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Stanford expert previews Arizona game, makes a score prediction

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: FEB 01 Oregon at Stanford Photo by Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Arizona Wildcats will go for their 20th straight win over the Stanford Cardinal on Saturday in Palo Alto at 8:30 p.m. MST on the Pac-12 Network.

This is the first, and only, time Arizona will face Stanford in the regular season. We caught up with Grant Avalon of RuleofTree.com to get some inside insight on the Cardinal.

Here’s our Q&A.

What were expectations for Stanford coming into the season?

Expectations for Stanford were extremely low. They were picked 10th in the Pac, and postseason of any kind (including NIT) seemed rather unlikely.

Stanford has lost six of its last seven after starting 4-0 in the Pac-12. What was working for the Cardinal early on and what has caused the ship to sink lately?

Part of the strong start was schedule, but a chunk of it is execution. This team’s offensive struggles can encompass large swathes of a game. They held Utah without a field goal for more than 10 minutes and still lost. Injuries have also played a role, and the last three losses may have been wins if healthy. Stanford comfortably goes 5 deep, and everyone off the bench is an adventure. Spencer Jones’ shooting is also critical.

Stanford has a top-10 defense in the country. What style does it play and what makes it so effective?

Stanford plays nearly exclusively man to man, but they play it well. Daejon Davis and Bryce Wills are two of the better perimeter defenders in the conference and beyond. The team defends ball screens well, forces mistakes out of doubling the post, and is almost infinitely switchable. Rim protection comes from most every player on the court.

At the same time, Stanford’s offense is outside the top 100. What are the issues there?

The offense has three guys who can get their own (Terry, Davis, Oscar da Silva). Each of those players has had their share of turnover problems, and it can be contagious. Stanford is efficient when they get shots, but between their turnovers and lack of offensive rebounds, they don’t attempt that many. Without Oscar, playing inside out becomes tricky. Lukas Kisunas started in his place against ASU and had 4 turnovers in 4 minutes.

Tyrell Terry has had an exquisite freshman season. How would you describe his game?

Terry plays at his speed. Every time he catches the ball, he’s a true triple threat. He has NBA range, great vision, tight handles, and can get to the rim and finish. Most of the time he lets the game come to him, but he has the ability to take a game over at the flip of a switch.

What is Oscar da Silva’s status after suffering that head injury?

Stanford basketball is calling Oscar day to day, but they’re notoriously opaque. He’s undergone numerous tests, and still has more ahead. Personally, I’d call him doubtful.

How does da Silva’s absence hurt, and who needs to step up with him out?

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. 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.

What are the keys to a Stanford win?

Stanford needs to take care of the ball, knock down outside shots, and avoid foul trouble. When they do that, they can beat just about anyone.

Score prediction?

Without Oscar, I see Arizona winning this one by 6 or so. But this is Pac-12 basketball, and anything can happen