Split decision for Stanford in LA

Two close games, only one win for Stanford's trip to SoCal

Results: Lost @%%MATCH_4%% 86-81 (2OT), Won @%%MATCH_5%% 78-76

School Pace eFG% TOV% ORB% FT/FGA ORtg
Stanford Offense 63.8 .495 15.6 35.2 36.5 107.9
Stanford Defense 63.8 .459 20.1 27.7 35.3 94

Yes, I have a strong bias towards the annual L.A. trip. I live there. The four games the Cardinal plays against the L.A. schools mean more to me than any others. When you live five minutes from Pauley Pavilion and you drive past USC everyday on your way to work, it’s hard not to prioritize your school’s annual visits. That aside, however, I’ve always considered the L.A. Trip to be a pretty effective barometer. When the program was at its strongest, it always performed in Los Angeles, especially under the legendary rafters of Pauley. It helped that during Stanford’s Golden Age (which fortunately overlaps my matriculation and graduation) the Cardinal’s best players included Southern California players who clearly got up for the L.A. Trip. This started with one Arthur Lee, who played all four years with a Bruin-sized chip on his shoulders, and continued through the Collins Twins, Mike McDonald, and Casey Jacobsen.

This year’s version of Stanford Basketball came into Pauley on a Thursday and left Galen Center on a Sunday after playing 90 minutes of basketball that vacillated from the exhilarating to the exasperating. Bottom line is that they sit at 3-1 in the conference, they struggled against a team they should have crushed and they gagged a game up to a desperate team that they should have been able to handle. And while I still maintain that the good far outweighs the bad on this team, Stanford now faces some inconvenient truths about itself that crystallized under the soggy and dark L.A. skies.

School Pace eFG% TOV% ORB% FT/FGA ORtg
Stanford 59.8 .472 9.1 28.9 .197 108
UCLA 59.8 .500 11.2 41.5 .387 114.7

Last Thursday, the Cardinal went into shiny and refurbished Pauley Pavilion and got just about everything they could have wanted. They got the game at a favorable pace, they held onto the ball, and they had a double digit lead late in the second half. That they walked out of the gym for a ninth straight year without a victory is a testament to the Bruins’ predicted desperation and fight, but more so to some issues that are plaguing the Cardinal.

As we know this year, Stanford’s offense is outperforming its defense. Against UCLA, Stanford really couldn’t stop UCLA from shooting well, and the Cardinal exacerbated that problem by getting absolutely destroyed on the boards by the Bruins. The Beast that is %%MATCH_6%% gathered 10 offensive rebounds all by himself, and the failures that led to his proficiency are not simply those of the big men charged with guarding him. Stanford was a -10 in second chance points, and that was the difference.

So the boards are an area where Stanford was demolished, but that was fairly predictable, given the absence of its most physically gifted rebounder. The area where Stanford should really be kicking itself is on the offensive end, where shot selection led to some very disturbing endgame trends that the Cardinal took with it to Galen Center. Stanford found itself scorching hot from three point land against the Bruins. The Cardinal hit six three pointers in each half, and made 12-22 through regulation. The problem is that there was more basketball to be played, and the well ran dry. Stanford shot only 3-9 from 3 in the two overtimes, and the nine is as problematic as the three.

Three pointers are Fool’s Gold, especially in college basketball. Yes, good offenses should be proficient in this category, but not to the point that it enables a disregard for working the ball into the paint, either via the drive or the post. Stanford was unable to establish any kind of paint presence, so when the threes stopped dropping, the Cardinal was cooked. Stanford finished at -20 in points in the paint, so the offensive imbalance was easily quantifiable. To sum up, three things sabotaged what should have been Stanford’s first win in Pauley in nine seasons: Awful defense, worse rebounding, and offensive imbalance. And all three have their roots in those aforementioned inconvenient truths that we are going to explore at the end.

School Pace eFG% TOV% ORB% FT/FGA ORtg
Stanford 74.6 .538 16.6 26.5 .123 104
USC 74.6 .538 18.1 20 .358 101.3

Stanford was uncharacteristically sloppy with the ball on Sunday night, and that led to the game being played at a pace far beyond what Stanford would prefer. The excessive giveaways netted the Cardinal a -3 in points off turnovers, but that’s only part of the story. Ratcheting up the pace clearly helped USC, even though the Trojans turned the ball over on 18% of its possessions as well.

