DoddsOnSports (DOS): We're previewing the big game between Stanford and Marquette. Thanks for taking time out, Dan.
Dan: Oh, it's a pleasure, thank you very much for giving me a call.
DOS: It really seems like it's going to be a contrast and styles – the tall timber of Stanford versus Marquette's short guard's run and gun. Question for you. Briefly summarize the style of Stanford?
Dan: Well, it's two words. It's pretty simple and those two words are Brook and Lopez because all Stanford wants to do offensively is pound into #11 time and time again. He'll score his 20 or 25 and if the other team doubles him, he'll kick it out and that's really what's going to make the offense run. If they want to play a half court, try something that is, you know, in the half court. We can play with or we can compete with any team in the country. We really want to limit transition opportunities and we really want to shoot to the glass hard.
DOS: OK, tell us about your coach. I know that Trent Johnson was at Nevada for many years. How long has he been there and what is his style?
Dan: OK, well you remember Mike Montgomery obviously. He was here for a long long time and then went to Golden State (NBA) and so this is actually Trent Johnson's fourth year here. He succeeded Montgomery, and a lot of people just kind of overlooked him because of what a good coach Montgomery was but he's slowly coming into his own. I think one of his weaknesses is probably actually game day coaching -- making tactical decisions, making decisions late in the game. He's a great recruiter. He really motivates the players to play hard, but a lot of people kind of questioned his strategic decisions sometimes.
DOS: I guess you're not a college basketball fan unless you question your coach. Let's go over the starting lineup for Stanford. You have the twin towers in #11 7-0 260 Brook Lopez and his brother #42 7-0 255 Robin. They are sophomores?
Dan: They are both sophomores. Brook is projected to be a top five NBA draft pick and from everything I've heard he's out of here, out of here, out of here.
DOS: OK, then his brother Robin, he was supposed to be the lesser of the two but just watching that game against Cornell the other day, he looked pretty darn good.
Dan: I think the biggest story kind of the last month of our season and one of the things that has really flown under the radar is how much Robin has progressed offensively. He's the best defender. He's the best post defender in all the Pac 10 without question and he would probably go in the late first or high second round if he were drafted. The big question is going to be whether he leaves or whether he comes back, but he offensively has really progressed as you mentioned. Robin's doing a much better job shooting. He has much better touch. He's doing a much better job passing out double teams.
DOS: The $64,000 question for Marquette fans: what about the guards for Stanford?
Dan: That's a $64,000 question for Stanford too. (#1) Mitch Johnson, 6-1, 190 Jr. G, is probably the guy you want to exploit defensively. He's kind of a slow and steady point guard. His dad was John Johnson, who was in the NBA, won a title with the Super Sonics, kind of a B level celebrity.
DOS: Sure, he's from Milwaukee. He played at Milwaukee Messmer.
Dan: And Mitch has that upbringing and it shows because he's really smart and he's really heady with the ball. Coach liked him and coach will play him 35, 36 minutes most games. And he's the guy who is a great passer, but defensively, he's probably one of the slowest guys on our roster. If you put UCLA, Darren Collison went off 25 points against him. Arizona PG 5-10 Nic Wise went off. Oregon PG 5-6 Tajuan Porter went off. He has a really tough job staying in front of opposing point guards. And when he's not able to do that, one of the Lopez twins has to shift over and that just opens up a lot of things defensively.
DOS: What about the other guards? What about the 2Gs out on the perimeters?
Dan: Our shooting guard is (#4) Anthony Goods, 6-3, 205 Jr. G, who is kind of, well, there is no other way to put it, hasn't lived up to the expectations a lot of fans had for him this year.
Last year and I'll group (#15) Lawrence Hill, 6-8, 215 Jr. F in that category. Lawrence Hill is kind of a three/four hybrid.
(#44) Fred Washington, 6-5, 215, senior F is a three/four hybrid. Most of those guys would be the main guys I would expect to see play. Goods, Washington, and Hill, and I would say that all three of them really haven't lived up to the expectations some fans had for them this year. And all of them are playing at a level that is significantly higher than last year. We can run through each of them and there are different reasons for why they have struggled at times and different things that they do or don't bring to the table.
I'll start with Hill whose kind of the least does. He's listed as a forward but I mean with the twins in our system, he's going to be playing the three (SF) a lot of the time. He is a guy who is really long. He's a bit slower defensively. A lot of teams will use screens to kind of free guys and he has trouble at times keeping up around screens. He's a long defender and he's the guy who can shut down kind of a hybrid player, a guy like Kyle Weaver. He does a good job of shutting down. He's a guy who has really found some stroke as the season's gone on because in the first part of the season it wasn't pretty, but he had some games down the stretch where he played more offense and hopefully he's getting his stroke back for us. He's the guy who is going to get a lot owed to us because of the other weapons we have on our team.
