Hoops Kibbles & Bits

It's a fun time for Stanford basketball, but there still are a number of timely issues worth examining. Who is slumping, and how can they set things straight? Who is stepping up as the biggest surprise the past few weeks? What seed does Stanford really want in the NCAAs? Who had their dating life put on public display a week ago? For all these answers and more, pull up for a heaping helping of K&B.

  • The most confident and savvy member of the freshman class, Dan Grunfeld made a big impact on coaches and fans alike with his decision making and knack for a quick offensive infusion off the bench this season.  That is, until his recent rough stretch.  After averaging 12.7 minutes per game through his first 22 games and a season low of eight minutes in any one game, Grunfeld played a total of just five minutes in the Oregon State and Washington games.  He has failed to hit a field goal in his past four games and amazingly has only attempted one three-point shot in his last five games.  This is incredibly incongruous for such a confident and mature kid like the New Jersey native, but the conclusion of his recent slide is inescapable.  "It's something everyone always goes through at some point," Grunfeld describes.  "Maybe I went into a couple games recently without the focus I could have had, but I still think I'm capable.  I'm not going to go away from what I've always done in the way of preparation and execution.  There aren't any pills to take for this, and there's nothing I should be changing with my shot.  I need to just let the game come to me, but be aggressive."  Head coach Mike Montgomery has his own observations: "Like any freshman, Dan is probably trying to make plays too much.  For a time, he seemed like he would come off the bench and hit every shot.  He's got to relax and let the game come to him."  Montgomery did give Grunfeld 13 minutes in last Saturday's Washington State game, a sure sign that he wants the frosh shooting guard to keep playing through this mini-slump.
  • I reported a few weeks ago the encouraging note that sophomore center Rob Little was hanging around in games and able to play much more extended minutes.  He logged more than 30 minutes in a stretch of four out of five games, and at Arizona had one of his best games of the season (13 points, nine rebounds).  But in the last two weeks, Little has been mired in another foul-infested funk.  Over the span of his last four games, he has averaged just 18.3 minutes per game had picked up four fouls in three of the affairs.  "I'm about on my last nerve," the sophomore says of his treatment by Pac-10 officials, which has a lengthy history of penalizing the league's physical big men.  Montgomery saw some good things from his biggest post player in Saturday's Washington State game, though.  "He was better with his decisiveness," the coach commented.  "I thought he got whistled for some real cheap fouls, though, and it took him out of play.  It would be great for Rob to get back to where he was in some of his games earlier this year."  Montgomery always responds to questions about Little's foul trouble by saying that when the big guy gets tired, he is much more prone to the whistles, but that doesn't
  • One of the more novel experiments with this Stanford squad has involved moving Julius Barnes to the shooting guard for more than just a passing moment, with freshman Jason Haas manning the point.  Haas hasn't scored a field goal since the last game against UCLA a full four weeks ago, but Barnes has recently exploded for the best scoring spurts of his career.  Just as importantly, Haas has steadily manned the point without turning the ball over.  The underdog point guard has registered 12 assists versus just three turnovers in his last five games, in which he has averaged 11 minutes per game.  Haas and Barnes may not be "the answer" for Stanford's backcourt production, but it certainly is very comforting for that option to have some proven success.
  • Speaking of point guard duties, the starting backcourt of Barnes and Matt Lottich has had a little role reversal as well.  Barnes has by no means taken time off with the increased minutes by Haas, still averaging 35.5 minutes per game over the past four contests.  To help keep the senior fresh in this grinding conference run, Montgomery has let had Lottich bring the ball up against pressure in many situations over the past several weeks while Barnes waits across halfcourt.  "A lot of times it just doesn't make sense to keep running Julius to death if the other team wants to key on him," Montgomery said this week.  "I think Matt is one of the league leaders in assist-to-turnover ratio, and that probably would have surprised me if you had said that at the beginning of the season.  There's no point laboring the thing if we can keep doing that with Matt."  Lottich indeed is #2 in the conference currently with his 2.1 A/TO ratio.
  • For those Booties who have been debating endlessly on our crazed message boards about the benefits and demerits of various NCAA tournament seedings, don't forget one important detail.  As of last year, the Selection Committee is making a concerted effort to try and put top four seeded teams as close to home as possible for their subregional site.  That doesn't mean that a #4 seed would put Stanford in the West bracket, but it would give them a great leg up on the short flight to Spokane for the first week of games.  Salt Lake City is another nearby destination.  And with a dearth of teams on the West Coast who could deserve top four seeds, Stanford won't be fighting regionally for such a spot.  Alternative visions of Birmingham once again as some lower seed are too much to bear...  And say what you want about the perilous danger of playing a #1 seed possibly in the Sweet Sixteen, but keep in mind that Stanford has already beaten two teams who could hold those pole positions come March: Arizona and Florida.
  • In case you missed it, an article in the Stanford Daily last Friday touched on a Valentine's theme by setting up three pairs of Stanford students on blind dates.  Josh Childress was setup with a 5'8" fellow sophomore in yet another very revealing look at how the guys on this team can be completely normal and exceptional members of the Stanford community.  For a look at the J-Chill you don't see off the court, check out the article and scan to the lower third: http://daily.stanford.edu/tempo?page=content&id=10267&repository=0001_article.
  • Prepare for the Steve Lavin media circus to hit a peak this weekend in its frenzy, now that the UCLA head man is openly acknowledging his imminent firing and the search for his replacement.  At this week's UCLA press conference, he rattled off the names of some of the game's top head coaches who might replace him, including the oft-discussed Ben Howland of Pi

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