Game 29: March 3, 2007
Arena: Maples Pavilion
Arizona must find production out of their backcourt today in order to win. This statement would've been laughable. At the time, Shakur was playing the point as good as anyone in the country and McClellan was stroking jumpers and getting the hole with ease. Now though circumstances have changed and Arizona has been relying heavily on their forwards to carry the load. Against most opponents that would be outstanding. Against a Stanford frontline that features two seven footers and a host of 6'8" forwards, Arizona's inside game will be enough to neutralize the Cardinal but not beat them. So, what does this mean? It means that Shakur must not only find open teammates tonight, he must score. He'll be going up an inexperienced Cardinal backcourt so that should help. In fact, Shakur will be the most experienced player on the court at all times today so he should be able to use that edge to his advantage. With Arizona's new line up that starts Jordan Hill, Budinger gets moved to the two spot. That's good as his point production will be listed as part of our backcourt. For me though, I'm looking at the team needing 20 points from McClellan, Shakur and Dillon. If these three can combine for 20, then that'll force Stanford to extend their defense which will open up lanes for Budinger, Radenovic and Williams to penetrate the Stanford zone and get some easy lay buckets.
Stanford outrebounded Arizona by nine (32-23) the first time around and had an astounding 17 offensive boards that enabled them to keep the game close. Although Arizona ended up winning 89-75, it was a two possession game for most of the second half. Hill led the way for the Cardinal with 20 points while the Lopez Twins combined for 31 points and 16 rebounds. Stanford still relies heavily on their frontcourt for production. Their offense really seems to flow when they're patient and work the ball inside. At times, they settle way too early for poor jump shots and when they're not falling things go bad quickly. Against Arizona, too many outside shots early in the game allowed the Wildcats to jump out to a 16 point lead. Once they worked the ball down low the game took on a different tone and the Cardinal were able to battle with the Wildcats until the very end.
OFFENSIVE EDGE: ARIZONA
Neither team has to play perfect to get the win. They must play smart though and this has been a problem for both. Each is averaging around 14 turnovers a game with most coming in bunches that either put them in a hole or allow their opponents to close the gap after trailing by double digits. With two senior starters, Arizona should have an edge in poise. Shakur had 18 points and nine assists against the Cardinal back in January. He made 6 of 8 field goals and controlled the flow of the game from the jump. He can do this again and will. Stanford's backcourt is good. In fact they're Anthony Goods. The problem is they are so very young. While young players usually play well at home and poor on the road (which is why they are so inconsistent), I still think this game favors Arizona on the offensive side of the ball as Williams, Radenovic and Shakur will contribute enough points to keep them in it.
Arizona has shown signs of improvement, lately. They haven't made tremendous strides, but they have improved. Mainly, it's been a longer sustained effort. Teams know that Arizona is not a team who likes to play defense for all 35 seconds on the shot clock. However, teams are a bit surprised that the Wildcats have proven to be tenacious for what seems like 25-30 seconds every time down the floor. UCLA, USC, ASU and Cal all had to really work on offense to score against Arizona in the past two weeks. The Bruins were ridiculously good in canning jumpers as the horn sounded (that's why they're the best team in the country) as was USC. ASU and Cal had a much tougher time and that's why they both suffered losses. Today will require the same type of commitment as good defense could frustrate the younger Cardinal. Expect Arizona to play man, but don't be surprised to see a lot of zone as well. Foul trouble will dictate Arizona's defense tonight. If Hill can stay on the floor, then Arizona will play plenty of man in order to pressure Stanford's backcourt players.
Stanford will try and force Arizona to beat them from the perimeter. It didn't work the first time around, but it may today as the home crowd could give them the extra push they need to keep Arizona's scorers cold from the floor. Arizona must find a way to penetrate the zone but cannot allow themselves to get baited into going all the way to the hole. USC did this against Stanford once and Brooks Lopez had 15 blocked shots. Arizona instead must pull up and knock down some 10 footers first. This will then draw the Lopez Twins just far enough away from the basket to then allow some dump down feeds for easy lay-ins. Williams has proven to be a beast along the baseline all season and he'll need to attack the basket from those angles again tonight.
DEFENSIVE EDGE: STANFORD
Neither teams' defense is one to be feared, but Stanford's (at home) has the greater potential to be more disruptive than Arizona's today. Considering this, the Cardinal gets the edge albeit a slightly small one. Shakur really is the key for Arizona. If he plays well then it may not matter what Stanford does.
I just can't see Arizona pulling away today. If they do, then it'll be because they are either on fire, Stanford is colder than ice, or some combination of both.
There is just too much on the line for either team to roll over so I expect this game to go down to the wire.
Look for Arizona's Budinger to take a few more perimeter shots than he's accustomed to today to try and stretch Stanford's defense. While Budinger is one of our better slashers, the Wildcats will need him to contribute outside if they're to win.
Between Hill, Radenovic and Williams, the Wildcats will have enough inside to keep Stanford's big men occupied. In the end, the mere presence of Hill on the floor might be enough to prevent the Lopez's from over rotating and contesting shots.
ARIZONA 73 STANFORD 70