7 p.m. MST
Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins laid out the broadest and most obvious of plans when asked how he sees his team beating the No. 1 Arizona Wildcats at Maples Pavilion on Wednesday.
"We have to play well, of course," the Cardinal coach said during his weekly teleconference call. "We have to make sure we stay disciplined, we have to make sure we defend. And we have to do it together."
Yeeeup. Nothing inaccurate about that.
Of course, he probably has a plan. Sean Miller's team is coming off a win against the Utah Utes that may have laid a foundation for beating the Wildcats, but then again, any plan shouldn't be surprising. The Utes got Arizona a tad off-kilter with an early zone. They took T.J. McConnell out of it, which of course didn't help the UA big men get their easy shots. Kaleb Tarczewski had a quiet night, Brandon Ashley was out of it for a half and Aaron Gordon was out of it until he willed Arizona to a win.
But then there was Nick Johnson, quietly scoring above his season average like the Pac-12 Player of the Year candidate he's become.
Perhaps the medicine to equal Johnson's impact is junior guard Chasson Randle, who seemed like a pro when blowing up as a freshman in the 2012 Pac-12 Tournament but followed it up with regression last season. From freshman to sophomore year, Randle's scoring slipped from 13.8 to 13.6 points per game, his shooting dropped 4 percent to just below 40 percent, and his three-point shooting took an 8-percent plunge.
This year, he's averaging 19.1 points, shooting 49.4 percent from the floor and nearly 40 percent from three-point range.
"He's our leading scorer, he's been very aggressive, and he's playing the way we want him to play," Dawkins said. "Last year was a difficult season for him. He's taken it to heart."
How else can the Cardinal beat the Wildcats?
Washington's Lorenzo Romar offered during his teleconference interview that a team must start off scoring "in a zone," which brings back the memories of a Drexel team pouring it on Arizona in the first half of an NIT Season Tip-Off game. Utah's Larry Krystkowiak said he thinks getting a seven-man rotation in foul trouble would force Miller to go deeper into his bench -- then again, Miller has actually played his key players in foul trouble rather than doing what Krystkowiak suggests.
Stanford has the size to bang with the Wildcats in the paint, which could be the beginnings of that foul trouble. Dwight Powell and Josh Huestis are experienced bigs who can rebound with Arizona and challenge the Wildcats at the rim, and 6-foot-11 center Stefan Nastic will bring an even bigger body into the fold.
Huestis can stretch it beyond the three-point line and, along with swingman Anthony Brown, can team with Randle to pose a pretty outstanding shooting threat across the board. If they get going, to Romar's point, this could be a tough one for Miller's crew.
Cal coach Mike Montgomery, who had a few similar perfect starts to seasons when he was at Stanford, said the pressure behind an undefeated team only builds.
"I couldn't deny it, I tried," Montgomery said. "I felt it. It's pretty unique in today's time. The longer you go, the more it becomes a reality and it begins to sneak into your subconscious."
And that's in Palo Alto, Calif., not the pressure-cooker of a basketball-crazy Arizona fan base.
"We haven't tried to talk a lot about that streak," Miller said. "All of us know there's a lot of basketball left. Last year at this time, we were in the driver's seat ... we ended up finishing in second place. We know that you have to be ready every game and every day, and I think that's been our focus."