The Stanford Cardinal
2014-15 W/L: 16-9 (7-6)
2014-15 Current Pomeroy Ranking: 35
Adjusted ORtg (Points Per 100 Possessions): 109 (4th)
Adjusted DRtg: 105 (8th)
Adjusted Pace: Possessions Per Game 66.5 (5th)
Most frequent lineup used in last 5 games: M. Allen (So.), Randle (Sr.), Brown(Sr.), R. Allen (Jr.), Nastic (Sr.)
The California Golden Bears
2014-15 W/L: 16-10 (6-7)
2014-15 Current Pomeroy Ranking: 125
Adjusted ORtg (Points Per 100 Possessions): 96 (10th)
Adjusted DRtg: 107 (9th)
Adjusted Pace: Possessions Per Game 67.3 (5th)
Most frequent lineup used in the last 5 games: Tyrone Wallace (Jr.), Jordan Matthews (So.), Jabari Bird (So.), Dwight Tarwater (Sr.), David Kravish (Sr.)
The first place to look is the bottom of our quick-sheet above when examining this match-up. First, Cal has made some significant adjustments from the last time it played Stanford. Sam Singer has played a limited role in the last five games, and the line-up Cuonzo Martin has utilized most screams "versatility." Wallace, Matthews, and Bird are all but interchangeable, allowing Cal to do a lot of switching on the perimeter without compromising defensive match-ups.Bird and Matthews are the two most talented players Cal has, yet it continues to be Wallace who dominates the ball. Cal also brings a legit back-up center off its bench to relieve Kravish in Kingsley Okaroh, a 7'1" 254 mountain of a Freshman. The ten fouls the two of them have to use against The Nasty Man's five could very well be a key if the Golden Bears are to win. We have no indication at this time that Rosco Allen is available on Saturday, but even if he is it seems almost inevitable that Elliott Bullock is going to see some floor time for Stanford, and he's going to have to hold down the fort while Nastic rests for Stanford to be able to compete inside.
That Rosco Allen injury is crucial, because his absence severely alters the legitimacy of the numbers on the rest of the quick sheet. Those numbers represent the entirety of league play, during which Stanford has been one of the best offenses in the Pac-12. However, without him this past weekend, the Cardinal was unable to even break an ORtg of 90 in either game. The Cardinal lacks a solid defense to bolster its sagging offense, so how is Stanford going to score enough points to win?
The first answer would be to look to the team's slumping Seniors, Chasson Randle and Anthony Brown. Fatigue certainly appears to have run down The Platinum Backcourt, so one can only hope that Coach Dawkins rested his seniors with the lack of a game prior to Saturday. The duo shot 13-47 over the weekend, a rate that's not going to be enough on Saturday at Maples. Up until this point in the season, Cal has not been a formidable defense. They force very few turnovers (11th in TO%) and they, like Stanford, send their opponents to the line with great frequency. On offense, the Bears do not usually get to the line either, but it's hard to avoid getting fouled when playing Stanford.
So let's look closer at Cal's run of success. Here are Cal's offensive and defensive ratings for each of the past six games:
So what are looking at? Let's get rid of the Utah game, because they are on another level at the moment. Cal has turned its season around on the strength of defense. Washington was able to torch the Bears, but the rest of their wins have included DRtg's well below their in-conference average of 107. The ability to switch freely along the perimeter, plus the athleticism to help and recover, deflect passes, challenge dribbles, are all part of what Cal can do on defense. The biggest question of the game is ultimately whether or not Cal's newfound defensive prowess can shut down Stanford's slumping but previously potent offense.
Many have gone back to beating the same drum against Stanford's head coach in the midst of the past month's drop-off in performance. It's fair to say that the past month is far more indicative the past seven years as a whole, but I don't think Coach Dawkins (at this point) is a plausible scapegoat. No fans want to hear it, but the least intriguing storyline is almost always the most revealing: health. Stanford has lost three of its top four big men for stretches, and the fact is that even though they have had Reid Travis, he's clearly not yet back to being the 35+ minute contributor he was at the start of the season. There is no way Stanford goes 3-5 at full strength. Even with two of those three fully available, Stanford would be in a better position than they are today. That's not to excuse the coaching staff from any criticism from the past, but if we're talking about this season, I'll reiterate: This is the best-coached team of the Coach Dawkins Era. That may not be a high bar to clear in the minds of many, but it's still the case.
At the time of this writing, there is no announcement about Rosco's availability, so let's assume he can't go. Stanford faces a stern, stern test this Saturday, as they really are going to be forced to rely on players it has yet to show a consistent amount of trust in this season. Tactically, we could see the Cardinal go small, and that means crazy things like Anthony at the 4, which would mean more Cartwright and Pickens joining/relieving Chasson and Marcus for stretches. It also means more Bullock. Otherwise, it's a frontline rotation of Nasty/Humphrey/Reid going with a backcourt rotation of Anthony/Chasson/Marcus. I don't see how that half-dozen is going to provide enough for Stanford to win.
Stanford does come home, and even though Maples has rarely been a difference maker in the past seven seasons, it's still a factor. All the momentum rides into town with Cal on Saturday. All the desperation, agita, and pressure, sits in the home locker room. How will Stanford respond?
Tune in Saturday.