#4 Goods is going to start, he's going to play his 30 minutes. I would imagine (#44) Washington and (#15) Hill both get about 15 minutes but Goods is a guy the first half of the season was shooting around 30%. This is a guy fans were hoping to be all pack ten. And to shoot 30%, that was a real stab in the arm for a lot of people. And then the second half of the season, he picked it up though. He's raised his percentage to about 35% which isn't spectacular, but Marquette is not a spectacular shooting team either. Goods is also a defense defender, definitely better than Mitch Johnson. He's done okay against guys like Russell Westbrook, a first round NBA guy.
So, Anthony Goods is probably one of our better defenders on the perimeter. Our best defender on the perimeter is Fred Washington. He's a guy who comes in when we need to lock down one player on the other team. He comes in and he more often than not shuts the guy down, which is spectacular to have somebody like that on the roster. His health is a big question. His knee is banged up. Every part of his body seems like it has been banged up at one time or another this season and for Fred Washington, the thing is he can't shoot like Mitch Johnson. Mitch has done a better job shooting this season but Fred Washington really cannot shoot to hit the backside of a barn. And so anytime he's in there offensively we're really losing a lot and his guy will sag all the way off and just permanently double team Brook Lopez.
DOS: What about any depth at the big man position?
Dan: (#31) Taj Finger, 6-8, 200 Sr. F, is probably the fan favorite. Taj Finger is a natural forward. When both of the twins are in there, one of them has to play the floor, but Taj Finger is the guy. He's a smaller, quicker. If we have a guy who is a lot more mobile than the twin, we'll bring him in to defend. We'll bring on Taj Finger. He gets a ton of offensive rebounds. He's all hustle. He's all energy. He's a bit undersized to play professionally and he doesn't quite have the skill sets to play professionally but just in the first round game for example, he was 5 of 7 for 10 points and that's just because he does a great job of getting open when the Lopez twins are double teamed. He just always seems to know where to be. Defensively, a bigger guy will shave him over but I don't think Marquette has a guy who is that huge, so he's going to be a good guy against smaller defenders and try to keep up with them.
DOS: As a team, what would say are Stanford's strengths and weaknesses?
Dan: I think one weakness and part of me hopes that it will even come into play because the line is 2-1/2 and I'm really scared of Marquette because of the style of play, but I hope it comes into play and one of the weaknesses is we kind of let up at times with the lead. You look at the Arizona State game, we were up by 14 with 7 minutes to go. We managed to lose in overtime because we stopped being aggressive offensively. The same thing nearly happened the next day against Arizona. We've seen it time and time again. We get out to a big lead and we kind of let the foot of the gas a little bit.
DOS: How are you with three-point shooting?
Dan: (#1) Mitch Johnson has the world's ugliest shot but he's coming along. He's shooting his 36%. Hill is a guy who should be shooting at a much better percentage than he is. The same thing with Goods, so I think the word that would be the fairest is probably inconsistent or something like potentially good both of which kind of convey is that the players are there, the personnel is there, there is no reason it shouldn't be very good but some games it hasn't been this year.
DOS: You lost against UCLA three times, Siena once and Arizona State once, was there a common denominator or a thread in those losses?
Dan: Honestly, Siena was kind of a fluke and that was without Brook Lopez who was academically ineligible for fall quarter. Was that a 9 a.m. start on the East Coast after we played in Chicago two days earlier, so I would think that was kind of a fluke but all the other losses were certainly legit. The three losses to UCLA are certainly legit. The loss to Oregon as well. I think the common theme was that all of those teams have multiple guards who can attack us from the guard position especially the point guard position because Mitch Johnson, sink or swim, is going to be our point guard. It seems like they attack us defensively, get into the lane, force Lopez to collapse. You look at the last UCLA game, they had an 18-5 offensive rebounding edge which is incredible given that we have two 7 footers in the post. The reason is Collison penetrating from the point guard position so Lopez twins had to shift over into the paint and then there was nobody left to box out so other teams would just trash the glass really hard and get easy rebounds and get easy put backs.
DOS: Do you guys ever play zone on defense or are you strictly man to man?
Dan: We switch up at times and play a zone. Coach Trent Johnson doesn't like to do it because we're a slower team and we don't have the athleticism necessarily to spot guys and box out and grab those defensive rebounds.
DOS: So, what's your biggest worry about the game?
Dan: I'm a Stanford expert, certainly not a Marquette expert, but from what I understand the Golden Eagles has several guards capable of penetrating, who are capable of scoring, who are capable of lighting it up, and that concerns me because we only have so many players on defense that can really do a good job out on the perimeter and when people get into the lane, that's kind of when our defense starts to break down. I think that's my biggest worry.
DOS: If there is one player who would get in foul trouble, that would be the key guy to get into foul trouble for Stanford, what player can you least afford to lose?
Dan: Brook. He's projected to go #3 in the NBA. It's not rocket science.
DOS: Dan, great info. Thank you for taking the time.