Stanford Preview

It's time to put up or shut up for the Arizona State Sun Devils as they travel to the Bay Area to take on the Stanford Cardinal on Thursday night at Maples Pavilion. The Sun Devils control their own destiny in the Pac-10 race and their tilt with Cal on Saturday will be a major battle but first they must avoid looking ahead against a talented Cardinal squad.

To put it simply, the Devils are riding high with wins of five of their previous six including a 73-69 win over Arizona in Tucson. After getting routed at home at the hands of the Wildcats in a physical game, the Devils, led by Ty Abbott, responded with force. Abbott torched UofA with 28 points while Rihards Kuksiks poured in 17 points off the bench.

Stanford's not doing too bad themselves after their first two road wins of the season in a sweep of the Oregon schools. Landry Fields averaged 18.5 ppg in the wins while Jeremy Green joined in on the fun with 16.5 ppg over the weekend.

The previous meeting between these two was a tale of two halves. In the first half, the Devils jumped out to a ridiculous start getting ahead by 30 at one point but in the second half, the Devils had to withstand a solid little rally from Stanford and won by a mere 18 points.

Projected Starters

G – Jarrett Mann – (6.0 PPG, 4.7 APG) vs. Derek Glasser (10.2 PPG, 5.0 APG)

G – Drew Shiller (7.6 PPG, 2.3 APG vs. Jamelle McMillan (6.8 PPG, 39% 3PT)

G – Jeremy Green – (17.5 PPG, 40% 3PT) vs. Ty Abbott (12.5PPG, 44% 3PT)

F – Landry Fields – (22.2 PPG, 8.7 RPG) vs. Rihards Kuksiks (12.1 PPG, 39% 3PT)

F – Jack Trotter – (6.9 PPG, 4.4 RPG) vs. Eric Boateng (8.1 PPG, 6.6 RPG)

Backcourt

The Cardinal are much like the Devils in that they use a predominantly smaller lineup with Mann, Shiller, and Green running the show in the backcourt. Shiller and Mann are both PG types much like Glasser and McMillan (but not as good) in the ASU lineup. Green is scorer that has really opened a lot of eyes this season. An explosive inside-out slasher, Green would get a lot more pub if it wasn't for Landry Fields. The starters will see some relief from Da'Veed Dildy and Gabriel Harris.

This is a big game for ASU because they can't overlook Stanford and rest their sights on Cal because the Pac-10 is too strange and Stanford is a lethal squad that took mighty Kentucky to overtime. This is relevant because the leadership of Derek Glasser will need to be stronger than ever. This is the ultimate trap game for ASU and a win will keep their Pac-10 hopes alive as well as their outside chance at an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Joining Glasser in the backcourt are McMillan and Abbott. While McMillan's scoring has dipped majorly, his impact is still strongly felt in every other facet of the game. Abbott has been a man possessed since Herb Sendek opened up the offensive flow and his play has been the difference in at least a few wins thus far. Off the pine will be Trent Lockett (in case Rihards Kuksiks starts) and Demetrius Walker.

Edge – ASU

Frontcourt

When it comes to surveying the landscape of college basketball this season, you find that there aren't many people who have been better than Landry Fields this year but unfortunately, there aren't many people who have noticed. Fields has been a beast all season long for the Cardinal and without him, Stanford would undoubtedly be in the Pac-10 cellar. Next to Fields is Jack Trotter, a solid big man whose game has improved as the season has progressed. Andrew Zimmermann and Matei Daian provide some minutes off the bench.

In order to continue the winning ways and ensure postseason play, the inside presence of Eric Boateng and the consistency of Rihards Kuksiks both need to pick it up. Boateng was laughably bad in the first half against Arizona but he really made a difference in the second half scoring some big buckets and passing the ball in traffic. For Kuksiks, quite possibly his best performance in a big game this year, he put up 17 points in reserve duty but also showed his strength with six rebounds. Off the bench will be a suddenly clutch Jerren Shipp as well as Taylor Rohde.

Edge – Stanford

X-Factor

Rihards Kuksiks. After a big performance against Arizona, the Latvian sharpshooter has to keep it going. With Ty Abbott getting all of the defensive attention these days, Kuksiks needs to make the Cardinal pay for playing him loose. With a display similar to Sunday's, the Devils will be rolling.

Who Will Win and Why

I like Johnny Dawkins and I like that Stanford has overachieved this year but Herb Sendek is too good and this team knows what could possibly lie ahead with a win. I see a defensive battle but big plays from Abbott and Kuksiks will ultimately sink Stanford.

Prediction

ASU 71 Stanford 65


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