Game one of No.12 Arizona’s two-game road trip to the Bay Area squares the Wildcats against the 10-6 Stanford Cardinal. The Cardinal are 3-2 in the Pac-12 after an impressive 77-71 victory at home over the California Golden Bears. Their two other Pac-12 wins came against (at the time) No.21 Utah and Oregon State.
Meanwhile, the 15-3 Arizona Wildcats are also 3-2 in the Pac-12 and are in sync after two straight blow-out wins over Washington and Washington State despite the absence of leading scorer Allonzo Trier.
WHO TO WATCH
Stanford is an evenly-balanced scoring team. Five of their players average double-digits, but one of them, sophomore Reid Travis (12.8 PPG, 7 RPG), is still out with an upper-leg stress fracture. It’s a big blow to Stanford’s post presence because he is an all-around elite talent.
But senior forward Rosco Allen is this team’s leader, averaging 14.6 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. Maybe his top attribute is his three-point shooting. He’s made 79 of his 233 attempts, making his 40.5% the best on the team. Against Cal, he produced his third double-double of the season with 22 points and 10 rebounds.
Sophomore forward Michael Humphrey may be their second-best rebounder at seven per game, and averages almost 11 points. Junior guard Marcus Allen and sophomore guard Dorian Pickens average 12.8 points and 11.6 points, respectively. Each can also rebound and distribute the ball, but at 35.1%, Pickens has the better three-point shot.
Allen, though, has the hotter hand. In Stanford’s victory over Cal, Allen scored ten of his 16 points down the final stretch of the game. He also grabbed ten boards. No question, he can be explosive when the game is on the line.
WHAT TO WATCH
As a group this season, Arizona may have epitomized the very definition of resiliency. When Kaleb Tarczewski went down with a left foot injury, fellow center Dusan Ristic came in and dominated. Likewise, when small forward Allonzo Trier broke his hand, fellow small forward Mark Tollefsen has excelled, averaging 11 points in his last two games, while also going 4-4 from deep. And don’t forget about Parker Jackson-Cartwright, who seems to improve with each game. He dropped eleven assists against Washington, then followed that up with seven more against Washington State while adding 13 points, hitting 3-of-4 shots from behind the arc. After suffering a severe shooting slump earlier in the season, these newfound extra minutes have no doubt helped his confidence.
Gabe York has also stepped up, averaging almost 15 points over his last three games and shooting 47% from three. With Tarczewski now fully healthy, and Ryan Anderson and Kadeem Allen still doing their thing, Arizona is primed to make a statement in the Bay Area.
The Wildcats have both the dynamic guard and post play to give Stanford trouble, but no longer do they have as much depth. They’ve been forced to use it, so they can’t afford to get in foul trouble. Yet even if they do, Stanford may fail to capitalize. As a team, the Cardinals is a nauseating 67.8% from the foul line.
The Wildcats’ defense has been too inconsistent for comfort. But when Miller introduced a little zone against Washington, results were surprisingly good. So will they break out the zone against Stanford? It may depend on the flow of the game, and which Stanford players are giving the Wildcats issues. Then again it may not. Maybe I should stop typing. After all, this is the same writer who claimed Elliott Pitts would have a breakout season, and considering this will be his tenth-straight missed game due to unspecified "personal reasons", how brilliant was that prediction?
Arizona and Stanford tip off at 9 PM MST on Pac-12 Networks.
Bill Walton Alert: Please be advised that Bill Walton will be providing the color commentary for this game.