Kind of funny. Heading into this Saturday's game against Stanford (7-7, 1-1 in the Pac-10), Bruins (7-8, 2-1 in the Pac-10) find themselves in exact same situation they were in last Friday, when they were getting ready (well at least we thought our guys were getting ready) for a Saturday matchup against Arizona. Just like last week the Bruins are coming off a big (kind of ugly and lucky) win against a tough Pac-10 opponent and have some reasons to feel relieved (hey and perhaps even good) about themselves.
Just like last Friday we find ourselves in a position from where Howland's team has a great opportunity to climb back up to the .500 mark and perhaps give themselves some real hope heading into rest of the conference season. Yet I am not feeling all that great about this game.
I want to feel hopeful about tomorrow's matchup against Stanford and dream about leaving the Bay with a completely unexpected sweep. I really do. However, right before I think about getting my hopes up, I have visions of our "defense," all those ugly, head-scratching turnovers, and our usual brilliant performances from the FT line. So yeah, despite all of your best efforts to get me hopeful for tomorrow afternoon's game, I am anticipating it with a sense of dread and expected disappointment.
One thing we can already expect for tomorrow is that the Stanford Cardinal are not going to be cruising in this game like their Bay Area counterparts doing on Thursday night at Haas. They are going to come into this game with a chip on their collective shoulders (kind of like Arizona did at Pauley following their loss against Southern Cal) with something to prove to rest of the league. They got swept by us during last year's season series and they are going give everything they can to get us back tomorrow afternoon (3 pm PST, Prime Ticket) at Maples Pavilion. We barely won against them at Maples last year
weekend and we have had a history of letdown on that court in recent years even with our classic Ben Ball warriors. So, if we are going to even think about coming out a victory tomorrow afternoon, we will need our guys to come out and give their best effort and fight for 40 minutes, while playing with some semblance of consistency and composure.
It will be very interesting to see how Howland gets our guys defensively prepped for this game. After showing zone against ASU he pretty much ignored it against Arizona. We saw a lot of it against Cal on Thursday night. Although I think, we have ways to go and lot to improve upon on our 2-3 zone, I thought it did have at least some positive effects, as it disrupted the Bears offensive rhythm a bit, while give our guys a little breather to keep themselves fresh on the offensive end. Going through the numbers, it seems like Stanford might be a decent candidate to throw some zone against as they are particularly they are not a great shooting team from the 3 pt line (guess I am jinxing it all now).
We are going to have our hands full with Landry Fields, their 6-7, 210 senior forward, who is averaging a team-leading 22.5 points and 9 rebounds per game. He has been in a bit of offensive slump during the Pac-10 conference season though. He shot 9 for 24 in the opener against Cal and then went 5 for 14 against Southern Cal. That concerns me even more because seems like he is now due to have a big game on Saturday. It will be interesting to see who guards him on Saturday. I am assuming Howland might be throwing a combination of Honeycutt and Roll. Either way he is going to be a challenge.
The key in terms of matchup is going to be in the backcourt. Jack Salisbury from the Stanford Daily (BTW how come there is no Stanford sports blog on the internets? It's really crazy) has a nice set up on this:
[T]the match-up between each team's guards will likely decide the game. [Jarrett] Mann will have the task of facing Bruins point guard Malcolm Lee, who leads the team with 14.1 points and 3.9 assists per game. Sophomore Jeremy Green, the Cardinal's strongest perimeter threat, will have the task of guarding Roll. Green is more athletic and a bit stronger than the veteran Roll, so he may have the advantage in that match-up.
Green is the second leading scorer for the Cardinal (16.7 ppg). He was big on Thursday night as he pumped in 17 points in their 1 point nail biter against the Trojies. I guess we can count on Lee to guard him on Saturday as it's a good bet Howland will task his best back-court defender to guard their most prolific playmaker.
I would really like to drink the kool-aid and be hopeful that Lee will be bottling up Green and our mix of man-to-man and zone defense will neutralize the Cardinal just enough on their home court. I would also like to think our offense will be just enough productive to get the job done against a very mediocre defensive team [Per Pomeroy, Stanford's opponent have an effective FG% of 52.2, ranking the Cardinal 278th in D-1]. However, just when I get my hopes up I remind myself of our ugliness from the FT line [61.1% (!!!) and ranked 329 per Pomeroy] and our penchant for turning the ball over.
The key on Saturday will be whether the Bruins can play smart, be composed and play with passion and purpose. Can we stop ourselves from imploding and going through the motions like we have on number of occasions this season after putting together what seemed like encouraging moral victories or in couple of occasions two actual victories? I keep trying to find reasons to feel confident but can't come up with much.