Stanford is coming off two bounce-back games after a very tough loss to Texas, and is looking to continue the win streak in Las Vegas against BYU. This is the first game on national television and should give extra incentive to put in a nice performance. To win they will have to beat a fundamentally sound BYU that made the tournament last year. This game is about equal distance from both schools so home court shouldnt be much of an advantage for either team. Stanford is the favorite, so expect all the UNLV fans to jump on the BYU bandwagon if BYU can hang in the game. There was a change in the Stanford lineup this week as Julius Barnes ,who has been very effective as of late, replaced Josh Childress and played shooting guard. That in turn moved Casey over to the Small Forward position. This gave the team a spark last game, as Barnes was very active in pushing the ball and giving people open looks, as well as hitting four three-pointers of his own. Here is what the teams should look like as they take the floor on the Las Vegas strip.
PG - Matt Montague, 6-0, 190, Senior, Senior, Louisville, KY (5.8 ppg) vs. Tony Giovacchini 6-2, 180, Senior, Salt Lake City, Ut (5.0 ppg)
This battle will definitely be a sidenote in the game as both are seniors who are high on experience, but dont score a whole lot. Tony needs to shake off a shaky Stanford Invitational and get his game back on track. Matt Montague is a great passer and dishes out 7 assists a game, which is very good in todays college basketball. This is also due to the sound offense BYU runs, which relies more on cuts and timing than sheer athleticism. This is Montagues 58th start so he has tons of experience and should give Tony a good test. Tony just needs to get people involved and hit some open threes that he has been getting. He is in a little slump now but it is something that can easily go away with a solid performance. Look for this to be a good matchup for BYU as Montague is a high energy and experience player at the point.
SG - Travis Hansen, 6-6, 210, Junior, Orem, Ut (16.3 ppg, 7.5 rpg) vs. Julius Barnes 6-1, 180, Junior, Rowland Heights (9.6 ppg)
Travis Hansen was a reserve player for the Cougars but came on this year and has earned himself a starting job. He is second on the team in scoring at 16.3 PPG and is leading the team in rebounding. He is a highly athletic player and is a great slasher but also can stroke the three-point shot. He and his teammate Mark Bigelow have been an outstanding scoring duo as they have combined for nearly 34 PPG. This will be a tough guard for Barnes but with Julius athletic ability he should be able to compensate even with a severe height disadvantage. Barnes in his first start scored 16 points and really gave this team some energy. It came at a good time, with Childress struggling and should help Tony with another point guard on the floor. Barnes plays high energy all the time and can explode at any moment. He has a turnover problem but this can improve with more playing time and experience. Look for Barnes to have another solid game and continue his hot streak.
SF - Mark Bigelow, 6-7, 190, Sophomore, Olympia, Wa (17.5 ppg) vs. Casey Jacobsen 6-6, 210, Junior, Glendora, Ca (21.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg)
Bigelow is one the top, if not the best Cougar player. He is an excellent shooter and will provide a tough guard for Casey. Bigelow sees the floor very well and is very smart on the floor, often making the right pass or decision. He will not beat himself and is a double threat to drive or shoot every time he has the ball. This is the key matchup of the game as Bigelow cant run around Stanford and go off for a big night. Jacobsen will also have some added motivation, as he will be playing in front of the whole country. The last time he was shown to the nation, it was the West Regional Final in which he had a very subpar outing against Maryland. Look for Casey to play inspired and go off for another big game, as his three-point shooting is back after the last two games. Look for Bigelow to have a good game, but for Casey to get 20+ points.
PF - Eric Nielsen, 6-9, 215, Senior, Fremont, Ca (9.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg) vs. Justin Davis 6-8, 230, Sophomore, Berkeley, Ca (5.3 ppg)
Nielsen is one of the less skilled players in the starting lineup but shoots a very good 56%. He is another senior with lots of starting experience and could exploit this with Justin Davis struggling. Nielsen is second on the team in rebounding at 5.3 per game and should give Davis a rough go around in the post. Davis played only 15 minutes last game and was really looking flat. He has been very streaky, sometimes looking spectacular on putbacks and sometimes looking lost. Look for Little to get a lot of playing time again unless Davis comes out with a big game. This is a minor mathcup in the post, but with two other big scorers on BYU, Nielsen cant have a big game.
C - Jared Jensen, 6-9, 245, Freshman, West Haven, Ut (7.9 ppg) vs. Curtis Borchardt 7-0, 240, Junior, Redmond, Wa (15.4 ppg, 11.4 rpg)
Jensen only a freshman has burst onto the scene at BYU looking fairly impressive. He is shooting 70% from the field, which should tell a lot and is looking like a player who could be really effective down the road. Unfortunately he is going to have to face Curtis Bortchardt who will once again have a huge height advantage. Borchardt has been off the scale this season, as he is averaging 15.4 PPG and 11.4 RPG. He has also improved his post passing and his assists are up this year because of it. Look for Curtis to have another solid game against an undersized freshmen post player.
I think people arent giving this game as much attention as they should. BYU is a tough team and will give Stanford a fight. BYU will play tough defense, but in the end Stanford should wear them down like they do to many teams. Look for a victory margin around 10 for Stanford Saturday night.