Once again, Stanford started the game scorching hot from beyond the arc. Stanford hit nine of its first 13 threes, but finished by making only one of its final 12. This includes misses on all five of its final three point attempts, which were also the last five shots it took in the game. As in Westwood, Stanford showcased very little offensive diversity, and they were demolished in the paint, netting a -20 in this category. This is in part with the team’s continued fascination with a disastrous zone defense, but in larger part due to an over-indulgence of long distance shooting.

Conveniently, all the talking points we’ve focused on all year long were in play, and the most striking unifying aspect of all the team’s issues is their interconnectedness.

What To Like:

Brown and Randle, the Platinum Backcourt: : Long term, the only numbers that really matter from this weekend are 78 and 81. Those are the minutes played this weekend by Chasson and Anthony, respectively. This has been a topic literally since before the season started. It’s no less of a concern now than it was after the first exhibition game. It’s why we are going to devote this section, named for Brown and Randle, on %%MATCH_8%%.

INCONVENIENT TRUTH #1: The Nasty Man has been prone to nasty spells of foul trouble this year, and that’s a huge problem. It got to be a bigger problem when %%MATCH_10%% went down, and it’s become a huge issue. Many might point to the increased minutes of %%MATCH_9%% and the development of %%MATCH_7%% as signs that help is on the way, but the truth is that it’s Nastic who determines how much rest the coaches can give The Platinum Backcourt. The reality is that the Senior Trio are really the only consistent and viable primary offensive options the team has, so in reality two of them need to be on the floor at all times. This would be manageable, except that Nastic has been getting into foul trouble, which means that Anthony and Chasson have to stay on the floor far longer than anybody wants.

People want to focus on the endgame, but the root causes for teams that don’t function “in the clutch” are always present at earlier stages of games. Nastic gets in foul trouble early, the other two seniors have to stay on the floor, and so in the endgame you have tired players chucking up tired shots. Stanford spent the end of its game against UCLA watching Chasson go one-on-five, and as great as he was, he just couldn’t sustain that for 49 minutes. Not all of this is on Stefan, to be fair. Anthony looked All-World for stretches against the Bruins, but all but disappeared down the stretch, and that leads us to a closer look at the offense, and at those inconvenient truths.

The Triangle Offense: Overall, Stanford had a very efficient weekend on Los Angeles with the ball. Both games featured offensive ratings over 100. However, there are two consequences to the three-ball obsessed paths the team took this week. First, Stanford is not getting assisted baskets. This is a sign of a team that is not attacking defenses as a quintet. The second consequence of not attacking the paint is that they are not getting to the free throw line. Their Free Throw rates of .197 and .123 in the games this weekend puts enormous pressure on the team to make shots, and when those shots are not the byproduct of ball and player movement, you get the struggles we saw at the end of both games this weekend.

While it’s true that Nastic may be the only viable post option among the bigs, there are ways for the Cardinal to use its personnel to get shots in the paint. First, the team can use more screen-roll actions that send the screener diving into the lane instead of floating towards the wing. Marcus and Humphrey executed this action once on Sunday, but Stanford has combinations of players who can execute this play, and need to start doing so.

One such combination is Rosco and Anthony, who can also help in another way. Both should be utilized as post options. Stanford tried Anthony in the post once, but the refs fell for a flop and it resulted in a turnover on an offensive foul. Despite this outcome, Anthony needs to be utilized on the block more often. At 6’6” he is going to have size advantages, especially when he’s in the backcourt. All of this should get Stanford back to being the balanced offense it’s been all year. To wit: On the season, 28% of the team’s points have come from three-pointers. This past weekend, that number was 47%. Suddenly, the Cardinal loves threes like Garfield loves lasagna. That’s got to change.

Reid Travis: Was severely missed, especially with Looney running amok last Thursday night. I’ll basically summed up his absence thusly: Stanford could have won both games this weekend. Had they had #22, they would have won both.

