The biggest challenge thus far to Johnny Dawkins’ undefeated record at
Stanford (10-0, RPI: 24) comes this weekend, when the Cardinal host Arizona State (11-1, RPI: 31) Friday and Arizona (9-3, RPI: 62)
Call it a
Stanford’s got the best record at 10-0, but their only wins over
top-100 opponents came at home, 65-59 over Northwestern (8-3, RPI: 22) and
111-66 over Texas Tech (9-4, RPI: 57). Make no mistake, after suffering through
disappointing out-of-conference losses to the likes of UC-Davis and Montana in
years past, Stanford fans are most grateful for 10-0. Plus, given the low
preseason expectations surrounding this team, every win’s that much sweeter –
and that much more important, because there doesn’t figure to be much margin for
error in the hunt a postseason berth.
Arizona State had a pretty similar
out of conference run to the Cardinal. Their top-100 wins include a 76-75
squeaker over BYU (11-1, RPI: 32) and a 59-52 win over San Diego State (10-3,
RPI: 71). Their sole loss came 87-78 versus Baylor (12-1, RPI: 54) in Anaheim.
Arizona State has played one more top-100 opponent than Stanford, and has one
more loss than the Cardinal. As I said, looks close enough to a draw to
Arizona’s played a tougher schedule, facing six top-100 opponents. Of
course, they have three losses to show for it, a 72-71 heartbreaker (and mental
breakdown) against UAB (8-5, RPI: 26), another heartwrencher, 67-66 at Texas
A&M (12-1, RPI: 45), and a 79-64 loss at UNLV (12-2, RPI: 50). Their home
wins include a 69-56 drubbing of San Diego State, a 69-64 victory over Gonzaga
(8-4, RPI: 33) and a 84-67 win over Kansas (9-3, RPI: 90).
are two other notes on Arizona’s schedule. First, Arizona and Stanford have
played two opponents in common, with the Wildcats beating 7-7 Santa Clara 69-66
and 3-9 Northern Arizona 74-57, and Stanford beating the pair 77-69 and 66-57,
respectively. Second, Arizona is just 0-2 on the road, while Stanford is 7-0 at
home this year. (Arizona State is 1-0 on the road.)
Offensively, it’s a four-man team. Sophomore 6’5”
guard James Harden scores 24 points per game, (58% overall, 46% deep, 79% free
throws). Add in his 52 assists and 72 rebounds and Harden is putting himself
into the Pac-10 MVP conversation. Objective No. 1 for the Cardinal must be
shutting down Harden.
After Harden, 6’9” senior forward Jeff Pendergraph
(65% overall on FG) adds 13 per game, and sophomore guards Ty Abbott (43%
overall) and Rihards Kuksiks 11 apiece. With the 6’3” Abbott, you want to sag
off as he leads ASU with 73 attempted threes but has only made 30% of them, so
let him keep shooting! The 6’6” Kuksiks, on the other hand, is a sharpshooter:
hitting 50% overall, but over 80% of his shots are threes, where he’s hitting
No one else on the team scores more than 6’1” junior guard Derek Glasser, the fifth starter, who manages just 5.8 points per game. Glasser is the
Mitch Johnson of ASU, shooting rarely and not exceptionally well (39% overall),
but leads the team with 4.8 assists per game and all starters with a 2.4
Overall, ASU is a half-court, defense-first
team, and will present the toughest D Stanford’s seen all season. The Sun Devils
don’t limit opposing possessions by forcing a ton turnovers (opponents average
only 15 turnovers per game) or outrebounding by massive margins (just +5.4
rebounds per game), but ASU’s half-court defense is second-to-none. Opponents
are shooting just 39.0% overall and 32.4% deep, for 58 points per game, against
the Sun Devils’ four-guard lineup.
Prediction: Stanford 65,
Arizona State 60
rely upon three primary scorers: 6’10” junior forward Jordan Hill (19 points, 12
rebounds per game), 6’7” junior forward Chase Budinger (18 points) and 5’10”
junior guard Nic Wise (15 points). Hill’s shooting 58% on the season and is
purely an inside threat, but Budinger (49% overall, 50% deep) appears to have
worked on his outside shot over the offseason, as he now paces the team with 52
three-point attempts. Wise is shooting only 42% overall and 45% deep, so if I’m
Coach Dawkins, I worry first about slowing Hill and Budinger.
starting 6’6” forward Jamelle Horne (nine points, six rebounds per game), and
it’s obvious that size and frontcourt depth are major advantages the Wildcats
will enjoy over the Cardinal. Arizona’s is +6.4 in rebounds per game, and if
undersized Stanford hopes to win, they’ll need to allow Arizona no better than
that that average on the boards.
The Wildcats’ overall stats also are
impressive: they are scoring 74 points per game on 49% overall shooting against
a tougher out-of-conference schedule than most. Defensively, opponents are
shooting just 41% overall and 33.5% deep for 64 points per game. Like Arizona
State, the Wildcats don’t force a ton of turnovers, and their starters have been
susceptible handling the ball, so Stanford and its new on-ball pressure may have
an opportunity to create havoc.
Prediction: Arizona 69, Stanford
Note: With college basketball games every day, stats may have
changed slightly since the article was published. Arizona State’s
will be accurate, but Arizona’s will not include their game at California.
Records listed are against all opponents. RPI ratings come from
RealTimeRPI.com at 6:00pm PDT on 1/1/2009.
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