Stanford Sweet 16: How to Beat Dayton
The Bootleg's full scouting report of the Stanford-Dayton Sweet 16 match-up is here. Now, it's time to apply that breakdown and specifically identify the vital points of emphasis for the Cardinal on Thursday. Tip-off from Memphis is at 4:15 p.m. Pacific time on Thursday. The game will be on CBS. Here's the rundown:
Break the Press
It looked like Stanford was on its way to beating Kansas handily on Sunday, but then the Jayhawks turned on their late, desperate full court pressure. The Cardinal wilted into a flurry of turnovers, and the game suddenly became close again. Don't think that Dayton wasn't taking notes. The Flyers may not have the combination of length and athleticism that made Kansas' press so deadly, but they have the numbers (nine-man rotation) to at least give the strategy a try.
The Cardinal are obviously hindered in the press break regard by the fact that they don't have a true ball-handling point guard, but they must get this facet of their game together regardless. Crisp cutting, good spacing, and intelligent passing are enough to break a press. Stanford's staff must make sure that its veteran players are calm and composed enough to handle pressure more effectively this time around.
Control The Tempo
When combined with long stretches of ineffective half court offense, Stanford's struggle with pressure against Kansas ultimately created an ugly line in the box score for the Cardinal: 16 turnovers, six assists. Absolutely suffocating defense allowed Stanford to maintain a hold on the game anyway, but the Farm Boys (just like their football team) are playing with fire as long as they don't generate a steady offensive presence to control the game's tempo.
Dayton is 11-0 this season when allowing fewer than 60 points, and they're also 12-3 in games decided by single digits. That indicates at least two things: The Flyers are solid offensively, and they tend to execute well down the stretch. That's why it's imperative for Stanford to establish a firm hold on this game throughout, and that starts with setting the tone early on both ends of the floor. Dayton has proven that they won't easily relinquish control of pace if they're the first to grab it.
Maintain Defensive Precision
This is where Stanford has been excellent so far in the NCAA Tournament. The Cardinal have used their length and athleticism on the perimeter to swarm opposing offenses far away from the basket. After disrupting the flow there, they've held a rigid interior presence behind Josh Huestis, Dwight Powell, and Stefan Nastic. The coaching staff deserves plenty of credit here: Perfectly timed transitions between man-to-man and zone defense kept both New Mexico and Kansas off balance.
Winning the chess match will again be vital against Dayton, an exceptionally balanced, deep, and statistically efficient offensive team. The Flyers feature at least four players who can reasonably be expected to carry the team offensively on any given night, and these multiple options make them very dangerous. If the Cardinal leaks defensively in one regard, there's a good chance Dayton will capitalize. Coach Archie Miller (the younger brother of Arizona coach Sean Miller) knows what he's doing -- the Flyers didn't figure out the vaunted Syracuse 2-3 zone by accident.
Dayton's strategy will undoubtedly revolve on forcing Stanford into foul trouble. Since the Flyers are so deep, the Cardinal are in trouble if they allow that happen.
Effort, Effort, Effort
So many negative happenings on the basketball court can be ultimately concealed by playing hard, especially in the case of a team that's as physically talented and imposing as Stanford. The Cardinal's aforementioned offensive struggles against Kansas (that miserable assist-to-turnover ratio and the fact that Stanford didn't make a three-pointer for the first time in 423 games) ultimately did not matter. That's because the Farm Boys' furious effort elsewhere put other troubles to rest. Powell rebounded. Nastic scrapped for loose balls. Marcus Allen jetted down the floor to secure possession. Huestis set up a force field around the rim. Those plays all illustrated a take-no-prisoners attitude that can again earn Stanford victory on Thursday.
Identify What's Working And Stick With It
While the coaching staff found the perfect defensive formula versus Kansas, it also made an offensive tweak that ultimately might have saved the Cardinal as well: Stanford stopped shooting three pointers after it had missed its first nine and focused instead on attacking the paint. The offensive results Sunday were never overly pretty, but the team at least avoided complete disaster and death by the missed perimeter shot. It will be important for Stanford to again Gage the complexion of Thursday's game early on and adjust accordingly (pun intended).
David Lombardi is the Stanford Insider for The Bootleg. Check him out at www.davidlombardisports.com and follow him on Twitter @DavidMLombardi.
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