Concerns

Depth We’ve addressed this already, but the only rest the Core 4 (Chasson, Anthony, Rosco, and Stefan) gets is when they are in foul trouble. Such was the case for Nasty against UCLA and for Chasson in the first half against USC. Marcus Allen continues to show flashes of both athleticism and dependability. The sophomore racked up 38 more turnover-free minutes in the Land of the Locusts, and he had a spectacular follow of his own shot against the Trojans. Here’s hoping his minutes continue to rise before Anthony and Chasson start to resemble guys ascending K2 rather than just guys playing hoops.
Verhoeven and Humphrey get a lot of shade thrown at them, but I consider both to be serviceable. Yes, Grant struggled to corral some passes, but both have decent midrange set shots, both are aggressive, and both play smartly. Humphrey just doesn’t have the LB’s to make the impact he will in the future. Both combined for 12 fouls in 38 minutes over the weekend. However, just as the fatigue issue of the guards is tied to the play of Nastic, the foul problems of the bigs is also tied to guard play and coaching, which brings us to another inconvenient truth…

Defense Stanford’s defense simply didn’t make the trip. The bottom line is that fouls happen most often when players have their hands doing work their feet should be doing. It’s also when guys on the perimeter are getting beat, forcing help and a compromised interior. Nastic and Verhoeven are not swift, and they are not ever going to be. Asking them to clean up messes made by the guards is asking for trouble. Guys getting beat and guys who are slow helping out is how you rack up fouls. Stanford, through four games, has gone foul crazy, and it’s crippling their defense. The team is giving the opponents foul line points at a staggering rate of 57%, worst in the conference. That’s up from 38% overall, which itself is not great.

So the UCLA loss was a bitter pill and the SC game was a narrowly avoided disaster. No, seriously. The Trojans are rated 155 by Ken Pomeroy. %%MATCH_12%% is 168. A pair of bad losses would have put a serious crimp in the march to March. As it stands, the Cardinal’s other losses don’t rate badly at all, and their win against %%MATCH_13%% remains impressive, though not quite as much as when it happened. They are now 3-1 without Reid Travis. Up next, a split week that features a conference road game against a bad team and the last big non-conference game of the year, against #32 UConn. The %%MATCH_11%% schools follow at Maples the following week, so we’ll see if the Cardinal learns the lessons of Los Angeles in short order.





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The Bootleg Top Stories

\r\nFollow\r\n@TheBootleg\r\n\r\n

\r\nResults: Lost @%%MATCH_4%% 86-81 (2OT), Won @%%MATCH_5%% 78-76
\r\n
\r\n

\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n
SchoolPaceeFG%TOV%ORB%FT/FGAORtg
Stanford\r\nOffense63.8.49515.635.236.5107.9
Stanford\r\nDefense63.8.45920.127.735.394
\r\n

\r\n

Yes, I have a strong bias towards the annual L.A. trip. I live\r\nthere. The four games the Cardinal plays against the L.A. schools\r\nmean more to me than any others. When you live five minutes from\r\nPauley Pavilion and you drive past USC everyday on your way to\r\nwork, it’s hard not to prioritize your school’s annual visits.\r\nThat aside, however, I’ve always considered the L.A. Trip to be a\r\npretty effective barometer. When the program was at its strongest,\r\nit always performed in Los Angeles, especially under the legendary\r\nrafters of Pauley. It helped that during Stanford’s Golden Age\r\n(which fortunately overlaps my matriculation and graduation) the\r\nCardinal’s best players included Southern California players who\r\nclearly got up for the L.A. Trip. This started with one Arthur\r\nLee, who played all four years with a Bruin-sized chip on his\r\nshoulders, and continued through the Collins Twins, Mike McDonald,\r\nand Casey Jacobsen.

\r\n

\r\nThis year’s version of Stanford Basketball came into Pauley on a\r\nThursday and left Galen Center on a Sunday after playing 90\r\nminutes of basketball that vacillated from the exhilarating to the\r\nexasperating. Bottom line is that they sit at 3-1 in the\r\nconference, they struggled against a team they should have crushed\r\nand they gagged a game up to a desperate team that they should\r\nhave been able to handle. And while I still maintain that the good\r\nfar outweighs the bad on this team, Stanford now faces some\r\ninconvenient truths about itself that crystallized under the soggy\r\nand dark L.A. skies.

