Sunday, February 03, 2008

Stanford at Washington State

While the Arizona at UCLA was supposed to be the spotlight game of the week, it was this game, Stanford visiting the snowy Washington State "Friel the Heat" court that was the game of the day.

There was slightly more pressure on Washington State to win the game as Stanford was playing without Anthony Goods, who got injured two days earlier at Washington. And this was a great test for the Stanford guards which I have criticized often that they are not Pac-10 level starters. How would they do against a basketball savvy team on both ends of the court? Would they fumble the ball every other possession or hold on to the ball enough for Stanford to have a chance to win the game?

The latter appears to be what happened, and the Stanford guards were able to do enough good and not enough damage to allow Brook Lopez, Lauren Hill and Stanford's poor man's Kyle Weaver (Taj Finger) to win the game for them.

This was a game that Wazoo needed Arron Baynes as he was facing the Lopez Twins. And this is the game that Baynes disappeared (foul trouble and play). But even without Baynes delivering, Washington State was able to almost win the game, as they went to overtime, and it took a Harlem Globetrotters move by Robin Lopez (the non-offensive twin) to seal the game for the Cardinal.

There were close calls at both ends of the court at crunch time that could have altered the final outcome, the Cougs for example could claim that Rochestie was fouled in the last play of the overtime, something that could have sent the game into double overtime. Stanford on the other hand can point to 2-3 calls at the end of regulations that looked like solid blocks but were instead called as two shot fouls. Then again, no one was making free throws... (something about foul/free-throw justice?)

Despite the low score and pace, this was well played game, with the exception of the middle of the game where it was sloppy, choppy, jittery and without rhythm.

Contrary to UCLA's multiple-foul per possession defense, Washington State prefers to play basketball defense, you know, position, timing, anticipation, scouting, knowing your opponent. While UCLA's defense is good, it depends a lot on getting away with multiple fouls per possession, along with wrestling moves and "weight room".

And to close, this game once again confirms my suspicions that Washington State may have a ceiling. Look at their record (KenPom). They have not been able to beat a top tier team, but they are able to beat NCAA one and done teams. Their top wins are Baylor, Gonzaga, and Oregon, NCAA teams, but not top tier teams. This does not bode well for their NCAA chances, and depending on seeding they may be a 2nd round exit.

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