And 1: Stanford 75, Bethune Cookman 56

Kevin Danna brings his insights and observations from Stanford's win over the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats, a 75-56 victory at Maples Pavilion on Monday evening.

It wasn't pretty. It was more of a game than any of us really wanted it to be. My prediction about only needing to get to 50 was wrong.

But in the end, it was a win, and almost a 20-point one at that.

There are typically four ways games like these (a high-major vs. a guarantee game opponent) go: 1) a blowout victory where the low-major school never has a chance, 2) a game where the high-major team is always in control but doesn't necessarily dominate on the scoreboard, 3) a game that's way too close and the high-major doesn't wake up until the final seconds (a la Oklahoma vs. Central Arkansas last year), or 4) a rare upset that usually also isn't that close (look to UCLA's 20-point loss against Middle Tennessee State, Washington's 19-point loss against South Dakota State - the Pac-12 has been the victim to the http://midmajority.com Red Line Upset more than any other power conference this year).

Monday night's game lands somewhere in between options two and three.  You never thought Stanford was going to lose the game (at least I didn't), but the Card didn't exactly dictate the pace of play for a good portion of the game either.

Credit Bethune-Cookman. This was a team that came in WAY undermanned - they only dressed eight and were without their leading scorer Anthony Breeze, who had an ankle injury- and had the Cardinal lead down to six near the halfway point of the second half.  Their dedication to the "we're going to dribble the ball at half court for 20 seconds until we get into our offense, no matter how much we're down" mentality certainly kept this game within shouting distance.

Fewer possessions, less variance. Hard to argue with Gravelle Craig's logic.

The Cardinal appeared to be a little bothered by the Wildcat defense for a good part of the first half also, committing nine turnovers in the first 20. The Farm Boys had the right idea- try to pound it down low (only four three-point attempts in the first half) and get easy looks against an undersized Wildcat squad, but the shots and put-backs weren't falling at the desired pace. It was guys like Garrius Holloman and Javoris Bryant who made it more difficult than expected down low.

But once that game got down to six in the second half, Stanford went into "F this, we're tired of this game being this close" mode and put the game away with a 22-5 run.

The key? While more shots were falling from outside (and the Card hit a fantastic percentage in the second half, as Aaron Bright and Anthony Brown really started to get it going, but more on Mr. Brown later), it was Stanford's getting the Wildcats into serious foul trouble that eventually did the MEAC side in. At one point in the game, I wasn't sure whether the Wildcats would still have five guys that would be able to play by the last couple of minutes. Two of their eight fouled out, and there was a big conglomerate at three fouls.

Credit Stanford. The Farm Boys realized that if they took the game down low, the Wildcats didn't have a prayer. Jarrett Mann did a great job in particular of getting to the hoop and drawing fouls that would eventually put the Cardinal in the bonus. He almost single-handedly fouled out Marc Mack, who picked up his last two fouls trying to keep up with Jarrett in the second half.

Marc's a forward, Jarrett's a guard. The Delaware Don (not to be confused with Delaware's Delle Donne, of course), recognized this mismatch and utilized his quicks to get past Mack, who couldn't move his feet quick enough and had to bump Jarrett from getting a clear path to the hoop.

On Anthony Brown…it was great to see him go off. He certainly had an "I'm going to take this game over" train of thought in the second half, as his shot was really starting to fall. He also had a beautiful take to the rack in the first half that was capped off by a sweet lefty finish. It looks as though that knee isn't bothering him anymore. Now let's see if Dwight can get going after battling an early-season injury…

On the Harris missed dunk…I would have liked to see him lay that one in. I know he got a sexy bounce pass from Aaron in transition and wanted the flashy finish, but it's better to just get the easy deuce. That was effectively a six-point swing because of the technical that followed with him hanging on the rim (which wasn't a case of Gabe trying to show off- it almost looked as if he was trying to stuff his miss back in, and what better place to do that than hanging on the rim?). Supposedly he had only tried to dunk once in a practice before that, but I guess when you're in the heat of the moment, and you have the ability to get rim, it just looks too juicy. I cannot comment on that though - I have never touched rim in my life so I have no idea what THAT feeling is like.

On Chasson…does this man have a knack for hitting clock-expiring-contested-jumpers or what? Last night wasn't the first time he's done that, but it is so great to have a guy that can deliver when the offensive set dissolves in the waning moments of the shot clock. Just get the Rock Island Rookie the ball, and magic might happen. It did on two separate occasions last night.

This game reminded me a lot of the Hartford contest back in late December of 2008- Dawkins' first season. Penultimate non-conference game (the Bakersfield game took place in the heat of the conference season) and an eight-loss team coming into Maples. The Hawks out of the America East came in and gave the Card more than they hoped to bargain for in a 69-55 win for the home team. Monday felt much like that game on December 30 three years ago.

Not that this comes from experience (and trust me, it doesn't), but those games are like taking home a sloppy drunk from your local pub. You might feel dirty about your performance, but at the end of the night, you got it done, and it wasn't that hard to do so.

Time for Butler. Rest assured, the Bulldogs will be sober. It'll take some serious game on the Cardinal part to knock this one down.
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