The 11-4 Arizona Wildcats travel to Stanford tonight to face the 7-7 Cardinal. The Cats are 2-0 in Pac-12 while Stanford is 0-2 with recent losses at UCLA (final score 92-70) and at USC (final score 77-66).
#1 Daejon Davis 6’3″ G (So.)
#2 Bryce Wills 6’6″ G (Fr.)
#23 Cormac Ryan 6’5″ G (Fr.)
#0 KZ Okpala 6’8″ F (So.)
#13 Oscar Da Silva 6’9″ F (So.)
Off The Bench: #20 Josh Sharma 7’0″ C (Sr.), #11 Jaiden Delaire 6’9″ F (Fr.), #14 Marcus Sheffield 6’5″ G (Jr.), #4 Isaac White 6’1″ G (So.)
Offense: Stanford is averaging 72.5 points per game so far this year compared to Arizona’s 74 ppg. Statistically, the Cardinal have a very average offense and have scored 80 or more points only 3 times in 14 games. Okpala (averaging 17 points per game) and Daejon Davis (averaging 12 points per game) are the backbone of this offense with Cormac Ryan being their biggest deep threat. Cormac is shooting 36% from 3 and shoots about 7 of them per game. He is coming off his best game of the season with 18 points and 6 of 11 shooting from 3-point range against USC. Okpala and Davis are both very good players, highly skilled and athletic. Da Silva and the big body Sharma off the bench are both decent interior players. They seem to match up pretty well all around with Arizona.
Defense: The Cardinal are allowing 73.7 points per game this year, putting them at 235th in the NCAA. On the other side, the Wildcats are ranked 56th allowing only 66 ppg. Stanford has struggled in their man defense to contain Pick & Roll offenses. Which provides one of my favorite statistics so far this season. Their defense is 2nd in the NCAA in both 3 pointers made against and 3 pointers attempted against. Opposing teams are only averaging 4.7 3-point baskets a game and attempting only 16. Arizona–not a great 3-point shooting team–is making, on average, 7 per game and shooting 21.5 per game. Stanford’s inability to stop Pick & Roll offenses and dribble penetration are the main reasons why. There is no need to shoot 3’s when you can get to the basket quite easily. There’s certainly a chance Stanford could play some zone as well.
Strengths: The Cardinal do have decent depth and do have some skilled players with good athleticism. Okpala is a really good Forward/Wing player and might cause some matchup problems for Arizona because of his length and athleticism but overall Stanford will not really have an advantage anywhere on the court except possibly when the 7 foot Sharma is in the game.
Weaknesses: Average defense and an overall mediocre shooting team. They don’t take care of the ball particularly well and are averaging just over 15 turnovers a game compared to Arizona’s 11.5. Stanford, like Arizona, is a young team that is still learning how best to play together and has a tough time playing a complete game. After starting 0-2 in conference play we can expect Stanford to come out with a lot of energy and spirit, not wanting to fall to 0-3 and a losing record overall. A loss would put them at 7-8 overall.
Summary: The Wildcats get their 1st conference road game tonight and it will be interesting to see how this young team plays. Arizona is shooting 74% from the free throw line this season–which is a good sign, and that alone should win them a lot of close games. As noted, they are only allowing 66 points per game and that is a pretty impressive number for a team that is young and, for the most part, undersized. Chase Jeter may not be the best player on this team but he certainly is the most important. Jeter staying out of foul trouble will continue to be the biggest challenge for Arizona because this is a different team without his leadership and energy on the court. He is, right now, Arizona’s only legit interior player. Freshman Devonaire Doutrive for Arizona has seen some increased time recently and brings an extra layer of athleticism and energy. It will bode well for this Cats team to get some decent production and consistent play from their bench, which has been a bit of a question mark so far this season.
Stanford, in the beginning of December, went to Lawrence to play Kansas. They lost in overtime. Davis and Okpala have NBA talent and many have Okpala as a lottery pick in this year’s NBA draft. This team is capable of playing with the best in college basketball and can be a dangerous team when on their game.
My player to watch for this game is Stanford’s Cormac Ryan not due to his recent big game of 18 points and 6 made 3’s against USC on Sunday, but because he was obviously named after the great American writer, Cormac McCarthy. That alone warrants admiration and respect…and a quote from his namesake, Cormac McCarthy himself:
“It makes no difference what men think of war, said the judge. War endures. As well ask men what they think of stone. War was always here. Before man was, war waited for him. The ultimate trade awaiting its ultimate practitioner. That is the way it was and will be. That way and not some other way.”
Cormac McCarthy Blood Meridian.