UCLA hoops will look to continue its six-game winning streak at Pauley Pavilion against the Stanford Cardinal (9-5, 0-1 Pac-12), which is coming off of a loss against the USC Trojans.
And though the Cardinal’s record suggests they’re pushovers, they’re not. In the same way that California was competitive with every team they’ve played — quality of opponent be damned — Stanford is just as competitive.
Three of the Cardinal’s five losses come against ranked squads, staying within single digits in every contest. Although Stanford did lose to a seemingly-talentless USC squad, they were not embarrassed. Sure, a 71-69 UCLA loss to the Trojans would probably put everyone back on the “Fire Howland” wagon, but for Stanford’s purposes, such a loss won’t define their season.
More likely than not, the Cardinal will stay competitive and will ensure UCLA doesn’t win by 30, as many fans would expect. (Although, if UCLA were an elite squad, they would beat this team by 30, but I digress.)
Don’t let all those tight games with good teams fool you, though — Stanford has a long way to go before they can consider themselves a legitimate contender for the Pac-12 championship, especially since UCLA and Arizona suddenly look like the class of the conference while everyone else lags behind significantly.
The Cardinal’s strength appears to be on defense — they allow 0.906 points per possession, which puts them at fifth in the conference and 66th in the nation. They’re also allowing teams to shoot 41 percent from the floor in 2012-13, making them 103rd in the nation in shooting defense.
Those are not gaudy defensive numbers and are a tad inflated because they’ve only played one conference game (much like the rest of the Pac-12), and it’s expected that teams shoot better against the Cardinal from here on out.
Offensively? Stanford’s worse, at least statistically. While scoring 70.1 points per game (105th in the nation), they have a subpar offensive efficiency of 0.99 points per possession, all while posting a disastrous 40.7 percent shooting mark (and even better news for UCLA fans, Stanford only converts 28 percent of their shots from downtown).
In essence, numbers can’t seem to back up the argument that Stanford could be competitive in Pac-12 player, meaning the Cardinal’s tilt with USC might just have been a battle of two of the worst teams in the conference.
Players To Watch
Dwight Powell, a 6’10” junior forward, could cause UCLA some issues, especially since the Bruins’ interior defense has been inconsistent as all hell this year. Powell is the team’s best per-minute player, leading the Cardinal in points per game while also being the team’s second-best board-crasher, while laying claim to the second-best defensively efficient player for Stanford.
Meanwhile, Josh Huestis, a 6’7” forward, is the team’s best defensive player, leading the team in boards per game while owning the team’s best defensive efficiency and earning 2.5 blocks a contest, a team best. He’ll be a problem if UCLA point gaurd Larry Drew II finds himself penetrating and finding open space, with Josh Huestis roaming.