Cards opponent limps into NCAA Tournament

Louisville's first-round NCAA Tournament, Stanford, is limping into the Big Dance. The Cardinal, who lost to USC in the opening round of the PAC-10 Tournament last week, have lost four of their last five games and two key players are overcoming injuries.

While Louisville gets a virtual home game in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, the Cardinals will need all the fan support they can muster in Rupp Arena Thursday against a big and talented Stanford team.

Stanford is a tough team to figure.

They enter the NCAA Tournament having lost 6 of their last 10 games, and were blown out by Air Force and Santa Clara earlier this season. But it's clear the Cardinal can also beat anyone in the country on a given night, as evidenced by their five wins over ranked opponents.

Despite limping into the tournament, Stanford, 18-12 overall and 10-8 in the PAC-10, made the NCAA field by virtue of wins over six teams that made the NCAA Tournament: Texas Tech, Virginia, UCLA, USC, Oregon and Washington State.

Part of Stanford's problem down the stretch was an injury to sophomore point guard Anthony Goods. With Goods in the lineup, Stanford handily beat Oregon and overcame a 17 point deficit to beat UCLA. Without him, the Cardinal lost four of their last four games.

Goods, though, returned to action in the PAC-10 Tournament and led Stanford with 19 points and five assists in an, 83-79, overtime loss to USC, the fifth-seed in the NCAA Tournament East region.

"Anthony Goods to our team is probably more valuable than Darren Collison to UCLA when they went back and played West Virginia - that's how I look at it," Stanford coach Trent Johnson said.

Stanford is led by 6-8 sophomore forward Lawrence Hill, who averaged 15.9 points and 6 rebounds.

Hill was injured late in the loss to USC in the PAC-10 tournament when Loderick Stewart charged into him and did not return to game. Though Hill left the Staples Center on crutches, Stanford officials announced Friday that X-Rays were negative and he would return for the NCAA Tournament.

Louisville will have to contend with
the 7-0 Lopez twins.

Not a great three-point shooting team - only two players made more than 19 three-pointers this season, Hill is Stanford's second-leading three-point shooter behind Anthony Goods with 49 3's this season.

Rick Pitino's team will also have to contend inside with 7-foot freshmen twins, Brooke and Robin Lopez.

Those two talented freshmen anchor the middle for the Cardinal. Brook Lopez, one of the top freshmen in the PAC-10, is the bigger offensive threat of the two, having averaged 12.4 points and 6 rebounds, while Robin Lopez, who blocked 72 shots, averaged 7.7 points and 5.6 points. The Lopez twins also combined for 117 blocked shots.

The Cardinal have solid depth, too, as eight guys average more than 14 minutes per game. Mitch Johnson and 6-5 freshman Landry Fields provide relief in the backcourt, while 6-8 junior Taj Finger provides valuable minutes in the frontcourt. The trio combined to average more than 12 points per game this season.

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