The NITpicky Edition

That was a tough homestand. That was not funny. This is precisely the worst-case scenario, unless you are a real dithering nabob. Perhaps it wasn't a complete implosion, as we darned near won both games. But this ain't horseshoes. These losses had to be wins for us to keep hunting for an NCAA bid. Now we are staring relegation in the face again.

And relegation hasn't gotten any better looking; it still looks like Shane Skov in the fourth quarter of the 2012 Conference Championship game.

To top it all off, the dude who bought my UCLA tickets off me (yes, a Tahoe trip was in the offing) shorted me for the tickets. Investment bankers are not supposed to take their fee out of a basketball ticket transaction that they themselves finance. Just for that, I am going to make him take my Utah tickets for free and make him watch that game. But, hey, anything to talk about something other than the two games that transpired.

To continue to not talk about our games last weekend, I'd like applaud California's Allen Crabbe for the maturity that he displayed in the wake of his coach's lack of maturity. While college athletes and their coaches everywhere display remarkable immaturity all the time, Crabbe reacted about as well as humanly possible when faced with his coach's shocking inability to find a better way to coach. Crabbe's post-game comments to the press were a credit college basketball and our conference.

And now back to the pain and anguish of Stanford Men's Basketball getting skunked at home by the hated L.A. schools. I don't know about the rest of our fans, but I am really frustrated that we are so consistently competitive game in and game out, and so consistently unable to win the games we are so consistently competitive in.

But, it is the little things. All season long, actually for two seasons really, I have harped on missed bunnies. Well, against UCLA they were back with a vengeance. But these two games were about finding different ways to lose. We missed a ton of threes, mostly wide open, against a bad USC defense, so against UCLA we took even more. Too be even blunter, Josh Huestis could not be stopped by USC, his jumper went to Don McLean mode, so we didn't go to him for much of the second half. 3-of-4 in the second half for Josh, 7-of-9 in the first half. I had teammates that would have literally hurt a teammate for that type of oversight.

What is really frustrating is that we clearly had the best player in the gym in both games. Dwight Powell had 17 and 17 against usc, and 22 and 8 against UCLA, and we lost both games. Allen Crabbe has won back-to-back conference Player of the Week awards when Powell has been better, because cal has gone 3-4 and we have gone 1-4. We simply don't go to Powell enough. We should go all Ralph Miller (with A.C. Green), John Wooden (you name it), Trent Johnson (Brook) on Dwight and force the other teams to hold him under 30 points by double-teaming and if he doesn't touch the ball on a possession, you eat bench. Hell, the Duke coach did it in 1985 regularly with his best player.

Aaron Bright had five assists and one turnover against usc. He had 19 points and three assists against ucla. But for the first time in a long time I thought he was completely exposed on the defensive end of the floor. He was invisible against high-post screen and rolls, and it was obvious that Jio Fontan and Larry Drew III felt they could score on him if they had to. They did score on him when they had too. As a team, our high-post screen and roll defense sucked hippo wind all weekend. We defended it pretty well against Sparky, so I don't know what happened. Aaron didn't get over the screens in the first half against usc and didn't get a body on Dedmon, and Dedmon had a nice little rim run on us. If Aaron is going to get picked, he has to get around and bump Dedmon or fight through faster to Fontan. You can't get stuck in nowhere land and render yourself useless.

Against UCLA down the stretch, Drew went wherever he wanted. On a crucial play, with Stanford down four with 2:25 left, Drew went left off a David Wear screen to the rim and missed the lay-in under severe duress, and David Wear easily tipped in the miss to go up six. Why was it easy? Because Aaron never got more than a half-assed right elbow on Wear all the way down the paint and then made a desultory attempt at a screen off. You lose games this way.

And finally on Aaron, that was a lousy final possession against usc. That was a lousy play call coming out of a deadball. That play call showed the imagination of a shrub. Hard for me to imagine that four coaches got together and thought of running our most basic play for the 40th time in the game in that situation, where anyone half-decent defensively is going to commit to take away the obvious first option. Now if the coaches called it knowing that would happen and emphasized that we should immediately hit the counter to Powell at the weak high post and our players bungled it up, well, crap, I don't feel any better about anything. Our three best players never touched the ball. Maybe I am old school, but that is on the point guard.

I use this example because to me the little things, the attention to detail, are why we are losing close games. Aaron and Chasson have to throw their bodies around with a bit more desperation on the defensive glass. Obviously, we have to make bunnies and the front ends of one-and-ones. We missed three front-ends against usc. My old coach used call missed front ends of one-and-ones the silent killers. I am also officially tired of waiting for Rosco Allen to start making bunnies. I love his effort and energy and the fact he can go rip three offensive rebounds away against UCLA, but we had to have those two cripples he banged—and we didn't get them.

Chasson played a very good second half against the toejams, 16 points and some huge shots, but he is way too good to be so vacant in the first half. Heck, if he had played like that for cal, his coach would have punched him in the eye. Against UCLA, the offense again took care of itself, but Jordan Adams just flat had it too easy. 7-of-9 from the floor for 20 points is just too easy. Chasson is too good to lose those battles, even by a little. And remember, we lost by a little, twice.

Frankly, neither Sanders nor Harris did anything that warrants comment this weekend, other than Sanders had some nice assists and banged a front end of a one-and-one against usc.

So this weekend blew us right into the NIT, assuming we rally a bit and get some wins down the stretch. The bad news is that we have been a mediocre road team under Coach Dawkins. However, I'd rather be heading into Gill, where we won last season when Nelson played without his shoe and Burton wore blue shoes and Cunningham tried to go all dunk contest on us and got his crap pinned on the backboard instead. Get OSU or we are going to be facing a trip after the Pac-12 tourney called Spring Break.

Final Thought: Josh Huestis and Dwight Powell are too nice to their teammates.

Final, Final Thought: I didn't see a Gage 0-of-10 weekend coming, did you? I hope John likes shooting in Gill Coliseum better than he does Maples.

Final, Final, Final Thought: We have to beat the Nutria! The skid has to stop AFTER we make roadkill!

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