will Marcellus Garrick have in Big West play?

The Hancock College transfer started the season with hot shooting and high-scoring games. Sure, teams have gotten a scouting report on Garrick, but I don’t believe we’ve seen his entire offensive game. Garrick has moves off the dribble as more of a slasher than he’s shown through much of the season so far. Look for him to attack defenders who overplay him and think of him as a spot-up shooter because of his hot shooting early in the season. 

When Garrick is getting to the free throw line and displaying his athleticism knifing to the basket, he’s at his best. 

Bonus: Health

Joe Callero always says health is a major factor. Cal Poly has enough rotation players to withstand some injuries, but that doesn’t mean that health won’t play a factor in how this team fares.

Bonus #2: Big Hank coming into his own

Hank Hollingsworth has turned himself into a regular rotation player and interior defensive stalwart for Cal Poly. The redshirt sophomore continues to develop on both ends of the court. Consistent contributions from Hollingsworth will give Cal Poly a shot to win games in Big West play. 

Cal Poly starts their conference schedule on Thursday night at home vs. UCSB and hosts Cal State Fullerton on Saturday evening. Both games tip at 7:00pm. 

Photos from Cal Poly vs. Notre Dame de Namur by Owen Main. 

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