Going into this weekend, a split on the road against the Mountain schools looked like the most probable outcome for the Stanford Cardinal, as the Farm Boys were three-point ‘dogs on Thursday night. But after a 74-50 thumping of Tad Boyle's Colorado Buffaloes, a split would be extremely disappointing.
That's because the team on the back-end of this two-game
roadie is Utah, a squad that has been in a world of hurt since the season
started. At 5-22 and 2-13 in conference play, it would appear that the Runnin'
Utes would offer little-to-no resistance to a Stanford team fresh off a 24-point
beat-down of a team that is in the running for a first-round bye in the Pac-12
Not so fast though. I'm sure everyone reading this article
remembers well the gruesome 68-65 victory for Stanford over Utah in Maples
Pavilion last month. Although the Farm Boys came out victorious, it was probably
their worst performance of the season. Five for 17 free-throwing and 18
turnovers for Stanford in that game - hell, if Utah had hit more than half of
its free throws, the Runnin' Utes would have won the damn thing! Instead, Utah
was 1-9 as a team from the charity stripe and fell in what was their best road
performance of the season (Utah has yet to win a road game this
Another thing about the Huntsman Hunks - they play HARD; if only
the Phil Matthews-led USF Dons of the late-‘90s and early 2000's could lend
Krystkowiak their shooting shirts! Colorado only knocked off the Runnin' Utes
last weekend by seven points for a reason, and it wasn't because Colorado played
terribly (we've been through what happened the first 12 minutes of that game,
but outside of that, Colorado wasn't all that bad). Utah made everything
difficult on the Buffaloes and forced them to work for every bucket that wasn't
out of a timeout set. Colorado was clearly the better team, but Utah certainly
had their moments.
They got into a good rhythm offensively in the second
half. Jason Washburn was a handful down low, finishing nicely and quickly around
the basket en route to a 16-point, 10-rebound performance. The guy has touch and
is pretty skilled. I still think he's a little slow and that he needs work on
the defensive end, but he can certainly be a pill on the offensive end.
The Runnin' Utes were also pretty effective from downtown, hitting six
of their first 14 three-point attempts before missing their final five. Now to
be fair, they did bank in two threes in the first half, and neither was
intentional - Dijon Farr's offering from the left wing was simply completely off
target and Chris Hines' banker came from just about even with the basket on the
right baseline. I've seen that shot made once before in my life, and it was from
somebody who didn't come close to making the cut on our high school basketball
team (but who am I to speak- I got cut too and it wasn't even
There is one big difference on the Utah team from when Stanford
played the Utes last - their leading scorer has been sent packing. That's Josh
"Jiggy" Watkins, who was averaging a cool 15.6 points and 4.8 assists per game.
The Pac-12's very own Khalid El-Amin allegedly got the boot for repeating
similar actions that got him suspended for one game earlier in the season, which
included sleeping through class and being late to practice, according to this
Salt Lake City Tribune Article.
I interviewed Krystkowiak less than a week before he kicked Watkins off the
team, and in hindsight, I realize that I sort of sensed that Coach K wasn't a
big Watkins fan. I asked him what Watkins meant to the team beyond the points
and assists stats, and he pretty much just described how Watkins scores and
drops dimes. You can re-read the Q&A - maybe I'm reading too much into it,
because he does compliment Watkins quite a bit - but he wasn't exactly
heaping praise on his all-everything like you would expect most coaches
In any case… Without their go-to, who was going to pick up the
Junior guard Chris Hines has done his best filling the shoes left
behind by Jiggy, averaging 11.5 points per game since Watkins has been gone. And
regardless of how ugly Hines' three may have looked against Colorado in that one
instant, the Ute actually leads the conference in three-pointers made per game
in conference games only at 2.5 per contest. In contrast, Cardinal fans probably
remember him more for his ability to get to the rack at will on Stanford en
route to 21 points. He certainly has the capability of scoring from anywhere on
Cedric Martin has also picked up his scoring, averaging more
than 12 points in the last five games leading up to this weekend. He has also
helped out in the assists category, where Watkins also left a gaping hole,
combining for 12 assists and just one turnover in the two previous games leading
up to Thursday's 60-46 loss against Cal (what nobody is talking about: both Cal
men's and women's basketball teams beat Utah's men's and women's basketball
teams by a score of 60-46 on Thursday night. How often has that
The other guy helping out with the dimes is the true freshman
Kareem Storey, who has started at the "1" since Watkins' dismissal. In those
starts, Storey is averaging 7.7 points and 5.0 assists while sporting a 1.6:1
Utah is at their best when they muck it up, so
to speak - hold on to the ball for 20 seconds before getting into much offense
and limit the number of possessions the game can possibly have. They are at an
athletic disadvantage at every spot on the floor, so grinding the game to a halt
gives them the best chance to neutralize the opposition's comparative
And, although Utah will have its first losing record at home
in 38 years, Coach K's team has been pretty tough to beat at the Huntsman
Center. Washington State and Arizona State found that out harshly - the Cougars
lost in OT and the Sun Devils never had a chance, falling by 21. Colorado was
able to escape last weekend with a W. Same with Washington back in the second
weekend of conference play - the Utes were pretty much step-for-step with the
Pac-12 frontrunners the whole way before dropping the contest by four. Hell,
even Cal was tied with the Runnin' Utes at halftime.
Stanford should win,
and if Thursday is any indication, it shouldn't be close to being close. But
then again, Utah is perhaps the worst road team in a BCS conference and didn't
fall to the Cardinal until a last-second three point attempt was airmailed from
As long as Stanford limits the turnovers and improves the
free-throw shooting as compared to the January 12 game against Utah, they should
be in good shape. But even those things being corrected won't mean a
double-digit road victory: Washington only committed eight turnovers against
Utah in Salt Lake City; Washington State only ten in 45 minutes; Colorado only
12 and shot 79 percent from the charity stripe.
In any case, a win for
the Cardinal puts them at 20 and clinches their first winning conference record
under the watchful eye of Johnny Dawkins. It also keeps Stanford in serious
contention for a top-half Pac-12 finish, which would mean avoiding having to
play Cal or Washington in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 tournament should
Stanford win its first round game.
Get ready for a potentially "ugly"
basketball game. Doesn't matter how it looks, though, as long as the Card can
complete the sweep.
Are you fully subscribed to The
Bootleg? If not, then you are missing out on all the top
Cardinal coverage we provide daily on our award-winning website. Sign up today
for the biggest and best in Stanford
sports coverage with TheBootleg.com (sign-up)!
Since We Last Spoke: Utah
The Bootleg Top Stories
Opposing Views: WashingtonMark DeVaughn talks with Dawgman.com's Chris Fetters about the Battle in Seattle.
The Bootleg12:10 AM
Practice Notes 9/28: Fanaika's out tooThe injury woes only get worse for the Cardinal leading up to their biggest game of the season
The BootlegWednesday at 8:55 PM
The Agony and The EcstasySo much happened in Stanford's Saturday night in Pasadena, and then everything happened in the final two minutes.
The BootlegTuesday at 9:09 PM
Practice Notes 9/27: Meeks, Holder, Marx outStanford is now down a WR, 2 CBs and a FB against No. 10 UW
The BootlegTuesday at 8:16 PM