Cardinal Rules

No. 10/11 Stanford advanced to face No. 24/25 Marquette in the second round of the NCAA Tournament after a 77-53 victory over Cornell on Thursday. MarquetteHoops.com's Jeff Wolf breaks it down

No. 10/11 Stanford Cardinal (No. 3 seed, South Region)

(27-7, 13-5 Pac-10)

Head Coach Trent Johnson

 

Probable Starters

F Brook Lopez – So, 7-0, 260

C Robin Lopez – So, 7-0, 255

F Fred Washington – Sr, 6-5, 215

G Anthony Goods – Jr, 6-3, 205

G Mitch Johnson – Jr, 6-1, 190

 

Key Reserves

F Lawrence Hill – Jr, 6-8, 215

F Taj Fingers – Sr, 6-8, 200

 

 

No. 10/11 Stanford advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament after a 77-53 victory over Cornell on Thursday.

 

The Cardinal finished second in both the Pac-10 regular season standings, going 13-5, and the conference tournament, falling to UCLA 67-64 in the championship game.  In fact, three of Stanford's seven losses on the season came at the hand of the No. 2/3 Bruins.  Yet Head Coach Trent Johnson felt like his team's rigorous conference schedule helped prepare them for the postseason.

 

"If you lost focus on a possession defensively or offensively, in our league, you were going to struggle and probably going to get beat," said Coach Johnson. "Now you go into the NCAA tournament, where it's one game and, if you don't play well, you go home. So I think it's prepared us."

 

The Cardinal have to feel especially prepared because they were able to win their opening-round match-up without huge offensive contributions from their two most important players, seven-foot twins Brook and Robin Lopez.

 

The brothers from Fresno, Calif. have been an integral part of Stanford's success this season.  Both players look alike and have similar playing styles, but there are a few subtle differences.

 

Brook wears number 11 and sports a neat buzz-cut, while Robin wears number 42 on his back and a frizzy brown afro on his head.

 

Brook is the team leader in minutes (31.5), points (19.2), and rebounds (8.5) per game.  He has played in 24 games and led the Cardinal in scoring 18 times.  Brook has also recorded three 30-point performances this season, including a 75-68 victory over Washington State that sent Stanford to the championship game of the Pac-10 Tournament.  He didn't play enough games to qualify for the Pac-10 leader board, but would have been fourth in scoring and fifth in rebounding.  He has great hands and a diversified portfolio of post moves, both for going inside and scoring from the baseline. 

 

"Brook is very, very gifted offensively," said Coach Johnson.  "And that's one of the areas, as a coach, that you have to be smart enough to know not to mess with."

 

However, Brook is not the greatest finisher, only converting 46.7 percent of his shots from the field.  He is also a 77 percent free-throw shooter, best among Stanford's starters.

 

Robin is not as prolific of a scorer or rebounder, but is still third on the team in scoring (10.0 points per game) and second in rebounding (5.6 boards per game).  On the other hand, he is more active on the offensive glass and a more dangerous shot-blocker (he leads the team with 75 rejections).  Robin is less involved in the offense and gets a lot of his points off put-backs inside.  As one might imagine, he shoots a higher percentage from the field (52.6 percent).  However, he is only a 66.7 percent free-throw shooter.

 

And how does their coach tell the twins apart?

 

"Brook's a little quiet and more reserve," said Coach Johnson. "Whereas Robin's probably a little more emotional."

While frontcourt play is dominant for the Cardinal, their guard play is not to be underestimated.  Anthony Goods is Stanford's primary scorer from the guard position, averaging 10.4 points per game.  He is also a 35.3 percent three-point shooter and has connected on 60 long-range shots this season.

 

Point guard Mitch Johnson averages a team-leading 4.8 assists per game to go with 6.8 points and 4.4 rebounds per contest.  While not a strong scorer, he has managed to contribute in nearly every other way for Stanford.  Mitch has a very strong 2.3 assist-to-turnover ratio and is a solid rebounder, having recorded as many as nine boards in a game this season. 

 

 "Mitch Johnson has done an exceptional job of being able to feed the post and manage the team without scoring," said Coach Johnson.


His one weakness is shooting from the free-throw line, where he only makes 66 percent of his attempts.

 

Junior Lawrence Hill averages 8.9 points and 4.9 rebounds per game off the bench.  He led the Cardinal with 18 points against Cornell and scored a season-high 19 points in a double-overtime win against Washington State during the regular season.

 

The Cardinal play a grind-it-out style of ball.  They score an average of 70.7 points per game, while shooting only 44.9 percent from the field (second-worst in the Pac-10) and relying on their dominance on the glass to get second chances (they are plus-8 rebounding on the season). Outside of Goods, they do not shoot a lot of three-pointers, although they are fairly accurate when they do spot up, with Mitch Johnson a 28-of-74 (37.8 percent) three-point shooter on the season.

 

They are a strong defensive team, allowing only 60.6 points per game, but they are not a pressure team.  They don't force a lot of turnovers but, thanks to their size, they are incredibly good at preventing teams from scoring in the half-court.  Opponents shoot only 39.4 percent against Stanford, and the Cardinal led their conference in blocked shots with over five per game.

 

Stanford doesn't foul that much.  In fact, Brook Lopez only averages 2.5 fouls per game at the forward position.  However, they do commit a lot of turnovers.

 

So how does Coach Johnson expect to play against fast-paced teams, such as Marquette, in the NCAA Tournament?

 

"We're going to defend.  We're going to rebound. We're going to try to limit a team's transition baskets. We're going to try to get the shooters. We have to take care of the ball.  And somewhere along the line, efficiency on offense is going be important for us."

 

The Cardinal were 16-1 at home this season, so playing their regional games in nearby Anaheim is also an advantage.

 

As a program, Stanford is 19-14 all-time in the NCAAs, including a National Championship victory in 1942 and a Final Four appearance in 1998.  The Cardinal lost to Louisville in the first round of last year's tournament.

 

No. 24/25 Marquette and Stanford square off Saturday at the Honda Center, at 5:45 CST.

 

Statistics as of March 15, 2008

 

Jeff Wolf is the head student writer for MarquetteHoops.com and is a sophomore majoring in advertising. Jeff is also the Assistant Sports Director for Marquette Radio, WMUR.


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