On Monday afternoon, Stanford women’s basketball won its final game at Maples Pavilion this season, advancing in a tournament, and taking its quest to a different part of the country.
On Tuesday evening, Cardinal men’s basketball will try to follow suit. No. 2-seed Stanford (21-13, 9-9 Pac-12; RPI #59) meets No. 5-seed Vanderbilt in the NIT quarterfinals, the winner heading to New York for the NIT’s version of the final four.
In a game that will never be known as an instant classic, Stanford beat No. 3-seed Rhode Island on Sunday evening. The key number in the Card’s 74-65 win was 35. As in, the number of points scored by Chasson Randle, a career-high night for him. And also, as in the number of fouls called on Rhode Island. One of those developments was fun to watch. The other one? Not so much.
Standing in Stanford’s way are the Vanderbilt Commodores (21-13, 9-9 SEC; RPI #104), who return to the Bay Area one week after knocking off St. Mary’s in Moraga in the NIT’s first round. The Commodores blocked 11 Gael shots en route to a 75-64 win, then swatted 13 more in a 92-77 win over South Dakota State in the second round. Shooting almost 82% in the second half against the Jackrabbits didn’t hurt much, either.
As dire as things may have seemed for Stanford in February, at least the Card never lost seven straight games. The Commodores did, though. After winning their SEC opener and starting the season 11-3, Vanderbilt promptly lost to Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi State, Kentucky (of course), LSU, Georgia, and Texas A&M.
Since then, the Commodores have won ten of their last 13 games. Much of Vanderbilt’s success has been due to Damian Jones. The sophomore center from Baton Rouge leads the team in points per game (14.6) and rebounds per game (6.5). Jones has been especially active in his last three games, grabbing a career-high 15 boards against Tennessee, making a career-high ten field goals against St. Mary’s, and scored 15 points against South Dakota State.
Vanderbilt has started three freshman guards. SEC All-Freshman team member Wade Baldwin IV filled the stat sheet against South Dakota State (20 points, 10 rebounds, 9 assists). Riley LaChance scored double figures in 24 games. Matthew Fisher-Davis blocked four South Dakota State shots.
Senior forward James Siakam rounds out Vanderbilt’s probable starting lineup. Off the bench, freshman forward Jeff Roberson is a defensive specialist, sophomore forward Luke Kornet averages 8.6 points per game, and freshman forward Shelton Mitchell has also started 11 games at point guard.
Guard play is usually the key in March, no matter the tournament. Stanford has not been an exception. Against Rhode Island, it was Randle. In the first round against UC Davis, it was Marcus Allen slashing to the hoop repeatedly. While the matchup inside between Stefan Nastic and Damian Jones will be the individual item to watch, the Card backcourt will still need to step up its overall game against Vanderbilt as well.********** ********** **********
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