Stanford at Cal (2 p.m., Saturday,
You know Cal's 7-4 in conference and 18-6 overall. You know Cal has been in and out of the Top 25 all season, is within striking distance of the Pac-10 lead, and is setting itself up for a 5-8 seed. What you might not realize is that the Bears' success this year has come against a backdrop of complete instability. On the court, the Bears are as streaky as can be.
Starting December 10th, Cal won nine straight games and was 8-0 against the spread during that run. A trip to surprisingly strong Utah, the Arizona schools, a trip to the Washingtons – nothing was slowing the Bears, who were outright dogs in four of their victories.
But then came the Bears' visit to Maples Jan. 17, and Cal's fortune quickly turned. The Bears endured a 1-4 stretch where they were 0-5 against the spread, with their only win against Oregon.
For what it's worth, Cal did (again) sweep the Washington schools this past weekend, covering against both schools. Maybe they're on another hot spell. It would be perfect timing to get hot – Cal can fatten up against the Oregons, and if they can down ASU, USC and UCLA, all still on the schedule, you have to like their odds of winning the league outright.
Both teams shot over 50 percent in their first meeting at Maples, a 75-69 Stanford win. Lawrence Hill led all scorers with 25 points on 11-of-15 shooting, Anthony Goods added 19, and Landry Fields finished with 15. Stanford was only outrebounded by two and forced 15 turnovers, including six from guard Jerome Randle.
Cal, however, did finish with 22 assists, and forward Jamal Boykin was every bit as hot as Law Hil, finishing with 22 points on 10-of-13 shooting. Both teams will need to improve their defense in the rematch, because it's unlikely that their offensive stars will again bail them out with such a hot shooting night.
Randle leads the Bears with 19 points per game, with Patrick Christopher (14 points), Theo Robertson (13 points), and Boykin (10 points) also in double figures. The Bears shoot really well -- 49 percent overall and 46 percent deep – and are +3 on rebounds. Their defense is average, allowing opponents 43 percent overall and 34 percent deep, to win their average game by a score of 76-67.
I expect the Bears to be about five-point favorites Saturday, but, as a
Stanford fan, my worries are myriad:
- I worry that Cal is 14-1 at home, versus just 4-5 away from Haas, with their only home loss the inexplicable meltdown to Oregon State.
- I worry about the matchup problems Boykin presents. It's hard for teams to stop him -- he shoots 51 percent on the season – and it was next-to-impossible for Stanford to even slow him down at Maples.
- I worry that Stanford has struggled all season long in the defensive paint. Over 64 percent of Cardinal opponents' points come from two-pointers. That is the highest proportion in the nation. [As of press time, a Stanford player also leads the nation in one other statistical category. I would have never guessed it. Anthony Goods commits fewer fouls per 40 minutes than anyone in the country.]
- I worry that Cal shoots so accurately, given that Stanford allows such a high field goal percentage. Stanford opponents make 53.4 percent of their two-pointers, one of the worst marks in the nation.
- I think the Bears are in for a big offensive night.
Prediction: Cal 85, Stanford 74
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Predicted: Stanford 65, Arizona State 60 Actual: Arizona State 90, Stanford 60
Predicted: Arizona 69, Stanford 67 Actual: Stanford 76, Arizona 60
Predicted: Washington 78, Stanford 65 Actual: Washington 84, Stanford 83
Predicted: Stanford 57, Wash. State 53 Actual: Wash. State 55, Stanford 54
Predicted: Stanford 76, Cal 72 Actual: Stanford 75, Cal 69
Predicted: Stanford 75, Oregon 65 Actual: Stanford 77, Oregon 55
Predicted: Stanford 75, Oregon State 58 Actual: Oregon State 77, Stanford 62
Predicted: USC 75, Stanford 68 Actual: USC 70, Stanford 69
Predicted: UCLA 78, Stanford 62 Actual: UCLA 97, Stanford 63
Predicted: Stanford 62, WSU 56 Actual: Stanford 65, WSU 54
Predicted: Washington 89, Stanford 76 Actual: Washington 75, Stanford 68
Predicted: Stanford 82, Cal State-Bakersfield 64 Actual: Stanford 85, Bakersfield 50
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