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What to watch for when Arizona visits Stanford on Saturday

Will the Wildcats beat Stanford again?

Arizona Wildcats versus Stanford Cardinal Photo by Nhat V. Meyer/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images

The Arizona Wildcats (17-7, 7-4) will look for their second straight road sweep Saturday when they visit the Stanford Cardinal (16-8, 5-6) in Palo Alto.

Tip-off is set for 8:30 p.m. MST on the Pac-12 Networks.

Here are some things to watch for.

Keeping the streak alive

Arizona has won 19 straight against Stanford, dating back to January 2009 when Russ Pennell was the interim head coach.

Stanford has cycled through two head coaches—Johnny Dawkins then Jerod Haase—and had some great players like KZ Okpala, Reid Travis, Dwight Powell, and Chasson Randle, yet always fall short against the Wildcats.

Arizona’s 19 straight victories, 18 under Sean Miller, is the longest active streak in the Pac-12 between two teams.

Key injuries

Stanford had already lost four of their last five when Oscar da Silva suffered a horrific head injury vs. Colorado last week, and now the Cardinal, who were once 4-0 in the Pac-12, are even more vulnerable without their star forward in the lineup.

There has been no substantial update on da Silva, but he missed Thursday’s game at ASU and seems unlikely to play Saturday. That is 15.9 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game (on 62% percent shooting!) that Stanford has to replace.

“Oscar is the top scorer, rebounder, and leader. In many of the games this year, he’s been the one to break the team out of slumps. He gives the offense the capability to play inside out, and he’s a versatile modern 5 on defense,” Rule of Tree’s Grant Avalon told us. “Jaiden Delaire has had good flashes since the injury, and is the most similar player. But he’s been inconsistent, and was even a healthy scratch at one point. Lukas Kisunas and James Keefe are more traditional bigs, but they’ll need to eat minutes without being a negative.”

With Chase Jeter now at 100 percent, Arizona should be full go for Saturday, but it is worth keeping an eye on Josh Green’s status. The freshman got shaken up with roughly eight minutes to play in Thursday’s win at Cal and did not return to the game.

It is unclear what the nature or severity of the injury is. Here’s look at the play if you missed it.

Green has struggled offensively lately, but his defense would be difficult to replace.

Will California Dylan continue?

Dylan Smith plays his best in California. Here are some very advanced stats for you:

Smith in California: 15.0 PPG, 67% (12-18) from 3

Smith in other places: 6.9 PPG, 31.3% (26-83) from 3

Unsurprisingly, the Wildcats are 4-0 in the Golden State this year. They go as he goes.

Elite D

It would be a pretty amazing feat if Smith can keep that up against the Cardinal, who have the No. 10 defense in the country, per KenPom.

Stanford’s opponents are only shooting 39 percent from the field and 30.3 percent from 3. If the Cardinal finish with a top-10 defense, it will be the highest-rated Pac-12 defense since Arizona and Utah in 2014-15.

Stanford plays man-to-man, loves to switch, and has the 23rd-best opponent turnover percentage in the country, using its length to disrupt passing and dribbling lanes and alter shots. Daejon Davis and Bryce Wills are both excellent defenders on the perimeter.

But if da Silva is out, they lose some length and quickness in the interior. He is their top shot blocker.

3-point battle

So how is a team with a top-10 defense so average? Well, the Cardinal’s offense ranks 135th in the country.

The one thing they consistently do well is shoot the 3-ball, although they are pretty selective. Stanford ranks 18th in the 3-point percentage (37.8) but 231st in 3-point rate. The three guys to be wary of are Tyrell Terry (.395), Spencer Jones (.430), Isaac White (.448).

If the Cardinal shoot like they usually do and Arizona reverts to the way it had been shooting the 3 before the second half of the Cal game, it’s easy to see how UA’s streak will end.

Which freshman point guard would you rather have?

Player A: 31.2 MPG, 13.9 PPG, 5.5 APG, 2.6 RPG, 2.6 TOV, 1.1 SPG, 40.0 FG%, 33.1 3PT%, 82.1 FT%

Player B: 32.4 MPG, 15.7 PPG, 3.2 APG, 4.9 RPG, 2.9 TOV, 1.6 SPG, 45.5 FG%, 39.5 3PT%, 90.2 FT%

A is Nico Mannion. B is Terry.

Heck of a find for the Cardinal. Terry was the No. 109 recruit in the 2019 class. Mannion was No. 9.

Another road sweep and Arizona will be in the driver’s seat

Entering Saturday, Arizona is one of four Pac-12 teams atop the league standings with four conference losses.

If they can knock off Stanford, they will control their own destiny with four of their last six at home, including a massive game vs. Oregon a week from Saturday.

As a refresher, here’s what the Pac-12 standings look like:

  • Colorado (8-4)
  • Oregon (8-4)
  • Arizona (7-4)
  • ASU (7-4)
  • USC (7-5)
  • UCLA (7-5)
  • Stanford (5-6)
  • Oregon State (5-7)
  • Washington State (5-7)
  • Utah (5-7)
  • Cal (4-7)
  • Washington (2-10)