Kyle Terada/USA Today

Stanford Basketball Splits Two Games vs. Arizona and Arizona State

A look back at a tough home split for the Cardinal against the Arizona Schools.

The Week: Lost to Arizona, 71-57, Beat Arizona State 75-73

Record:  11-7 (4-3 Pac-12) 3rd Place (Tied with 6 others)

Pac-12 ORtg: 98.7 (12th)

Pac-12 DRtg: 101.2 (2nd)

 

School

Pace

eFG%

TOV%

ORB%

FT/FGA

ORtg

Arizona

69.7

.565

19.5

22.7

.413

101.4

Stanford

69.7

.339

10.2

18.2

.242

81.4

 

School

Pace

eFG%

TOV%

ORB%

FT/FGA

ORtg

Arizona State

69.5

.500

11.3

28.1

.159

104.3

Stanford

69.5

.538

11.4

11.1

.340

107.1

 

Stanford’s maddeningly consistent inconsistency in Pac-12 play continued this past weekend at Maples.  After getting blown away in a nightmarish second half effort against Arizona, Stanford almost carelessly let the Sun Devils slip away with a win until some last second heroics from Rosco Allen bailed the Cardinal out of what would have been a devastating lost weekend at home.

If there was one trend that manifested in both games it was the collapse of Stanford’s second half defense.  The Cardinal entered the week as the number one defense in the Pac-12 but allowed both the Wildcats and the Sun Devils to carve its defense, surrendering 40 and 39 points respectively in the second halves.

In the second half on Saturday night, Stanford allowed the Sun Devils an ORtg of 118.2 points on 46% overall field goal shooting.  That cost them the top defensive spot in the conference as illustrated above.  More importantly, it nearly cost the Cardinal the game.  Given Stanford’s offensive report card so far, any consistent slippage on defense is going to be catastrophic for the Cardinal.

Shooting remains a big problem for Stanford, still struggling to integrate a new offensive system installed this past summer.  Stanford is the worst shooting team from behind the three point line and second worst from inside it.  The Cardinal gets only 21.7% of its points from beyond the arc, the second lowest total in the Pac-12.

So what’s the trouble?  First, the Cardinal lacks a player who is lethal off the dribble.  Rosco and Marcus have at times shown proficiency, but they aren’t stressing defenses to the point that it’s consistently leading to points and open shots for teammates.   This is a roster issue, meaning there is not much that can be done within the framework of the season, which means Stanford has to get better at manufacturing shots. That’s where Grant Verhoeven enters the equation.

Two plays from Saturday illustrated how Stanford can get better shots for itself.  On one, Grant set a simple weakside screen for Rosco, but he squared up Rosco’s defender and actually made contact with him.  Rosco popped out on the wing for an open three and he nailed it.  Too many Stanford three-point attempts are just rise and fires off the dribble, and not enough are coming off clean catches or passes from the paint for that matter.

On the other play, Verhoeven set a simple downscreen with Humphrey holding the ball at the top of the key.  Again, actual physical contact was made and this time, Verhoeven rolled off the contact to the hoop where Humphrey hit him with a great pass for two easy points.  Getting the timing down on screens would help this team tremendously moving forward.

Stanford’s been relying on its ability to get to the foul line to get points, a formula which will be severely tested the next two weeks on the road.  It’s a great attribute to have but sooner or later you have to get around to making buckets.  Stanford went +8 at the line against Arizona State and held the Sun Devils off the line (16% FT Rate), factors which mitigated the Cardinal losing the points off turnover and second chance point battles.

One of the past criticisms of Coach Dawkins has been his tendency to play Rotation Roulette, thus prohibiting any kind of chemistry and cohesion to develop within a five-man unit.  I am a believer in +/- ratings, but when used on one player, they can be a bit noisy.  Plus/minus becomes far more informative the higher the combination of players you use to judge it. With that, let’s look at how Stanford’s Five-Man Groups did against Arizona State.

Player

Player

Player

Player

Player

+/-

Court Time

Rosco

Humphrey

Marcus Allen

Dorian

Christian

+11

13:56

Rosco

Verhoeven

Marcus Allen

Dorian

Marcus Sheffield

+6

11:44

Rosco

Verhoeven

Marcus Allen

Christian

Marcus Sheffield

+2

1:12

Cameron Walker

Humphrey

Marcus Allen

Christian

Marcus Sheffield

0

1:25

Cameron Walker

Humphrey

Dorian

Christian

Marcus Sheffield

-2

:25

Rosco

Humphrey

Dorian

Christian

Marcus Sheffield

-1

1:20

Rosco

Humphrey

Marcus Allen

Christian

Marcus Sheffield

-5

2:54

Rosco

Humphrey

Marcus Allen

Christian

Cameron Walker

-3

:46

Rosco

Verhoeven

Marcus Allen

Christian

Dorian

+1

1:59

Josh Sharma

Verhoeven

Marcus Allen

Christian

Dorian

0

 

:43

Rosco

Verhoeven

Humphrey

Marcus Allen

Marcus Sheffield

-8

2:16

Rosco

Humphrey

Marcus Allen

Dorian

Marcus Sheffield

+3

1:30

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So Stanford’s starting five formed the most productive unit, and ended up being the one most used.   Of course, this is by definition the smallest of sample sizes, but for at least one night, this quintet was the one who had the most success while on the floor.  The second most used unit was also the second most productive one.  This lineup featured Rosco, Grant, Pickens, and the Marcuses, Allen and Sheffield.

Interestingly enough, the least effective group on the court featured arguably Stanford’s four best players.  The unit of Rosco, Grant, Humphrey, Marcus Allen, and Marcus Sheffield went -8 and in only 2:16.  The fifth player, Grant, also had arguably his best day, but for whatever reason this group struggled.  I’d argue that it’s the limited court time they’ve had, which is really the larger argument.  There are lineups I’d intuitively think are better for Stanford than the one that started and was the most productive, but it’s tough to tell when they don’t get enough court time.

I am especially intrigued by the lineup that Stanford used to close the game: Rosco, Humphrey, Marcus Allen, Dorian Pickens, and Marcus Sheffield.  That’s a very athletic and versatile group.  Of course, we can’t really judge them by 90 seconds of work, no matter how effective or ineffective.   Things of course get more complicated when Reid Travis returns, but that’s a problem worth having.

Finally, Stanford used only four different lineups in the second half, compared to 11 different in the first half.  Some of that had to do with some end of half offense/defense involving Josh Sharma, but it’s clear the coaches came out of the locker room with a clear sense of who they’d ride in the second half.   Credit to them, although the goal of consistent, clockwork rotations remains elusive and I suspect that overall the Cardinal’s best quintet is not its starting five.

There is no point in projecting the Cardinal in the Rocky Mountains this week, which is not to say that it’s not a vital stretch of their season.  Last year, two horrific games in the Rockies helped detonate the Cardinal’s NCAA Tournament hopes.  I haven’t even bothered with projections about the postseason, because to this point Stanford is nowhere near a threat to make the Tournament and has left itself with a very narrow margin to even get a whiff of the NCAA’s.  However, a strong showing this week would jumpstart Tournament talk legitimately, while anything else likely begins the death march to an NIT title defense nobody really wants to contemplate. 


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