Stanford and Michigan State will be playing for the sixth time in this series. The Spartans hold a 3-2 edge. However, their last meeting saw Stanford score a 75-64 victory at the 2001 Pete Newell Challenge.
Both of Stanford's victories in the series against Michigan State have been on neutral territory. Historically overall, Stanford is 22-and-25 against Big 10 teams.
STANFORD CARDINAL (Record: 2-3)
2 Mark Bradford G 6-2 205 SO
3 Carlton Weatherby G 6-1 180 JR
10 Tim Morris G 6-4 215 RS FR
15 Evan Moore F 6-7 235 SO
22 Kenny Brown G 6-1 190 FR
31 Taj Finger F 6-8 185 FR
32 Jason Haas G 6-2 190 JR
44 Fred Washington F 6-5 205 SO 55 Peter Prowitt C 6-10 250 FR
Size and Solid Guard Play Junior Dan Grunfeld, the son of former NBA player and GM Ernie Grunfeld, has blasted out of the gate this season. The 6'6" junior swingman is averaging 19.4 points and 6.8 rebounds per game this year. Grunfeld's backcourt mate, Chris Hernandez, has collected 14.4 points and 4.6 assists-per-game. The Cardinal is not as dominant in the paint this season as they have been in years past, nevertheless they remain tough there. Their inside leader is junior Forward Matt Haryasz, who has dropped in 11.4 PPG and a team leading 8.8 RPG. Senior Center Rob Little currently leads the Cardinal in shooting at 60% (24-for-40). After a slow start in their first three games, Little has played well. His breakout game came against Louisville on November 24, when he hit 9-of-11 shots in chalking up a career-high 19 points along with six rebounds and three steals in 35 minutes of play.
CARDINAL WEAKNESSES: Poor 3-point shooting and Inconsistent Defense
The Cardinal game plan the last few years, under former Head Coach Mike Montgomery, has been a dominant inside game combined with terrific perimeter shooting. This season as a team, Stanford has only hit 12-48 from behind the arc (25%). The best player this season in that department has been Chris Hernandez, who is 8-for 25 (32%) from downtown. New Cardinal Skipper Trent Johnson is working hard to try and get his team to recapture that inside-outside magic.
Stanford has also struggled defensively in the second half in four of its first five games. Aside from the win over BYU (62-53) the Cardinal has given up an average of 45.3 points in second-half play, including 58 in their 86-76 loss to Santa Clara back on November 28.
#20 MICHIGAN STATE (Record: 4-2)
Michigan State Probable Starters
Michigan State Bench
SPARTAN STRENGTHS: Balanced Scoring and Improved Rebounding
Six Spartans are averaging in double figures so far this season. By comparison, just three Spartans averaged in double figures last year. Chris Hill was the only player to do so in 2002-03.
Maurice Ager has led the scoring onslaught with 16.5 points-per-game. Entering 2004, Ager averaged 7.5 points for his career, shooting 39.2% overall and 36.9% from 3-point range. His accuracy has improved greatly this season, shooting 52.4%from the field and 53.6% from 3-point range.
Michigan State currently leads the Big Ten in five statistical categories, including scoring offense (88.8 PPG), free throw percentage (.779), rebounding offense (40.5 per-game), rebounding margin (+9.7) and offensive rebounds (14.83 per-game).
SPARTAN WEAKNESSES: Streaky Defense and Inside Punch behind Paul Davis
In their last two games versus George Washington (a 96-83 loss) and George Mason (a 66-60 win), the Spartans have allowed a combined 82 points in the paint. In addition, they allowed the respective Georges to shoot a combined 52.5% from the field (62-118) in those two games.
The Spartans' lack of an inside post presence behind Paul Davis remains a problem, as his primary backups, redshirt sophomore Forward Delco Rowley and sophomore Center Drew Naymick, have combined to average just 5.3 points and 8.1 rebounds-per-game this season.
SPARTAN KEYS TO VICTORY: Ball Control, Rebounding, and Keeping Paul Davis on the Floor
If MSU can cut down on their turnovers (16 per-game-average), as well as continue to maintain their edge on the glass (+9.7 RPG this season), they should win. The next factor will be keeping Paul Davis out of foul trouble. If Davis spends extended minutes on the bench Saturday in foul trouble, the Cardinal duo of Forward Matt Haryasz and Center Rob Little could really lay waste to the inexperienced Rowley and Naymick.