Stanford Pac-12 Week 3 Hoops Preview
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The Stanford Cardinal
2014-15 W/L: 12-4 (4-1 Pac-12)
2014-15 Current Pomeroy Ranking: 40
Adjusted ORtg (Points Per 100 Possessions): 109.8 (21st)
Adjusted DRtg: 95.8 (73rd)
Adjusted Pace: 63.7 Possessions Per Game
Most frequent lineup used in last 5 games: M. Allen (So.), Randle (Sr.), Brown(Sr.), R. Allen (Jr.), Nastic (Sr.)
Stanford responded to a disappointing loss to the streaking UCLA Bruins with two road victories that, while not aesthetically pleasing, have stabilized the Cardinal in the wake of Reid Travis’ injury. The going gets tougher tomorrow night but the confines get friendlier, as Stanford welcomes the defending national champion Connecticut Huskies to Maples Pavilion.
The Platinum Backcourt (We’re sticking with that nickname even though Anthony is pretty clearly the small forward on this team now) led the way for Stanford in Weenie-ville. Both players carried efficiency ratings north of 130 (!!!) on Wednesday night on their way to 43 of the Cardinal’s 69 points. They are both playing way too many minutes, as the coaches’ confidence in Robert Cartwright and Dorian Pickens seems to have waned a bit over the weekend, but at this point we are talking about one of the most effective tandems in the country.
Another encouraging sign for the Cardinal is the return of The Nasty Man. After consecutive struggles against Washington and UCLA, Stefan has bounced back with consecutive games where his offensive ratings were 110 and 103, respectively. He also stayed out of foul trouble in Berkeley, which is imperative tomorrow night because his offense will be needed against an extremely tenacious Connecticut defense.
We’ve been tracking the three point line recently for Stanford, as they spent the weekend in Hollywood chucking up threes at approximately the same rate that Tinsel Town churns out gossip. On the season, three pointers have accounted for just under 30% of Stanford’s points. That number ballooned to 56% in Westwood. It dropped to 39% against USC, (though only because the Cardinal started missing them as opposed to not taking them), and then returned to a far more acceptable 35% against Cal. The team is shooting a spectacular 39.8% on the season from beyond the arc, so I get the proclivity. However, Stanford is going to need to maintain some semblance of balance as it faces two of its toughest opponents of the season in the next two games.
The Connecticut Huskies
2014-15 W/L: 9-6 (2-2, American Conf.)
2014-15 Current Pomeroy Ranking: 41
Adjusted ORtg (Points Per 100 Possessions): 104.4 (96th Nation.)
Adjusted DRtg: 91.1 (21st Nat.)
Adjusted Pace: 64.3 Possessions Per Game
For the first time since the late ‘90s, a defending national champion takes the floor at Maples Pavilion. The last time Connecticut played at Maples, they were on their way to being national champions, and they played like it against Stanford, outclassing a very, very good Cardinal team on its own way to a Pac-10 championship. The version of Connecticut that Kevin Ollie brings west is, at this point, not on par with that legendary team, or even the version that one the national championship last March. What they will be bringing to Maples is youth, athleticism, and some excellent defense.
Both teams play at a slow pace, so it’s unlikely that we are going to see a ton of points in this game. Interestingly, for a team that plays at the pace Connecticut does, turnovers are a part of both ends of the court. The Huskies turn it over 19.8% of their possessions, while forcing turnovers on 19.2% of its defensive possessions. Stanford, as we all know by now, takes very good care of the basketball. Should the Cardinal maintain that habit on Saturday, they’d be taking a big step towards victory.
The Huskies hit the boards and snag 31% of potential offensive rebounds, which is a decent number. Where they really excel is on the defensive backboards. Connecticut is only allowing opponents offensive rebounds on 27% of its possessions, good for 41st in the nation. Individually, freshman Daniel Hamilton has the best rebounding rate on the team, grabbing 20% of the available rebounds while on the court. Surprisingly, 6’0” PG Ryan Boatwright also contributes as well, grabbing a second-best 14% of available rebounds.
Not surprisingly, Boatright, the only senior featured in a most often used lineup that features three sophomores and a freshman, is the security blanket. Ryan has played 85% of the possible minutes for UConn. Considering he uses the highest percentage of the Huskies’ possessions, and is a 55% True Shooter, he shapes up as quite the matchup for the Cardinal. His size would suggest that the law firm of Sanders, Allen, and Cartwright would be getting the lion’s share of the minutes guarding him, especially because Stanford doesn’t want to tax Chasson, who has such a high offensive responsibility for Stanford. Boatright shapes up as one of the toughest challenges that trio will face this year, and their ability to contain him is going to be a huge factor on Saturday night.
The glamour matchup Saturday night is the Cardinal’s offense and Huskies’ defense. Stanford has the 21st most efficient offense in the country, while the Huskies have the 33rd rated defense. As is often the case, however, the undercard may end up being the difference. If Stanford’s defense can get the turnovers that the Huskies have been allowing, Stanford should be able to create enough separation. They will need the extra possessions because of Connecticut’s stinginess on defense and its reluctance to surrender offensive rebounds.
I’m not gonna lie, I’m as excited about this game as I’ve been for any game in the Coach Dawkins Era. The Cardinal takes the stage on ESPN with a huge opportunity to further boost its tournament resume. Don’t be fooled by Connecticut’s record. They are a talented and quality opponent, having defeated the likes of Florida this year. They have had some head scratchers, losing to Yale and most recently Tulsa, but those teams are nowhere near as bad as the DePaul team that vanquished the Cardinal. Chalk that up to youth, not to a lack of talent or coaching. It’s a big game, and I am hoping for a vintage Maples crowd. What’s important is that Stanford took care of business on Wednesday, so even though this game is on such a prominent stage, the Cardinal can approach it with a fearless attitude.
Plus I want revenge for losing that game in 1999.
Can’t. Hardly. Wait.