Where did the Cardinal go? After starting the conference season 5-1, they dropped three of their last four games to Colorado, Cal and WSU to get to 5-4 (all three losses had double digit margins). Meanwhile, ASU has got themselves back in the win column, with a close win against Wazzu. Can ASU capitalize on the Cardinal's funk and keep the mojo going, or will the Sun Devils be stomped in Maples? Oh, and will there be a Trent Lockett sighting? Brief glances at the Stanford team after the jump.
Stanford plays the second fastest tempo in the Pac 12 after Oregon State (69 possessions a game). With this tempo, the Cardinal's fortune rests on the 3 point shot. So far they took the most attempts from the 3 but are right now subpar converting 32.7% of them. This team is also only average from the line, and convert less than 70% of their freebies. Overall, they average 1 point per possession and shoot 42% from the floor overall. They are also a subpar passing team, as they average more turnovers than assists. The only really good thing SU has going for them is offensively rebounding.
What's keeping the Cardinal from freefalling is their defense. Well, kind of. Before their funk the Cardinal have been a good defensive team, using the similar Coach K small ball, high pressure defense to frustrate opponents. But right now the Cardinal are allowing opponents to shoot close to 45% from the floor and 34% from 3. Even more costly is that the Cardinal foul a lot, allowing easy buckets from the free throw line. About the only things Stanford does well is through rebounding (they routinely win the rebound battle every night, albeit in a slight edge) and their slightly above average block percentage. Other than that they don't force a lot of turnovers.
For double digit scoring, the Cardinal rely on guards Aaron Bright and Chasson Randle and frontline anchor Josh Owens. Both Bright and Randle do not score well from the floor (43%), but shoot over 38% from the 3 and the teams best and second best assist leaders respectively. Expect them to handle the ball a lot. Josh Owens is a capable post player who has the moves and athleticism to contribute inside and on both ends of the floor. He shoots a ridiculous rate from the floor (60%) and leads the team in steals and boards. The other 2 starters are Anthony Brown and Josh Huestis. Huestis leads the team in blocked shots and is second in rebounding while Brown is a highly athletic guard who doesn't score the ball efficiently. Outside these five there are multiple players who score 3-5 points a game: Andy Brown, John Gage, Dwight Powell, Jarrett Mann, Gabriel Harris and Stefan Nastic.
Here's to hope that the Cardinal miss shots from the outside. A lot of their success early came from hitting the 3, but it looks like for now they fell back to earth. Then again, ASU can force bad 3 point attempts by getting up in the shooters' faces and force them to go off the dribble rather than take a rhythm 3. Outside of that shooting, ASU needs to see that Dwight Powell is shut down, and players like Pateev and Bachynski have the size and dare I say the game experience to do so without getting into foul trouble.
Stanford doesn't force turnovers, hence leading to another opportunity to have more assists than turnovers. Expect SU to get up and pressure, as the roster size is a bit on the small side. However, with the lackluster defense from the Cardinal, the Devils have the chance to shoot over 44% and over 36% from 3. Needless to say, hot shooting is a must in order to offset any turnover issues.
Again, as to the players, assuming that Trent Lockett will return against Cal and not Stanford, can the entire team step up together? Oh, and can ASU win games on the road (our only win was against USC at the Galen Center)? We'll find out when the game tips off in the rowdy Maples Pavilion.