\r\n

\r\n

\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n
SchoolPaceeFG%TOV%ORB%FT/FGAORtg
Stanford59.8.4729.128.9.197108
UCLA59.8.50011.241.5.387114.7
\r\n

\r\n

Last Thursday, the Cardinal went into shiny and refurbished\r\nPauley Pavilion and got just about everything they could have\r\nwanted. They got the game at a favorable pace, they held onto the\r\nball, and they had a double digit lead late in the second half.\r\nThat they walked out of the gym for a ninth straight year without\r\na victory is a testament to the Bruins’ predicted desperation and\r\nfight, but more so to some issues that are plaguing the Cardinal.

\r\n

As we know this year, Stanford’s offense is outperforming its\r\ndefense. Against UCLA, Stanford really couldn’t stop UCLA from\r\nshooting well, and the Cardinal exacerbated that problem by\r\ngetting absolutely destroyed on the boards by the Bruins. The\r\nBeast that is %%MATCH_6%% gathered 10 offensive rebounds all by\r\nhimself, and the failures that led to his proficiency are not\r\nsimply those of the big men charged with guarding him. Stanford\r\nwas a -10 in second chance points, and that was the difference.

\r\n

So the boards are an area where Stanford was demolished, but\r\nthat was fairly predictable, given the absence of its most\r\nphysically gifted rebounder. The area where Stanford should really\r\nbe kicking itself is on the offensive end, where shot selection\r\nled to some very disturbing endgame trends that the Cardinal took\r\nwith it to Galen Center. Stanford found itself scorching hot from\r\nthree point land against the Bruins. The Cardinal hit six three\r\npointers in each half, and made 12-22 through regulation. The\r\nproblem is that there was more basketball to be played, and the\r\nwell ran dry. Stanford shot only 3-9 from 3 in the two overtimes,\r\nand the nine is as problematic as the three.

\r\n

Three pointers are Fool’s Gold, especially in college\r\nbasketball. Yes, good offenses should be proficient in this\r\ncategory, but not to the point that it enables a disregard for\r\nworking the ball into the paint, either via the drive or the post.\r\nStanford was unable to establish any kind of paint presence, so\r\nwhen the threes stopped dropping, the Cardinal was cooked.\r\nStanford finished at -20 in points in the paint, so the offensive\r\nimbalance was easily quantifiable. To sum up, three things\r\nsabotaged what should have been Stanford’s first win in Pauley in\r\nnine seasons: Awful defense, worse rebounding, and offensive\r\nimbalance. And all three have their roots in those aforementioned\r\ninconvenient truths that we are going to explore at the end.

\r\n

\r\n

\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n
SchoolPaceeFG%TOV%ORB%FT/FGAORtg
Stanford74.6.53816.626.5.123104
USC74.6.53818.120.358101.3
\r\n

\r\n

Stanford was uncharacteristically sloppy with the ball on Sunday\r\nnight, and that led to the game being played at a pace far beyond\r\nwhat Stanford would prefer. The excessive giveaways netted the\r\nCardinal a -3 in points off turnovers, but that’s only part of the\r\nstory. Ratcheting up the pace clearly helped USC, even though the\r\nTrojans turned the ball over on 18% of its possessions as well.

\r\n

Once again, Stanford started the game scorching hot from beyond\r\nthe arc. Stanford hit nine of its first 13 threes, but finished by\r\nmaking only one of its final 12. This includes misses on all five\r\nof its final three point attempts, which were also the last five\r\nshots it took in the game. As in Westwood, Stanford showcased very\r\nlittle offensive diversity, and they were demolished in the paint,\r\nnetting a -20 in this category. This is in part with the team’s\r\ncontinued fascination with a disastrous zone defense, but in\r\nlarger part due to an over-indulgence of long distance shooting.

\r\n

Conveniently, all the talking points we’ve focused on all year\r\nlong were in play, and the most striking unifying aspect of all\r\nthe team’s issues is their interconnectedness.

\r\n

\r\nWhat To Like:

\r\n

\r\nBrown and Randle, the Platinum Backcourt: : Long term, the\r\nonly numbers that really matter from this weekend are 78 and 81.\r\nThose are the minutes played this weekend by Chasson and Anthony,\r\nrespectively. This has been a topic literally since before the\r\nseason started. It’s no less of a concern now than it was after\r\nthe first exhibition game. It’s why we are going to devote this\r\nsection, named for Brown and Randle, on %%MATCH_8%%.

