"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Know your opponent: Stanford

Kudos to Seth for this comment in the post below (and one before that) about his beloved Stanford Cardinal. So now -- somewhat unplanned -- here is "Know your opponent - Stanford":

Stanford fan here and newcomer to your very impressive blog. I've always had a soft spot for Marquette and Al McGuire was always one of my favorite coaches and commentators: will always remember him goading Arthur Lee into dancing after Stanford advanced to the Final Four ten years ago this month.

As for the two Stanford losses you write about: I think you can discard the loss at Oregon, as it was earlier in the year before Stanford really gelled. When Stanford and Oregon played again in Palo Alto later, Stanford crushed the Ducks.

The loss at USC does, however, provide a template you can look to try to emulate. Sure, Stanford was flat after having a share of the Pac-10 title taken away by the refs at UCLA two nights before, but they were just not focused on the boards enough. Also, USC's bigs are a bit undersized but very athletic and talented, plus their wings and guards are big, strong, and athletic enough to crash the offensive glass. Hayward and Matthews may fit the mold there, which is a big concern for us. The Lopez twins go for the spectacular block too much sometimes; they have to stay home and be content with defending/altering the shot and collecting the rebound.

I'm pretty concerned with the matchup against Lazar Hayward. He looked great against Kentucky. Strong, athletic, and a credible outside threat. Kind of sounds like Mailk Hairston of Oregon. Then again, Robin Lopez shut Hairston down pretty well. (Robin is outstanding at defending bigs that try to score outside the paint: Ryan Anderson of Cal had his way against pretty much everyone this year, but Robin convincingly shut him down twice.)

Our guards are not much offensively unless Goods gets hot, but I like them collectively on defense. Even the weak link Mitch Johnson has improved quite a bit. Darren Collison effectively used screens to hit 12-foot jumpers and had the running teardrop layup in his arsenal to clear the long reach of the Lopez twins. Goods totally shut down talented two guards like Derrick Low and Russell Westbrook in Pac-10 tournament; he will need to bring his "A" game defensively today, as well.

Regarding the "Stanford by the numbers" post -- Stanford has done a good job tightening up its offense in the last part of the year and limiting their turnovers, even against UCLA's monster backcourt.

If you're talking about the last twelve games: Stanford did have a rough patch, losing at Arizona State and barely winning at Arizona. Washington and Goods were dinged up and the defense took a hit because of that, but Washington is looking better than ever now. However, I'd point to their performance in the Pac-10 tournament -- beating Arizona and Washington State before taking UCLA down to the final shot -- as a more accurate indicator of how well they're playing now.

I think we're better than Wisconsin. Don't know that we're as good as Louisville, but we would give them a much better game this year.

Looking forward to an exciting game today!

Thanks Seth!!

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