At long last, the two-week road trip is over. The 0 for 3 showing in the Emerald State and East Bay left Stanford in a tie for fifth.
Luckily for the Cardinal, they are back at home this weekend. And
luckily for the Cardinal, the weekend starts against the much-maligned Arizona State Sun Devils.
The big storylines for the Sun Devils this year all
center around who is NOT available to suit up for Herb Sendek. It started with
Jahii Carson, the top-50 recruit out of nearby Mesa, who was ruled academically
ineligible for the season in December and was unable to play in a single game
He was expected to be the main option at point guard, but his
ineligibility meant Keala King would be forced to play the "1." Despite his
nearly four turnovers per game, the guard formerly recruited by Stanford was
having a breakout year, averaging more than 13 points per game while also
averaging almost five boards per contest to go along with three dimes each time
And then he got suspended for the LA trip in early January for
unacceptable conduct. And then that suspension became a permanent boot from Herb
Sendek to the backside of the sophomore straight outta Compton. With this most
recent departure, King becomes the eighth player to leave Tempe since 2009, a
list that includes the subject of the best basketball book of all time,
Demetrius Walker, who played his heart out in New Mexico (where he has
become a valuable reserve for Steve Alford)The eighth player to skip town left Herb Sendek with eight available scholarship players; who said "8" was a lucky number, after all?.
So that paved the way for
dependable veteran guard Trent Lockett to take over the point. The junior
perimeter player was having himself quite the season, leading the team in
scoring at 13.9 points per game to go along with a team-leading 6.4 rebounds per
outing…and then he went down with a sprained ankle. Lockett has missed the last
four games and is doubtful for Thursday's clash with the Cardinal, according to
the Arizona Republic's Doug Haller.
Thus, Chris Colvin is now
handling the point duties. Thankfully for the Forks, Colvin is still healthy. In
the four games since he took over for Lockett, Colvin is averaging 11.5 points
and five assists per game… but also 4.5 turnovers.
Not surprisingly with
all the flux at point guard, that last statistic has been a huge problem for the
Sun Devils all season long. Arizona State is dead-last in the Pac-12 for
turnovers per game (16.3) and turnover margin (-5.1). They give it up a lot and
often don't get it back in return. In fact, Arizona State forced more turnovers
than they committed for the first team all season in their 71-67 victory over
Washington State this past Saturday. Hard to imagine that in a schedule that has
featured the likes Montana State, Pepperdine, Northern Arizona and Utah that
their 21st game of the season would be the first time they won the turnover
battle. As long as Stanford gets after it defensively on the perimeter, the
steals are going to be there for the taking for the likes of Jarrett Mann,
Chasson Randle, and Aaron Bright. This should be one area in which the Cardinal
have a huge advantage on Thursday night.
Stanford has had trouble keeping
opposing guards in check, and the Cardinal could very well have their hands full
again with junior wing Carrick Felix. He has made huge strides from his first
season in Tempe (he is a transfer from the College of Southern Idaho), when he
was averaging fewer than five points per game and shooting it at a 21 percent
clip from beyond the arc. Now? Those numbers are up to 11 and 36, respectively.
He is also very strong for his size around the hoop and can finish in traffic.
After the job he did on Allen Crabbe, I would expect to see a lot of Josh Huestis on this young man.
Or that potential killer perimeter could be
Jonathan Gilling, who is making a serious push to be on the Pac-12 All-Freshman
team. He is one guy the Cardinal can ill-afford to leave open in the corners, as
he had huge threes from those spots in both the Washington and Washington State
games, contests in which he scored 20 and 10, respectively, while also passing
for seven assists against the Cougs.
Down low, the Cardinal will concern
themselves with a couple of 7-footers, though probably not at the same time.
Moscow, Russia native Ruslan Pateev is one such giant. He's slow but can shoot
it effectively out to 18 feet and leads the team in blocks at Jack Bauer's
favorite number for the season. I'm a bigger fan of Jordan Bachynski, a 7'2''
center who has a lot of hustle. He had a career-high 13 rebounds in a close loss
to Washington last Thursday to go along with nine points. He is developing some
post moves and was able to finish nicely on multiple occasions against both the
Huskies and Cougars this past weekend. His main bugaboo is the charity stripe,
where he is only accurate 40 percent of the time.
The two trees rarely
play at the same time, but showed off what they can do in tandem briefly against
Washington, working a nice high-low between the two that led to an easy Pateev
layup. Regardless, I find it hard to believe that either of these guys will be
able to keep up with Josh Owens on the block. If Owens can go for 14 points on
7-13 against another 7-footer in Aziz N'Diaye, there's no reason to believe he
can't potentially do the same against these two. For Josh, it will all be a
matter of posting hard and getting the ball where he likes it, and if the double
comes, passing out quickly and getting ready to re-post or crashing the glass
for an offensive rebound.
The road to recovery starts Thursday night
against a team that is 7-14 overall and 3-6 in conference play. The three-game
road losing skid was disappointing, but gave no reason to be overly concerned. A
loss against the Sun Devils, and it might be time to hit the panic button,
because this one is certainly within the grasp of the Farm Boys.
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