\r\n

INCONVENIENT TRUTH #1: The Nasty Man has been prone to\r\nnasty spells of foul trouble this year, and that’s a huge problem.\r\nIt got to be a bigger problem when %%MATCH_10%% went down, and it’s\r\nbecome a huge issue. Many might point to the increased minutes of\r\n%%MATCH_9%% and the development of %%MATCH_7%% as signs\r\nthat help is on the way, but the truth is that it’s Nastic who\r\ndetermines how much rest the coaches can give The Platinum\r\nBackcourt. The reality is that the Senior Trio are really the only\r\nconsistent and viable primary offensive options the team has, so\r\nin reality two of them need to be on the floor at all times. This\r\nwould be manageable, except that Nastic has been getting into foul\r\ntrouble, which means that Anthony and Chasson have to stay on the\r\nfloor far longer than anybody wants.

\r\n

People want to focus on the endgame, but the root causes for\r\nteams that don’t function “in the clutch” are always present at\r\nearlier stages of games. Nastic gets in foul trouble early, the\r\nother two seniors have to stay on the floor, and so in the endgame\r\nyou have tired players chucking up tired shots. Stanford spent the\r\nend of its game against UCLA watching Chasson go one-on-five, and\r\nas great as he was, he just couldn’t sustain that for 49 minutes.\r\nNot all of this is on Stefan, to be fair. Anthony looked All-World\r\nfor stretches against the Bruins, but all but disappeared down the\r\nstretch, and that leads us to a closer look at the offense, and at\r\nthose inconvenient truths.

\r\n

\r\nThe Triangle Offense: Overall, Stanford had a very\r\nefficient weekend on Los Angeles with the ball. Both games\r\nfeatured offensive ratings over 100. However, there are two\r\nconsequences to the three-ball obsessed paths the team took this\r\nweek. First, Stanford is not getting assisted baskets. This is a\r\nsign of a team that is not attacking defenses as a quintet. The\r\nsecond consequence of not attacking the paint is that they are not\r\ngetting to the free throw line. Their Free Throw rates of .197 and\r\n.123 in the games this weekend puts enormous pressure on the team\r\nto make shots, and when those shots are not the byproduct of ball\r\nand player movement, you get the struggles we saw at the end of\r\nboth games this weekend.

\r\n

While it’s true that Nastic may be the only viable post option\r\namong the bigs, there are ways for the Cardinal to use its\r\npersonnel to get shots in the paint. First, the team can use more\r\nscreen-roll actions that send the screener diving into the lane\r\ninstead of floating towards the wing. Marcus and Humphrey executed\r\nthis action once on Sunday, but Stanford has combinations of\r\nplayers who can execute this play, and need to start doing so.

\r\n

One such combination is Rosco and Anthony, who can also help in\r\nanother way. Both should be utilized as post options. Stanford\r\ntried Anthony in the post once, but the refs fell for a flop and\r\nit resulted in a turnover on an offensive foul. Despite this\r\noutcome, Anthony needs to be utilized on the block more often. At\r\n6’6” he is going to have size advantages, especially when he’s in\r\nthe backcourt. All of this should get Stanford back to being the\r\nbalanced offense it’s been all year. To wit: On the season, 28% of\r\nthe team’s points have come from three-pointers. This past\r\nweekend, that number was 47%. Suddenly, the Cardinal loves threes\r\nlike Garfield loves lasagna. That’s got to change.

