4:30 PT :: Maples Pavilion :: Stanford, California
TV :: FSN National
Pomeroy Ratings :: Oregon (75) :: Stanford (57)
Pomeroy Projection :: Stanford 71-65
Oregon returns to the court after a heartbreaking loss to league-leading California on Thursday. The result was heartbreaking not just because of the way it happened--leading almost the entire second half and going cold at the end--but because it all but eliminated the Ducks from competiting for a conference championship or from securing an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Coming off that game, I'm glad that Oregon had the extra day off by playing on Sunday. It was my experience while coaching high school that you always wanted two days off after an emotional loss. It usually takes kids a day to get over it, and the focus you need at practice isn't always there the day after. But on the second day, they get over it, find their resolve, and usually have a good practice. And I'm convinced that having a sharp practice the day before a game is key to playing at a high level.
At one point, Stanford was 15-3, with two of those losses being against Syracuse at MSG, and at Oregon, and it looked like the Cardinal was the surprise team to beat in the Pac-12. Since then, the Tree have dropped five of eight, all by double digits. That's not to say Stanford is no longer dangerous. They've won two in a row, and beat Oregon State on Thursday. Oregon also typically doesn't play well on the farm, with last season's win being the first UO victory there since 1986.
Stanford has three major scorers in Chaisson Randle, Josh Owens, and Aaron Bright. Randle is one of the most talented freshmen in the league, averaging almost 13 a game. He has a propensity to turn the ball over (2.5/game), but is an excellent shooter from both downtown and the free throw line. He shot 3-14 from the field against Oregon in the first game--don't expect such a performance this time around. Aaron Bright is the point guard, and is almost as good a shooter as Randle while averaging 12 a game on his own. However, he also has a case of turnover-itis, getting almost 2.5 a game as well. 6'8" center Josh Owens was the one that hurt Oregon last time around, netting 19 in Eugene. He averages 12 and 6 a contest, shooting over 60% from the field, but has pretty much zero range and isn't a threat outside of the post. There is nobody else on the roster that scares you from an offensive standpoint, but they can come at you in waves and go twelve deep pretty easily.
The game should a bit of a contrast in styles, as Oregon wants to push the ball offensively, while Stanford wants to slow it down and grind it out defensively. The Cardinal have been pretty spectacular on the defensive end this season, ranking 26th in the nation in efficiency at 91.5 points per 100 possessions. They do a great job at getting extra possessions by forcing turnovers and are superb at getting offensive rebounds while not giving up any. The one area where they are lacking is that they will foul and put you on the line. Offensively, they don't finish that well at the rim and overall field goal percentages tend to be pretty low, but they make up for it by shooting extremely well from downtown.
This is a very winnable game for Oregon. They have a good chance to bolster their resume to host an NIT game, and also continue playing at a high level heading ino the conferenc tournament. The keys for Oregon are to limit the two things that Stanford does to get extra possessions--they can't turn the ball over and they can't give up offensive rebounds. Given the Ducks' season performance in those areas, their ability to do that will be questionable. The Ducks have better shooters, get to the line more, and defend the three very well. Stanford's path to victory is to get more possessions than Oregon does. I'd be very surprised if the Ducks manage to do well with rebounding and turnovers and don't come out with the victory.