CJ's Corner: Post-KU Musings

The glow you feel from Saturday's stupendous win over then-#1 Kansas is still white hot, but there are bigger picture implications to consider for this team and college basketball landscape. What are we learning about Chris Hernandez and Justin Davis, and what will they mean to us going forward? What does the RPI crystal ball tell us today about the Pac-10's prospects for March?

1. Few teams want to draw Temple in the NCAA tournament because its zone defense is unique and difficult to prepare for, especially when one has not faced it before and there's little time to prepare for it.  Our amoeba 1-1-3 zone could present similar problems for teams that have not faced it before, although Stanford has the added advantage (that Temple traditionally hasn't) of playing multiple defenses, including our man to man and a more traditional 2-3 zone. 

2. I expect to see us switch defenses frequently within games based on the matchups and who we have on the court, and also to befuddle younger opponents.  Kal might have trouble scoring 100 points combined in their two games against us.

3. Bill Self got outcoached badly by Mike Montgomery, thereby joining a long and distinguished list . . .

4. The California program could be in serious trouble.  The weenies will need to see vast improvement -- and soon -- in order to have any shot at making the dance.  Kal will need to rack up some out of conference wins in a hurry because with the Pac-10 looking like it's going to have a horrible conference RPI, and unless conference teams do some impressive things before the new year to improve upon that RPI, any Pac-10 school will have to finish well above .500 in conference play to make the dance.  I don't see kal doing that.  Two more out of conference losses and you can just about stick a fork in the weenies (unless you think kal is capable of going something like 12-6 in conference).  The medium term for kal will depend in large part on Leon Powe.  If he's one and done, kal would lose him, Amit Tamir and Gabriel Hughes all in the same year, leaving the frontcourt incredibly thin.  The weenie nation should be nervous, as reports of kal's resurgence might just turn out to be not only premature but wrong.

4. UConn is the one team I've seen so far that Stanford probably cannot beat if it brings its "A game."  North Carolina may be in that category, but I don't see any other team that we don't have a good chance against even if it brings its A game.

5. There was a lot of discussion on the message boards after the Kansas game about Chris Hernandez.  A couple of points worth mentioning... he is demanding constant attention from his defender (credit Hernandez' early hot shooting from deep for that), who is unable to sag off him and provide help defense.  That's a highly underrated aspect of point guard play, IMO, and even if Chris has trouble scoring in some games, his ability to force defenders to guard him constantly will be invaluable.  I've seen some darned good "pure" point guards who were excellent distributors but could cost their teams at times when opposing defenses were able to cheat off them and play help defense.  Pepe Sanchez comes to mind.  Point #2: Chris' free throw shooting will be key for Stanford in holding leads late in games.  Not only is he money at the line, but his ability to handle pressure without giving up the ball will ensure that he's the one taking the lion's share of late free throws when opponents are forced to commit late fouls.

6. For all the criticism of Justin Davis' affinity for spin moves, I'll bet he draws a ton of fouls in Pac-10 play.  Davis gets into foul trouble far too often, but he'll force some opposing post players to the bench, as well.  And speaking of Justin, he doesn't seem to be getting nearly the credit he deserves for playing excellent defense on Wayne Simien.

7. John Platz commented after the game that it could help us in recruiting.  I think it was an astute and important observation.  Stanford's out of conference schedule is relatively weak and every other quality opponent is from the West.  The national publicity associated with beating (soon to be former) #1 Kansas is invaluable, and the fact that they're from the Midwest could be helpful given that we're recruiting a number of players from the region and going head to head with Kansas for some.

8. It's too early to pay much attention to individual teams' RPI and Sagarin rankings.  However, it's not too early to start watching *conference* RPI's.  These early games go a long way toward determining them, and once conference play starts, there isn't much movement.  The "strength of schedule" and RPI rankings of all the individual Pac-10 schools will be adversely affected by the weak early showings in out of conference games.  Pac-10 schools will also have fewer opportunities at "quality wins" against conference opponents as compared to prior years, because only two or three are likely to be in the top 50 in the RPI, and only one or two in the top 25.  (Quality wins are used to calculate the so-called "adjusted RPI" and are considered in tournament selection and seeding.)  The upshot of all this is that unless the Pac-10 reverses the early trend and shows much better during the remainder of the out of conference schedule, the Pac-10 is not going to place as many teams into the tournament as it has in years past.  Even after just four games (on average) for each Pac-10 team, enough damage may have been done that the conference simply cannot get five (and certainly cannot get six) teams into the dance this year.

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