\r\n

\r\nReid Travis: Was severely missed, especially with Looney\r\nrunning amok last Thursday night. I’ll basically summed up his\r\nabsence thusly: Stanford could have won both games this\r\nweekend. Had they had #22, they would have won both.\r\n
\r\n

\r\n

Concerns

\r\n

\r\nDepth We’ve addressed this already, but the only rest the\r\nCore 4 (Chasson, Anthony, Rosco, and Stefan) gets is when they are\r\nin foul trouble. Such was the case for Nasty against UCLA and for\r\nChasson in the first half against USC. Marcus Allen continues to\r\nshow flashes of both athleticism and dependability. The sophomore\r\nracked up 38 more turnover-free minutes in the Land of the\r\nLocusts, and he had a spectacular follow of his own shot against\r\nthe Trojans. Here’s hoping his minutes continue to rise before\r\nAnthony and Chasson start to resemble guys ascending K2 rather\r\nthan just guys playing hoops.
\r\nVerhoeven and Humphrey get a lot of shade thrown at them, but I\r\nconsider both to be serviceable. Yes, Grant struggled to corral\r\nsome passes, but both have decent midrange set shots, both are\r\naggressive, and both play smartly. Humphrey just doesn’t have the\r\nLB’s to make the impact he will in the future. Both combined for\r\n12 fouls in 38 minutes over the weekend. However, just as the\r\nfatigue issue of the guards is tied to the play of Nastic, the\r\nfoul problems of the bigs is also tied to guard play and coaching,\r\nwhich brings us to another inconvenient truth…

\r\n

\r\nDefense Stanford’s defense simply didn’t make the trip. The\r\nbottom line is that fouls happen most often when players have\r\ntheir hands doing work their feet should be doing. It’s also when\r\nguys on the perimeter are getting beat, forcing help and a\r\ncompromised interior. Nastic and Verhoeven are not swift, and they\r\nare not ever going to be. Asking them to clean up messes made by\r\nthe guards is asking for trouble. Guys getting beat and guys who\r\nare slow helping out is how you rack up fouls. Stanford, through\r\nfour games, has gone foul crazy, and it’s crippling their defense.\r\nThe team is giving the opponents foul line points at a staggering\r\nrate of 57%, worst in the conference. That’s up from 38% overall,\r\nwhich itself is not great.

\r\n

So the UCLA loss was a bitter pill and the SC game was a\r\nnarrowly avoided disaster. No, seriously. The Trojans are rated\r\n155 by Ken Pomeroy. %%MATCH_12%% is 168. A pair of bad losses would have\r\nput a serious crimp in the march to March. As it stands, the\r\nCardinal’s other losses don’t rate badly at all, and their win\r\nagainst %%MATCH_13%% remains impressive, though not quite as much as when\r\nit happened. They are now 3-1 without Reid Travis. Up next, a\r\nsplit week that features a conference road game against a bad team\r\nand the last big non-conference game of the year, against #32\r\nUConn. The %%MATCH_11%% schools follow at Maples the following week, so\r\nwe’ll see if the Cardinal learns the lessons of Los Angeles in\r\nshort order.\r\n

\r\n

Tweet\r\n\r\n
\r\n

\r\n
\r\n
\r\n
\r\n

Are you fully subscribed to The\r\nBootleg? If not, then you are missing out on\r\nall the top Cardinal coverage we provide daily on our\r\naward-winning website. Sign up today for the biggest and best in\r\nStanford sports coverage with TheBootleg.com\r\n(sign-up)!

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Lost @%%MATCH_4%% 86-81 (2OT), Won @%%MATCH_5%% 78-76

Yes, I have a strong bias towards the annual L.A. trip. I live there. The four games the Cardinal plays against the L.A. schools mean more to me than any others. When you live five minutes from Pauley Pavilion and you drive past USC everyday on your way to work, it’s hard not to prioritize your school’s annual visits. That aside, however, I’ve always considered the L.A. Trip to be a pretty effective barometer. When the program was at its strongest, it always performed in Los Angeles, especially under the legendary rafters of Pauley. It helped that during Stanford’s Golden Age (which fortunately overlaps my matriculation and graduation) the Cardinal’s best players included Southern California players who clearly got up for the L.A. Trip. This started with one Arthur Lee, who played all four years with a Bruin-sized chip on his shoulders, and continued through the Collins Twins, Mike McDonald, and Casey Jacobsen.

This year’s version of Stanford Basketball came into Pauley on a Thursday and left Galen Center on a Sunday after playing 90 minutes of basketball that vacillated from the exhilarating to the exasperating. Bottom line is that they sit at 3-1 in the conference, they struggled against a team they should have crushed and they gagged a game up to a desperate team that they should have been able to handle. And while I still maintain that the good far outweighs the bad on this team, Stanford now faces some inconvenient truths about itself that crystallized under the soggy and dark L.A. skies.

