With the completion of Stanford's out of conference schedule, now is a good time to look at where the Card stands in the computer rankings and to assess what the team needs to do in conference play to make the NCAA Tournament. It also seems an appropriate time to take a quick look at some team statistics of note.
Rankings and what Stanford needs to do to make the Tournament
This is where Stanford currently ranks in the major computer rankings:
- CBS' version of RPI: 2 (#6 SOS)
- Jerry Palm's (Collegerpi.com) version of RPI: 4 (#6 SOS)
- Sagarin: 27
Although the selection criteria for the NCAA Tournament is complicated and subjective, these computer rankings provide are a halfway decent proxy that give a rough idea of where we would stand based on the Committee's criteria. Our SOS will drop once conference play begins, but will remain solid. We've got quality OOC wins on the books against teams that are in the top 50 of the RPI now and, more importantly, will be at the end of the year. Obviously it's early, but Stanford is very much on track for a tournament bid, and the Card is in much better shape than Cal, ASU and USC with respect to the factors that go into the selection/seeding process.
Here's what I think Stanford needs to do in conference play to make the tournament: 10 regular season wins plus one or more wins in the conference tournament probably gets us in. 11 regular season wins regardless of performance in the conference tournament gets us in. 10 regular season wins without a win in the conference tournament would probably make for a close call, and our chances might depend on whether we can manage one or more wins against Arizona and Oregon (I'm assuming they'll finish 1-2 in the standings if we only have 10 conference wins), record during the final 5-10 games of the season, injuries or lack thereof and the other subjective things the selection committee considers.
A look at Stanford's team statistics reveals the obvious strengths and weaknesses of this Stanford team. The team's greatest strength is its rebounding; Stanford is averaging a Pac-10 best 11 rebounds per game more than its opponents. Stanford's shooting has been mediocre, but perhaps not as bad as some think. Against the toughest non-conference schedule of all the Pac-10 teams, Stanford is now in the middle of the Pac-10 rankings in overall FG% (6th) and 3FG% (5th). What may be skewing the perception of our shooting is that it is so much worse than in past years (after all, we were completely spoiled by the '00-'01 team on which every starter shot better than 40% from 3 and Stanford shot 50% from the field overall), that we lack a go-to shooter (no Stanford player is among the top 16 in the conference in three point shooting percentage, although Stanford players rank 17, 18, 19 and 20) and that our shooting percentage has varied wildly from game to game. The obvious bad news: we're dead last -- and by a wide margin -- in FT%.
Quick thoughts on Cal
Heading into Saturday's game, Cal has a full-blown point guard controversy. Despite A.J. Diggs' outstanding defense, his lack of contribution on the offensive end may cost him the starting job. Richard Midgely has been playing extremely well, especially on offense, and Ben Braun hasn't done anything to downplay expectations that Midgely could take the starting job at any time. Nevertheless, I would look for Ben Braun to put A.J. Diggs in the game whenever Jason Haas comes in for Stanford. In the past, Braun has demonstrated a fondness for putting his defensive stopper (e.g. Ray "Circus" King or Diggs) on any backup point guard that he thinks can't handle the ball against his defensive ace.
Two keys to the Cal game: (1) Cal is leading the Pac-10 in three point shooting percentage at 42%, while Stanford ranks third in the conference in opponents' three point percentage, at 29%. With Cal's complete and utter lack of post play, the Bears' chances on Saturday will largely depend on their ability to knock down the three. (2) Justin Davis and Josh Childress should have a huge advantage on the inside against Cal, particularly in terms of rebounding ability. Stanford should be able to out-rebound Cal by 10 to 15 boards; if the Card can't manage that, it could be a long evening.
Justin Davis is leading the conference in rebounding with 9.5 rpg, more than a full board per game better than Oregon State's Philip Ricci (8.2). Josh Childress is third in the conference at 8.0
Shawan Robinson, the kid whose Door #1 experience raised quite a few eyebrows and perhaps marked the beginning of OU's new era of stinginess, is off to a nice start with Clemson. He's averaging close to 5 ppg, and has made 8 of his first 12 three point attempts.
After making it to the line only four times against Stanford on Saturday, Gonzaga had a remarkable 41 free throw attempts in its next game (a loss to St. Joe's).