The Stanford Cardinal presented matchup problems for every team in the Pac-10 last year, with the possible exception of UCLA. Two active 7-footers will do that. But the Lopez brothers are gone and, yet, the Cardinal still present matchup problems. Read on.
• The Cardinal came into this season lacking height. Then 6-foot-8, sophomore Josh Owens came out of nowhere to at least give the Cardinal a body in the middle of their defense – and a double-figure scorer at times. But Stanford still struggles to defend a big, especially when it goes with 6-8 senior Lawrence Hill at the 5 and plays a smaller lineup with three guards and Landry Fields at the 4. But there are two sides to a basketball court. And when the Cardinal goes small, they cause headaches for the opponent's defense. It's this configuration that worries Cougar coach Tony Bennett.
I don't think WSU will sub much to match it, other then maybe using that lineup to give Aron Baynes an occasional breather and using DeAngelo Casto as a counter. But the Cougar staff trusts the slimmed down Baynes more in space defensively this season and Baynes has, for the most part, showed he's worthy of their trust. So expect him to stay in, at least at first, and force the Cardinal to find a way to defend him on the other end.
He's a key tonight, as well as the two outside threats, Taylor Rochestie and Klay Thompson – also on both ends. If this one comes down to the wire, like Cal did, expect the ball to be in Rochestie's hands more, where he will try to create off the dribble. And Thompson needs to knock down shots, especially if the Cardinal gets too post-centric defensively. The freshman will also have to stay aware defensively, because he's going to start on point guard Mitch Johnson, with Rochestie taking leading scorer Anthony Goods. If Thompson can use his length to bother Johnson, the Stanford half-court offense may stagnant against the Cougars' Pack. We'll see how this plays out.
• That's it for the pregame. Say, how about Cal? In first place. Wow. We'll be back at halftime with our thoughts. Till then ...