Last Thursday, the Cardinal went into shiny and refurbished Pauley Pavilion and got just about everything they could have wanted. They got the game at a favorable pace, they held onto the ball, and they had a double digit lead late in the second half. That they walked out of the gym for a ninth straight year without a victory is a testament to the Bruins’ predicted desperation and fight, but more so to some issues that are plaguing the Cardinal.

As we know this year, Stanford’s offense is outperforming its defense. Against UCLA, Stanford really couldn’t stop UCLA from shooting well, and the Cardinal exacerbated that problem by getting absolutely destroyed on the boards by the Bruins. The Beast that is %%MATCH_6%% gathered 10 offensive rebounds all by himself, and the failures that led to his proficiency are not simply those of the big men charged with guarding him. Stanford was a -10 in second chance points, and that was the difference.

So the boards are an area where Stanford was demolished, but that was fairly predictable, given the absence of its most physically gifted rebounder. The area where Stanford should really be kicking itself is on the offensive end, where shot selection led to some very disturbing endgame trends that the Cardinal took with it to Galen Center. Stanford found itself scorching hot from three point land against the Bruins. The Cardinal hit six three pointers in each half, and made 12-22 through regulation. The problem is that there was more basketball to be played, and the well ran dry. Stanford shot only 3-9 from 3 in the two overtimes, and the nine is as problematic as the three.

Three pointers are Fool’s Gold, especially in college basketball. Yes, good offenses should be proficient in this category, but not to the point that it enables a disregard for working the ball into the paint, either via the drive or the post. Stanford was unable to establish any kind of paint presence, so when the threes stopped dropping, the Cardinal was cooked. Stanford finished at -20 in points in the paint, so the offensive imbalance was easily quantifiable. To sum up, three things sabotaged what should have been Stanford’s first win in Pauley in nine seasons: Awful defense, worse rebounding, and offensive imbalance. And all three have their roots in those aforementioned inconvenient truths that we are going to explore at the end.

Stanford was uncharacteristically sloppy with the ball on Sunday night, and that led to the game being played at a pace far beyond what Stanford would prefer. The excessive giveaways netted the Cardinal a -3 in points off turnovers, but that’s only part of the story. Ratcheting up the pace clearly helped USC, even though the Trojans turned the ball over on 18% of its possessions as well.

Once again, Stanford started the game scorching hot from beyond the arc. Stanford hit nine of its first 13 threes, but finished by making only one of its final 12. This includes misses on all five of its final three point attempts, which were also the last five shots it took in the game. As in Westwood, Stanford showcased very little offensive diversity, and they were demolished in the paint, netting a -20 in this category. This is in part with the team’s continued fascination with a disastrous zone defense, but in larger part due to an over-indulgence of long distance shooting.

Conveniently, all the talking points we’ve focused on all year long were in play, and the most striking unifying aspect of all the team’s issues is their interconnectedness.

: Long term, the only numbers that really matter from this weekend are 78 and 81. Those are the minutes played this weekend by Chasson and Anthony, respectively. This has been a topic literally since before the season started. It’s no less of a concern now than it was after the first exhibition game. It’s why we are going to devote this section, named for Brown and Randle, on %%MATCH_8%%.

The Nasty Man has been prone to nasty spells of foul trouble this year, and that’s a huge problem. It got to be a bigger problem when %%MATCH_10%% went down, and it’s become a huge issue. Many might point to the increased minutes of %%MATCH_9%% and the development of %%MATCH_7%% as signs that help is on the way, but the truth is that it’s Nastic who determines how much rest the coaches can give The Platinum Backcourt. The reality is that the Senior Trio are really the only consistent and viable primary offensive options the team has, so in reality two of them need to be on the floor at all times. This would be manageable, except that Nastic has been getting into foul trouble, which means that Anthony and Chasson have to stay on the floor far longer than anybody wants.

People want to focus on the endgame, but the root causes for teams that don’t function “in the clutch” are always present at earlier stages of games. Nastic gets in foul trouble early, the other two seniors have to stay on the floor, and so in the endgame you have tired players chucking up tired shots. Stanford spent the end of its game against UCLA watching Chasson go one-on-five, and as great as he was, he just couldn’t sustain that for 49 minutes. Not all of this is on Stefan, to be fair. Anthony looked All-World for stretches against the Bruins, but all but disappeared down the stretch, and that leads us to a closer look at the offense, and at those inconvenient truths.

