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Arizona vs. Stanford: Expert previews the Cardinal

We caught up with Grant Avalon of to get some insight on the Cardinal

Stanford v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

The Arizona Wildcats will (11-4, 2-0) will take on the Stanford Cardinal (7-7, 0-2) in their first Pac-12 road game on Wednesday at 9 p.m. MST on the Pac-12 Network.

We wanted to get more info on the Cardinal before tip-off, so we reached out to our sister site Rule of Tree for some insight.

Here is our Q&A with their basketball writer, Grant Avalon.

What are expectations for Stanford basketball this year, and how have they lived up to them so far?

Stanford was picked generally picked 9th or 10th in the Pac-12 after the departure of Reid Travis. They’ve largely been exactly to expectations this far. They’ve won every game in which they’ve been favored, and lost every game in which they’ve been the underdog. They are also 9th in the Pac-12 in KenPom.

What are this team’s biggest strengths and weaknesses?

This team’s biggest strengths are length and versatility. They’ve disrupted opponents fairly well at times, in large part because of their ability to switch everything and jump into passing lanes. They also have a couple of players who can get into the paint at will in Daejon Davis and KZ Okpala.

The biggest weakness is inexperience, as is to be expected with 11 underclassmen. They make a lot of silly mistakes, can appear skittish, and are still feeling each other out. The offense has had some significant droughts. Defensively, they struggle to defend the post.

Who are a couple players to watch in this game?

KZ Okpala has blossomed into a legitimate NBA prospect. He was already a lockdown defender last season, but now he’s having his number called on the offensive side and has delivered by leading the team in scoring. He is also hitting threes at an elite rate this season thanks to retooled form.

Daejon Davis has been great as of late. He’s the floor general of this team, and is probably the most important player to the Cardinal’s success. He’s a gritty two-way player whose offensive arsenal is ever-expanding.

How do Stanford fans feel about coach Jerod Haase?

Stanford fans are mixed on Jerod Haase. He’s in his third season on the Farm, and has finally put his full stamp on the team. Obviously the results haven’t been great, though there are some tough circumstances. Losing Travis late was obviously the biggest. But one thing that’s often overlooked is how bare Johnny Dawkins left the cupboard. There are 4 players on this team representing the final two recruiting classes of Dawkins. Only one of them is consistently in the rotation. We’ll have to see how things go once Haase’s players are the veterans on the team, which is still a year or two away.

Stanford used to be a consistent NCAA Tournament team, but it has not made the tourney since 2014. What are the main problems this program has faced?

The problem is bigger than that, since 2014 was the lone appearance in the Dawkins era. There was a lot of talent in some of those years, but they underachieved for a number of reasons. Some were injury related, but plenty appeared to be coaching related. They are currently in the midst of a rebuild. Last year they played perhaps at tournament level in conference, but were missing too many key players in non-conference and consequently had a poor resume.

Arizona has won 17 straight against Stanford. What has to happen for the Cardinal to snap that streak?

The Cardinal need to bring effort and energy for 40 minutes, and keep Okpala, Davis, and Oscar da Silva out of foul trouble. They can’t afford another extended lull if they want to win this one.

Will Stanford snap that streak?

They’re a slight underdog, but I think they get it done in their home opener. The prospect of a third loss to start conference play should be enough to motivate this squad.