clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Keeping FOCUS: Stanford Notes

Well there are some people around the county who wants us to look ahead and get into the arguments of who is the number 1 team in the country. Case in point:

LOL. Trev talking hoops. Kind of funny. No? I thought so.

We appreciate the shout out Trev. Joel over at Rocky Top Talk already responded and saved rest of us from having to explain to Trev exactly how this blogging thing really works. As for who is no 1 chatter sorry Trev. We are not going to get caught up in all that ranking hype chatter. Not this time. Not now.

Here on the front page of BN there is only one game we are going to be talking about from now till Thursday night. Dohn on what is at stake against Stanford:

UCLA (26-3, 14-2 Pac-10) holds a one-game lead on the Cardinal (24-4, 13-3), and, if victorious, will grab the top seed in next week's Pac-10 Tournament.

Winning the conference, which is widely regarded as the nation's best, would go a long way in UCLA securing a No. 1 seed in the West region of the NCAA Tournament, and some desired home cooking. The first two rounds of the West bracket are in Anaheim, with the next two in Phoenix.

The Final Four is April 5-7 in San Antonio.

"This game is about a lot more than winning the Pac-10," UCLA freshman center Kevin Love said. "We want to position ourselves for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and hopefully we'll have a chance to do that Thursday. And we'll see what happens in the Pac-10 Tournament, as well."
Last time Bruins matched up against Stanford our warriors pulled out a total team victory in a "war" at Maples.

Given the great regular season Stanford has put together, we can expect another battle on Thursday night. Trent Johnson, who IMHO is the prohibitive favorite to win the Pac-10 COY (although if I were to vote I would of course vote for CBH) is coming to the Cathedral with the best team he has ever coached in his career. From the San Jose Mercury News:
Johnson, who became the Cardinal coach in 2004, does not want to think about that yet. But when asked if this team was the best he has ever coached in terms of being NCAA tournament-ready, he grinned. As fond as he is of his 2004 Nevada squad that reached the NCAA Sweet 16, Johnson said the current Stanford group is better.

"This team is competing for the championship in one of the best, if not the best conference in college basketball," Johnson said. "So I would have to say yes."

Based on what happened Saturday, you could see why Johnson said that. Washington State, ranked No. 22 in the country, is the sort of team that can thrive in the NCAA tournament because of its disciplined shot selection and tough defense. But the Cardinal figured out a way to grind down WSU and grind out the season's 24th victory.

Stanford's top assets are the Lopez Monuments (whose shot-blocking makes driving into the paint an impossible proposition) and a roster with a dogged ethic that allowed the Cardinal to come back from a 14-point deficit in Saturday's game.
Yes any discussion re the Cardinal start with the Lopez twins. Coach Howland addressed that matchup issue at the outset in yesterday's press conference:
>> About the problems posed by Stanford's Lopez brothers, Howland added, "The Lopez twins create difficult problems.  The have two true 7-footers and both are really good players.  They will be playing this game for a long time.  Anytime you see that much size and skill and toughness and ability -- not only do they score, they block shots, rebound, change shots -- they are two outstanding players.  We did play Kevin [Love] and Lorenzo [Mata-Real] some against them the first time.

>> Asked about the battle between Love and Brook Lopez in the first game, Howland said, "It was intense; they are very tough.  I think Kevin had 15 [points] and seven [rebounds] in that game.  Josh [Shipp] had a great game against them; he made some big shots for us.  It seems like an eternity since we played them ... nearly two months.  We know we will have to play better than we did to have success."
As for Kevin here are his thoughts on playing against the Lopez brothers for the second time this season:
Love said he had a specific strategy against the Lopezes in the first game between the schools in January.  "Last time I tried to give pump fakes and get physical with them.  A couple times I got offensive rebounds and went right back up.  If we can get them in foul trouble again, it will really help us out.

"They have great timing and have been tall their whole lives.  They must be ranked pretty high in the country in blocked shots.  Lorenzo [Mata-Real]  is going to have to play big minutes on Thursday.  Hopefully I will stay out of foul trouble but when I need my rest Lorenzo will be in there."

Love is even getting his diet in order for Thursday: "I have no concern about having low energy like I did against Oregon at Pauley.   I am going to eat my carbs and get my spaghetti.  I'll be ready to go on Thursday.  No Subway before the game."
Gotta love KL. As I said yesterday though this game is also going to be lot more than the matchups in the paint. More from Coach Howland re. Thursday's game:
On the upcoming match-up with Stanford, which trails  the Bruins by one game in the Pac-10, Howland said: "Stanford is not doing a lot differently now than when we played them before.They are doing a great job of getting the ball inside, especially to Brook [Lopez] who is averaging  20 points per game.

"They have great balance; I think Brook is the only one averaging in double figures.  Both of the Lopezes are a load inside.  They have a lot of balance.  They are better because they have had Brook back a lot longer this time.  When we played them before, he had just come back.  He had only been in the lineup three or four games.  Both teams have improved since the first game; their guard play is very good.  Mitch Johnson is playing extremely well at the point for them.  They have developed more depth; Landry Field has had some big games for them off the bench and I don't think he even played in our game the first time.
Last time the Cards beat us - they were able to do so - by spreading the floor (I know what's new there?) and taking our guards off the dribble. So yes, I will say it again how it is going to fall upon DC, RW, and Shipp to lock the Stanford guards around the perimeter. I am sure CBH is going to be in their ears all week how they can't let Johnson and Goods cannot get in any kind of rhythm. Especially, it will be up to RW to lock down Goods. He simply cannot let Goods penetrate and create options for his other team-mates. So watch early on how Westbrook is defending Goods. If RW can prevent him from driving inside, that will bode well for us.

Stanford the winner of 11 out of their last 12 games have been getting better as the season has gone along. They are right there with our Ben Ball warriors in terms of being near the top of many of the defensive categories in conferences statistics. Bruins also will have to make sure that Stanford bigs do not exert their will around the rim. They lead the Pac-10 in offensive rebounding. So it will be up to Mata-Real (in his last home stand), AA2, LRMAM, and JK to be ferocious around the paint, blocking out, and gunning for every lose ball, making sure those guys don't get any second opportunities.

According to their defense is one of the best in the country (ranked 7th in the country). On offense the key as usual will be to patient. If DC, JS are in rhythm early then of course they should be looking to keep shooting to loosen things up. But at the same time we will need to look to run the offense through KL. KL seemed to be getting back in rhythm at the FT line against Zona, which was a great sign. We need to keep pounding it inside with him. Also speaking of shooting FTs, I am not sure if you guys noticed but Luc really seemed to be in great form from the FT line against Arizona. He looked smooth from the line. So as Stanford bigs focus on stopping KL inside, Luc should be looking to drive inside as well and manufacture points.

Either way Bruins should be going into Thursday night thinking it will be grinder and an all out battle for 40 mins. If they come in without worrying about all the distractions re. who is number 1 (the debate Trev wants to drag us into) and just focus on Stanford, they will be in great shape. Here is to our guys keeping focus on the Trees and getting it done.