Overall, Stanford had a very efficient weekend on Los Angeles with the ball. Both games featured offensive ratings over 100. However, there are two consequences to the three-ball obsessed paths the team took this week. First, Stanford is not getting assisted baskets. This is a sign of a team that is not attacking defenses as a quintet. The second consequence of not attacking the paint is that they are not getting to the free throw line. Their Free Throw rates of .197 and .123 in the games this weekend puts enormous pressure on the team to make shots, and when those shots are not the byproduct of ball and player movement, you get the struggles we saw at the end of both games this weekend.

While it’s true that Nastic may be the only viable post option among the bigs, there are ways for the Cardinal to use its personnel to get shots in the paint. First, the team can use more screen-roll actions that send the screener diving into the lane instead of floating towards the wing. Marcus and Humphrey executed this action once on Sunday, but Stanford has combinations of players who can execute this play, and need to start doing so.

One such combination is Rosco and Anthony, who can also help in another way. Both should be utilized as post options. Stanford tried Anthony in the post once, but the refs fell for a flop and it resulted in a turnover on an offensive foul. Despite this outcome, Anthony needs to be utilized on the block more often. At 6’6” he is going to have size advantages, especially when he’s in the backcourt. All of this should get Stanford back to being the balanced offense it’s been all year. To wit: On the season, 28% of the team’s points have come from three-pointers. This past weekend, that number was 47%. Suddenly, the Cardinal loves threes like Garfield loves lasagna. That’s got to change.

Was severely missed, especially with Looney running amok last Thursday night. I’ll basically summed up his absence thusly: Stanford have won both games this weekend. Had they had #22, they have won both.

We’ve addressed this already, but the only rest the Core 4 (Chasson, Anthony, Rosco, and Stefan) gets is when they are in foul trouble. Such was the case for Nasty against UCLA and for Chasson in the first half against USC. Marcus Allen continues to show flashes of both athleticism and dependability. The sophomore racked up 38 more turnover-free minutes in the Land of the Locusts, and he had a spectacular follow of his own shot against the Trojans. Here’s hoping his minutes continue to rise before Anthony and Chasson start to resemble guys ascending K2 rather than just guys playing hoops.
Verhoeven and Humphrey get a lot of shade thrown at them, but I consider both to be serviceable. Yes, Grant struggled to corral some passes, but both have decent midrange set shots, both are aggressive, and both play smartly. Humphrey just doesn’t have the LB’s to make the impact he will in the future. Both combined for 12 fouls in 38 minutes over the weekend. However, just as the fatigue issue of the guards is tied to the play of Nastic, the foul problems of the bigs is also tied to guard play and coaching, which brings us to another inconvenient truth…

Stanford’s defense simply didn’t make the trip. The bottom line is that fouls happen most often when players have their hands doing work their feet should be doing. It’s also when guys on the perimeter are getting beat, forcing help and a compromised interior. Nastic and Verhoeven are not swift, and they are not ever going to be. Asking them to clean up messes made by the guards is asking for trouble. Guys getting beat and guys who are slow helping out is how you rack up fouls. Stanford, through four games, has gone foul crazy, and it’s crippling their defense. The team is giving the opponents foul line points at a staggering rate of 57%, worst in the conference. That’s up from 38% overall, which itself is not great.

So the UCLA loss was a bitter pill and the SC game was a narrowly avoided disaster. No, seriously. The Trojans are rated 155 by Ken Pomeroy. %%MATCH_12%% is 168. A pair of bad losses would have put a serious crimp in the march to March. As it stands, the Cardinal’s other losses don’t rate badly at all, and their win against %%MATCH_13%% remains impressive, though not quite as much as when it happened. They are now 3-1 without Reid Travis. Up next, a split week that features a conference road game against a bad team and the last big non-conference game of the year, against #32 UConn. The %%MATCH_11%% schools follow at Maples the following week, so we’ll see if the Cardinal learns the lessons of Los Angeles in short order.

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