After all, Stanford's 15-9, 4-9 Pac-10 record is nothing to brag about, but it blows away the Ducks' marks of 6-20 overall and 0-14 in the Pac-10. The Cardinal also are in at No. 96 in the RPI, well ahead of Oregon at 166.
Plus, Oregon's 0-for-Pac-10 mark is no fluke. Sometimes 0-fer-a lot teams aren't actually historically bad, but bad luck is working against them. Last year's 0-16 Detroit Lions, for example, lost half of their games by ten points or less. Bad? Unquestionably so. Worse than every other NFL team the past 20 years, none of whom went 0-16? Unquestionably not.
The Ducks though, are playing at a truly awful level. They are 3-11 against the spread in Pac-10 games, meaning they're falling horribly short of already low expectations. Indeed, the Quackers have come within nine points in conference only twice: a 57-54 loss in Corvallis and a 76-69 loss in Berkeley.
However, what proportion of Oregon's woes is attributable to a lack of effort versus a lack of talent, a near-impossible question for an out-of-town writer to answer, is one that could prove important today. With only suddenly resurgent Oregon State and two weekends in L.A. (the regular-season finale road trip and then the 7-10 Pac-10 Tournament Game) remaining, Oregon has to figure Stanford is its best remaining shot at avoiding the blight of an 0-19 Pac-10 mark.
Accordingly, you have to think that tonight is the night the Ducks give their proverbial 110 percent, leave it all on the court, show no quit (or fear, or mercy) and play with their backs to the wall. Itís a must-win for Oregon, their Game Seven, their Super Bowl, their playoffs, their chance at avoiding history. Throw in any other cliches I missed, but the bottom line is this: Oregon is going to come to play. (My favorite cliche ever, because, really, what are the other alternatives?)
Let me revise: all plays on words aside, Oregon is going to play really, really hard. If Vegas odds could speak, the Stanford -5 line would be screaming at us: this is going to be much more of a tossup than you think. The Card, by means of comparison, were 4.5-point favorites against Northwestern, Santa Clara, and versus Washington State earlier this year, and 5.5-point dogs to USC. Us Stanford fans viewed all those matchups as eminently winnable by either team, and rightfully so.
As much as it pains me to admit it, this Oregon game goes in the same basket. Stanford's fallen far enough this season that there's no such thing as a safe win anymore, at least not in the Pac-10. Cardinal fans are going to have to sweat this one out.
Speaking of Stanford's fall, the Card are 0-6 in Pac-10 roadies, and have lost six of their last seven in league play. The then-10-0 Card opened Pac-10 play one-point favorites versus Arizona State. I shudder to think what that line would be now.
Oregon to Date
As discussed, just about everyone in the league has blown out the Ducks. Out of conference, the Ducks' best wins are Alabama, Kansas State, and Portland, but embarrassing losses to Oakland and San Diego foreshadowed the long season to come.
Matchup-wise, I think several aspects of this Oregon squad play into Stanford's hands. First, it's no secret that the Cardinal struggle against size defensively. Luckily for the Card then, Oregon's leading scorer is diminutive guard Tajuan Porter, the only Duck to average double figures in Pac-10 play, with 16 points per conference game.
On offense, meanwhile, Stanford lives or dies by the three. Oregon's defense has been most charitable from deep, allowing Pac-10 opponents to shoot an incredible 46 percent deep (and 52 percent overall). In conference, the Ducks shoot just 39 percent overall, 34 percent deep, and 67 percent from the charity stripe, but even if Stanford somehow gives up its ugly defensive averages to the Ducks, the Card should be comfortable as long as Oregon does the same.
Finally, Stanford has struggled crashing the boards and getting to the free throw line all season long. (See a common theme running through the squad's four most prominent weaknesses? A lack of interior muscle is killing this team.) Oregon, however, is -4 in rebounding margin in the Pac-10, and conference opponents have shot 92 more free throws than the Ducks.
You'd expect Oregon's statistics to be better tonight, as Stanford is a below average Pac-10 team, and the Ducks do figure to come out firing (aha, another cliche) in their penultimate home game and best remaining shot at a win. Still, there's nothing in the statistics that points to a potential Oregon victory, or, frankly, even a line of just five points.
Stanford won at Maples, 77-55. A plus-11 rebounding margin, plus-nine turnover margin and plus-six free throw attempt margin were the story, as Stanford didn't make shots at a significantly higher clip than the Ducks, but when you have twenty-some extra looks at the hoop, you certainly don't need to. The Card shot 50 percent overall and 40 percent from deep, mirroring Oregon's 39 percent overall and 52 percent deep. Anthony Goods led all scorers with 20, and Landry Fields added 13. Porter's 14 paced the Ducks.
Vegas: Stanford 76, Oregon 71 (Stanford -5, Total: 148).
Prediction: Part of the reason for such a close line is the lack of faith in Stanford, which in turn is largely because the Card have stunk in close games. Luckily for the Card, however, that should be entirely moot in this one shouldn't be close. Stanford is 12-0 against non-Pac-10 caliber teams (the 11 non-conference foes, plus Oregon Round One), and won many of those contests handily (8-2 against the line). Expect the same in Eugene.
Prediction: Stanford 80, Oregon 65
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
Predicted: Cal 85, Stanford 74 Actual: Cal 82, Stanford 75
Predicted: Stanford 74, Oregon State 63 Actual: Oregon State 65, Stanford 54
Predicted: Stanford 80, Oregon 65
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