Arizona Preview

When you scrape away the turmoil and tests that face this Stanford team, Thursday's game still presents a fierce rivalry between the top two programs in the Pac-10. Add a dash of desperation for the Card, and you have a recipe for a fierce battle in the desert. Simon Sez the ingredient Stanford needs is defensive intensity to come out on top.

Some weekends are big because it affects tournament seeding. Some weekends are big because it involves games against long time rivals. Rarely, especially for Stanford the past several years, does it involve a berth in the NCAAs vs the NIT. That nasty bubble word is usually reserved for our friends across the bay, but this year is very different for Cardinal fans. After last weekend's crushing blow with two bad losses (yes the UCLA game was a bad loss!), and the potential for trouble this weekend, this Cardinal team could be looking at the Pac-10 tourney as a showcase to show they belong. Yes, they should be favored against the Sun Devils, but recent events for both teams show that Saturday's game could go either way. A far cry from a season ago, where all Stanford had to do was step into the gym, and seemingly the game was over. Now at 17-8, they need one more victory in the regular season to get the elusive 18th win overall and 11th conference win. While most of the bracketologists don't seem to be worried about Stanford postseason fate (Jerry Palm of Collegerpi gives Stanford a six, and Joe Lunardi an eight seed), I am definitely worried at this point. It isn't because we lost the two games by the margins we did, but the way in which those games were lost. Some people on the HoopsBoard have to come down to earth. After every game I see posts about how the opposition shot the lights out and there wasn't much Stanford could do. This theory just isn't true anymore as every team is shooting well against Stanford, and it is due to the defense. This team currently can't guard anyone, whether it is Freddie Jones, Marcus Moore, USC, or UCLA. Matt Barnes, arguably the Bruins second most consistent scorer, is suspended and they don't miss a beat. Teams are consistently shooting very well against Stanford, and when opponents routinely shoot 45-50%, it is very tough to win. I hope for one thing that there is renewed defensive intensity on this team; they will need it if they have any plans of advancing in the Pac-10 and NCAA tournaments. No better way to start than going down to the desert in Tucson and tangling with the Wildcats.

PG -Tony Giovacchini 6-1 180 lbs vs Jason Gardner 5-10 181 lbs 20.4 PPG 4.8 APG

This potential matchup is a difficult one to even look at. Tony has had his struggles, and when you combine that with Gardner being the 2nd best point guard in America, this calls for a tough matchup. Chris Hernandez has a chance to breakthrough into the starting lineup, but I wouldn't count on it. Tony surprisingly had some success against Jason last matchup, but as the game went on, Gardner started to take control. Gardner has once again had a great year, but certainly not as dominant without Woods, Jefferson, Arenas and Wright. He usually fed off them, but has had to work a lot harder this year as he is definitely ‘The Man". I can't see him having a bad game no matter who is guarding him. Advantage: Jason Gardner

SG - Julius Barnes 6-1 180 lbs vs Salim Stoudamire 6-1 176 lbs 13.0 PPG

Last weekend was a tough one for Julius as it looked like he began to lose confidence in his game. He was settling for long three's when we are all used to Julius driving to the hoop, to either score or dish. Though we didn't see a lot of that last weekend, it's something we all hope he can fix for the upcoming games. Salim Stoudamire has turned into a very good player: hitting his open three's and is nails on the free throw line, something very rare for a freshmen. This guy should be a big time star in his sophomore and junior seasons. On top of everything, he is a defensive stopper, which shouldn't help Julius' cause. Julius needs to be assertive and definitely attack the paint, as it looks like teams are figuring out how to clog the middle against our post players. This game could really hinge on whether Julius can be a third scorer or not. Advantage: Salim Stoudamire

SF - Casey Jacobsen 6-6 210 lbs 22.5 PPG vs Luke Walton 6-8 241 lbs 15.4 PPG 7.6 RPG 6.3 APG

This is a matchup that Casey should like on the offensive end. Walton might be tall but he lacks the speed that Jacobsen has showed this year, which should mean more open shots for Casey. Salim Stoudamire, a much quicker player, will also take his turn on Casey. Walton on the offensive end is a much different story. He is the prototype college star: tall and very versatile, yet without a clear position ahead in the NBA. On the offensive side he is a very pesky player, often squeezing his way through the lane and dishing it off or making tough shots in the key. He has become a very tough guard for opposing three's, especially when he takes most of them into the post. Casey had a rough LA weekend but still managed to put up points. This weekend might be special to him as well, as this could be his last Pac-10 road trip. Hopefully not, but all signs look this way. Advantage: Casey Jacobsen

PF - Teyo Johnson 6-7 240 lbs vs Rick Anderson 6-9 213 lbs 13.2 PPG 6.9 RPG

This is a matchup that probably won't play a major role in the game. Teyo has been plagued with foul trouble this year, including a recent spat of rather suspect calls. He has been a decent contributor as a starter, often providing energy, but sometimes unable to compete with taller players on the glass. He is very strong in the post and should do better as he gets more chances to show off his quickness. Rick Anderson has also been a steady player for the Wildcat, throwing in a big game once in a while. He was contained pretty well in the first meeting, and I don't think he should be a problem again. He can hit the outside shot, though, so he can't be left open. Look for Anderson to be the more consistent contributor. Advantage: Rick Anderson

C - Curtis Borchardt 7-1 240 lbs 16.5 PPG 11.2 RPG vs Channing Frye 6-10 9.9 PPG 6.5 RPG

Something definitely seemed wrong with Curtis last weekend. I know he was hounded in the post but he was fumbling a lot of post entry passes last weekend. It was very strange to see this, as basically all year he has been everything anyone could ask in a seven footer. Hopefully he is just banged up, and the five days rest will help him back to "normal." He dominated the boards in the first meeting, going off for 24 points and 21 rebounds. Channing Frye has been one of the best freshmen in the conference and will pull Curtis away from the basket. He has a great mid-range shot and not too long ago was shooting 70% in conference play. Look for Curtis to rebound from his subpar weekend and become a dominant player once again. Advantage: Curtis Borchardt

I feel that Stanford actually does matchup pretty well with Arizona. Arizona doesn't press as much as USC and doesn't quite have the talent like they have had the past years. They still do have great talent, and this game is going to be a fight. I really hope that Stanford comes out with intensity and shows a little emotion on the court. I haven't really seen this since my favorite player (Arthur Lee) left the program. Look for Stanford to play inspired and get that tournament ticket. Advantage: Stanford 85-81

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