Frontcourt Update For Arizona Games

That beautiful 18-0 glow doesn't seem so present among Stanford Hoopaholics this week, as handwringing is intense over the frontcourt injury situation. If you have questions about what Mike Montgomery is going to do tonight with his starting lineup, as well as his rotation, read on for a few quick answers...

The injury information came out early this week on the status of Justin Davis, who is out for four to six weeks, but the official word on Matt Haryasz has been much more quiet.  Any requests to speak with him by the local media have been met with a very firm "no comment," and believe me - I've tried plenty!

If you had any doubts about the severity of his sprain, and thus if he might have a chance of playing tonight, I am here today to say that Haryasz is out.  And it is 95% sure that he will also be out Saturday for the Arizona game.  There is no Thursday game next week, with a Saturday trip set to Berkeley; we will know more in seven or eight days if Haryasz has a chance to play at Cal.

However, he is hobbling around on crutches today and keeping his newfound weight off his ankle.  Cross him off your mental roster for tonight, which makes Stanford 0-for-2 at the power forward position.  Some Cardinalmaniacs™ have made predictions or suggestions that Joe Kirchofer take the starting reins at the "four" position tonight.  After all, he had some very strong moments in Eugene last Saturday.  The 6'9" Stanford post player went for a season-high 21 minutes, ripping down a season-best eight boards while shooting 3-of-4 from the field.  And though you may not realize it, that was a pretty big frontline Oregon started and played throughout that game.

Kirchofer is not the right move in this situation, though.  He can be a productive player in the low post on offense and defense, and I don't know of anyone on this team who has a higher percentage of their career scoring on offensive tip-ins.  But the further you play him from the basket, the more you expose some limitations in lateral mobility.  I can see the fifth-year senior playing some minutes alongside Rob Little tonight, but only out of necessity.  You would like to put somebody else with quickness on the floor at the same time, and that is why Kirchofer rightfully spends the overwhelming majority of his time at center.

Instead, you will see Nick Robinson start tonight.  The 6'7" combo forward/wing/guard has played four spots on the floor this year, and done a pretty darned good job at all of them.  Robinson has spent more time on the wing this year offensively, with the Josh Childress injury start, plus increasing reserve minutes at the shooting guard spot.  But remember that the Missouri native started 11 games at the power forward spot last year and went 9-2 in that stretch.  He has grown an inch since, and is stronger and more experienced today.  An added benefit of starting Robinson and bringing Kirchofer off the bench is that you can plug the reserve into either spot.  Should you start Little and Kirchofer side by side, you have no choice but to get significantly smaller when you go to the bench.

Also watch tonight to see if Stanford goes to any three-guard lineups that push Josh Childress to the power forward spot.  You might expect to see a point guard plus Matt Lottich, Dan Grunfeld, Childress and a center on the floor.

One thing we know is that Little has to play good basketball tonight.  As the roster is trimmed, man by man, the margin for error becomes thinner and thinner.  Stanford miraculously escaped Mac Court with an historic comeback win last weekend, but the chances of anything good coming this week when Little picks up four fouls in five minutes, with zero points and two turnovers, is slim to none.  And folks, Slim is in a boot right now, walking around on crutches.

The junior center's best offensive move with his back to the basket is his little jump hook.  Little can hit the shot with either hand, and his percentage is not the failing.  According to Mike Montgomery, the big guy just doesn't go to it enough.

"Hey, I would like him to take that," says the Cardinal head coach.  "The jump hook is a good move for him, left or right."

"Everybody has to pull their load, especially when you are down players," Montgomery says of his limited lineup.  "If they don't, that's when we are going to drop a game."

Las Vegas has tonight's game pegged with the #2 Cardinal as 15-point favorites.  It is hard to believe that the bookmakers in Sin City are unaware of the Haryasz injury, but with Stanford's razor-thin frontline available for tonight, most people expect something far closer... if the Card can even pull out the "W."

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