Stanford has lost its last five Pac-10 games, and eight of its last nine, after a 3-3 conference start. The Cardinal sit at 4-11 in conference, 15-11 overall and solidly in ninth place in the league, three games ahead of last-place Oregon and three games behind USC, Oregon State, and Washington State who are battling for the sixth through eighth positions. If the conference tournament started today, the Cardinal would open Pac-10 tournament play Wednesday against the No. 8 seed, Washington State, then would play the top seed, Washington, in games they'd need to win to make the NCAA Tournament.
USC is falling apart at the seams as well, having lost five of its last six (though playing Cal tough Thursday in an 81-78 loss). The Trojans, 1-7 against top-25 teams, and Stanford, 1-6 against top-50 squads, have both struggled against elite competition all season, and on paper, this appears to be a competitive matchup, with Stanford a two-point favorite. The Trojans are just 2-7 on the road, while Stanford is 12-4 at home.
Stanford lost its third road game of the season by one point, 70-69 in L.A., as Lawrence Hill's would-be game-winning jumper rimmed in and out with the clock winding down. Taj Gibson led all scorers with 20, as USC shot 54 percent on the game. Stanford had its positives to take away, though. Hill scored 19 and Landry Fields added 18 on 7-of-11 shooting. The Card outrebounded USC 31 to 26 overall, and 14 to eight on the offensive glass, and made one more free throw and six more threes than the Trojans.
Four Trojans average in double figures: Dwight Lewis, Gibson, DeMarcus DeRozan, and Hackett, with 15, 14, 13, and 12 points per game, respectively. The Trojans shoot 47 percent overall (decent), 32 percent from deep (poor), and 67 percent on free throws (poor). They, however, outrebound opponents by five boards per game, and force the opposition into 40 percent overall shooting, two strong marks. USC wins its average game 68-63 and would be the clear favorite today if not for the home-court advantage, possibly compounded by the fact that it may well be the last home game (NIT pending) for the senior corps of the Cardinal.
USC's performance to-date doesn't offer a whole lot of fodder for analysis. The Trojans are who we thought they were: a middle of the road Pac-10 team. If they play to form, they'll finish exactly .500 in the conference, losing at Stanford but sweeping the Oregons to place them at 9-9. The Trojans did lose to Oregon State and Seton Hall this season, but they beat Cal and Arizona State, and took UCLA and Oklahoma to the wire. Who knows?
For whatever reason, perhaps partially because the Trojans lack a truly bulky center to exploit the Card's most obvious weakness – in the defensive paint – Stanford did perform well against USC in the teams' first meeting, beating the spread by 3.5 points. A similar performance tonight would give the Card a moderately comfortable five-point victory, and with reports of locker-room conflict steadily emerging from USC, it's possible to think the Trojans might mail it in…
… I know Stanford proved me wrong covering (well, depending on the line… some casinos had UCLA -5 as the final line, and hence recorded a push) against UCLA at Maples, and I know it's Senior Day and I know the teams' respective home/away splits and I've read of the discord in USC's locker room, but I can't escape three facts:
First, USC, NCAA bubble life wholly in question, has more to play for than the dead-in-the-water Cardinal. Second, Stanford has regressed throughout the second half of the Pac-10 season, and I don't expect that to change in one game. Finally, USC is simply the better team on paper, and I therefore can't in good conscience pick Stanford.
Vegas: Stanford 69, USC 67
The Bootleg: USC 79, Stanford 74
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 66, Stanford 54
Predicted: Stanford 80, Oregon 65 Actual: Oregon 68, Stanford 60
Predicted: UCLA 82, Stanford 64 Actual: UCLA 76, Stanford 71
Predicted: USC 79, Stanford 74
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