Stanford Pac-12 Week 7 Hoops Preview

A preview of Stanford's trip to the Rocky Mountains

For a glossary on the advanced metrics used, click here.
The Stanford Cardinal

2014-15 W/L:   16-7  (7-4)

2014-15 Current Pomeroy Ranking:  31

Adjusted ORtg (Points Per 100 Possessions): 112.1 (3rd)

Adjusted DRtg: 104.2 (7)

Adjusted Pace:  Possessions Per Game 66.8

Most frequent lineup used in last 5 games:  M. Allen (So.), Randle (Sr.), Brown(Sr.), R. Allen (Jr.), Nastic (Sr.)

The Utah Runnin' Utes

2014-15 W/L:  18-4 (8-2)

2014-15 Current Pomeroy Ranking:  5

Adjusted ORtg (Points Per 100 Possessions): 116.2 (1st)

Adjusted DRtg: 89.5 (2nd)

Adjusted Pace:  Possessions Per Game: 61.8 (11th)

Most frequent lineup used in last 5 games:    PG Brandon Taylor (Jr.), SG Delon Wright (Sr.), SF Jordan Loveridge (Jr.),Chris Reyes PF  (So.), C Jakob Poeltl (Jr.)

    Stanford opens up its week in Salt Lake City against the formidable, well-coached, and solid Utah Utes.  This is the first of two remaining games that few Stanford fans expect the Cardinal to win (the season finale in Tucson being the other).  Stanford hasn't played a team this good on the road since venturing to Austin and securing their signature victory of the year.  Unfortunately, this Utes team is far superior to Texas, and Stanford has struggled in Salt Lake even when the Utes were a bad team.  Utah has arguably the most solid resume in the Pac-12 right now, having thrived against a challenging non-conference schedule.  They have yet to lose a home game this year.
    Where has Utah been good?  Everywhere.  They are dominant on both sides of the court, and have openly sought to emulate the efficiency of the San Antonio Spurs.  That they have succeeded in doing so is a reality that most of its opponents have found very deflating.  Utah is a fantastic offensive team, and like the Spurs, it's based largely on three point-shooting that emphasizes drive and kick passes.  Considering Stanford's struggles with penetration all year, it's hard to imagine Utah struggling to get good looks from three.  Utah gets the highest percentage (41%) of its points from three of all Pac-12 schools.  They are the best three-point shooting team in the conference at 43%. They are the best overall shooting team in the conference, with an eFG of 58.2%.  Patience is a virtue Coach Larry Krystkowiak has branded onto his team's collective psyche.  On average, the Utes use 20 seconds per possession, second most in the Pac-12.  Add to this patience the virtue of selflessness, and you get the team who assists on the highest % of its baskets in the league. 
    Defensively, Utah has been excellent as well.  They allow the lowest eFG in the league at 42%, and they are also the best three-point defense in the Pac-12.  They are not just content to force bad shots, as they also have the highest steal percentage in the conference at 10.8%.  The one area where Stanford may have some success is in the post.  Utah starts a freshman, albeit a very talented one, in Jakop Poeltl from Austria.  The Nasty Man needs to take advantage of his inexperience.  Utah goes Sophomore-Freshman up front.  Anthony and Chasson are going to have their hands full with Wright and Taylor, but if Reid and Stefan outplay their counterparts down low, Stanford should be able to stay within shouting distance of the Utes.
     Utah is a deliberate team, and that is good for Stanford.  Barring an absolute three-point barrage, Stanford has the offense to stay in the game with Utah.  The real issue is whether or not the Cardinal can defend the three-point line, which really means walling off the paint.  Stanford has been good all year at holding onto the ball, and if they limit points off turnovers, Utah may be put into "deep water," as Derek Mason used to say.  The Utes have played in a lot of blowouts this year, and even their losses to UCLA and Arizona were decided early.  Executing down the stretch hasn't exactly been the forte' of Stanford this year, but the Cardinal have been in a number of close games.  Best Case Scenario, Stanford can keep it close and steal one.  Worst case scenario....well, let's not go there.

The Colorado Buffaloes

2014-15 W/L:  11-11 (4-6)

2014-15 Current Pomeroy Ranking:  87

Adjusted ORtg (Points Per 100 Possessions): 98.2 (9th)

Adjusted DRtg: 103.1 (6th)

Adjusted Pace:  Possessions Per Game: 65.3 (7th)

Most frequent lineup used in last 5 games:  Askia Booker (Sr.), Jaron Hopkins, (So.), Tre'Shaun Fletcher (So.), Dustin Thomas, (So.), Wesley Gordon (So.)

    Any discussion of the Buffaloes' season must begin with injuries.  Center Josh Scott just made his return against Utah, and the Buffs had to play without their best backcourt player, Askia Booker.  He has a hip pointer so it's not clear as to whether or not he'll play on Sunday.  Colorado, even with Scott back, struggled mightily to find points against Utah.  In fact, with Booker in the lineup, the Buffaloes struggled to score.  They spent most of conference play as one of the better defensive teams, but they sit now right in the middle.  Colorado was torn up by Utah, but most teams are.  That was the first game with Scott in and Booker out of the lineup. 
    Stanford gets an extra day of rest for this game, so hopefully that will mitigate some of the fatigue factor.  Like Utah, the Buffs play a measured pace, so Stanford has no worries there.  Colorado's most glaring offensive problem is its inability to shoot two-point shots.  The Buffs are shooting 44% from inside the three-point line, worst in the league.  Exacerbating their shooting woes is a 20% turnover rate.  Stanford's defense of late has made mediocre offenses look great.  This game is really more of a mental test than anything else.  After the convincing win in Seattle, Stanford came right out in Pullman and jumped to a lead.  Unfortunately, they were not ready to make a 40-minute commitment to defense, and it cost them.  Colorado is not going to be a tournament team, barring a shocking run in the Pac-12 Tournament.  That makes this a must-win game regardless of what Stanford does in Salt Lake City. The Cardinal's used all the "Bad Loss" Mulligans it's going to get from the Selection Committee.  Whether it's win number 17 or 18 doesn't matter that much, just so long as it's a win.
    The last three weeks have been incredibly frustrating, as each Cardinal step up was accompanied by a step back.  Only a handful of plays have kept this from being a 5-1 stretch, but a handful of plays are almost always the margin.  A fourth straight split is the most likely scenario, but both extremes cannot be discounted.  Stanford needs to return to its formula of Senior Leadership on offense and on defense they need to find a way to defend the three-point shot.  This will be Reid Travis' third week back, so hopefully he is ready to play significant minutes.  The Cardinal is bringing enough firepower to the Rockies, the question is can they bring the defense to capitalize and ignite its stretch run to March?

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