The Matchup: Northwestern (7-1) @ Stanford (6-0)
Location: Maples Pavilion (Stanford, CA)
Radio: WNUR 89.3 FM (9:00 CT/7:00 PT)
Fun Fact: Stanford in one of 13 unbeaten teams remaining in the country.
Stanford enters this game 6-0 which has a lot of people talking about what a big game this is for the Wildcats. I have to say I think to some extent people are overstating this game’s importance. Obviously it always looks good when you beat an undefeated team, but NU has already done that twice this year (FSU and UC-Riverside). The fact is beating undefeated Stanford isn’t any more significant than beating undefeated FSU other than the fact the game against Stanford is on the road. In fact, FSU is probably better than Stanford. Overall, I just hope the Wildcats don’t take this game more seriously than they need to. They need to take the attitude that playing Stanford on December 20th is no different than playing Central Arkansas on November 16th or playing in the Big Ten Tournament on March 12th. That’s what good teams do. They just come out and play basketball and don’t get overwhelmed by the situation.
Now, as to what the ‘Cats will face from the Cardinal. Stanford has a new coach this year in former Duke assistant Johnny Dawkins and his squad has a dramatically different look than Trent Johnson’s as he doesn’t have any Lopez brothers to clog the lane. In fact, Stanford’s tallest starters are 6-8 forwards Lawrence Hill and Josh Owens. Hill leads the Cardinal with 6.3 rebounds per game and Owens pulls down 5.7 rebounds himself. At first glance it seems the Wildcats have something of a height advantage with 7-0 center Kyle Rowley and 6-8 forwards John Shurna and Kevin Coble. However, the Cardinal also has swingman Landry Fields who grabs 5.8 rebounds a game himself which gives them the significant advantage of a player who can outrebound smaller guards. Overall, the Cardinal average 32.8 rebounds per game (the ‘Cats average 32.9 rebounds per game).
Offensively the Cardinal average 78.3 point per game, this should make for an interesting matchup as NU only allows 48.9. The Cardinal reach that average of 78.3 point per game on the strength of four starters who average double figures. Fields averages 11.3 ppg, Owens 13.7 ppg, and Hill 14.2 ppg. The Cardinal are led in scoring by Anthony Goods who average 19.0 points per game. Goods shoots 40.5% from three point range (17-of-42). He also shoots 82.5 from the free throw line (33-of-40). The Cardinal’s fifth starter is point guard Mitch Johnson. Johnson doesn’t score much (5.2 ppg), but he does do a nice job running the team with 32 assists and only 17 turnovers. Off the bench, NU fans should look out for Jeremy Green who shoots 42.9% from three point range.
Prediction: This is going to be a tough game for Northwestern based primarily on the fact it’s a long distance road trip. So far this season Northwestern is 1-1 on the road. Stanford is 4-0 at home, but their wins are over the less than impressive quadrangle of CS-Northridge, Air Force, Colorado, and Northern Arizona. One advantage Stanford has from playing at home is a good crowd. Though Maples doesn’t always sell out, 6,795 fans showed up for the UNA game. That’s almost 93% capacity. NU’s best crowd this year 4,053 is still less than half of Welsh-Ryan’s capacity. Such a hostile crowd could make a difference considering NU is starting two freshmen and one sophomore while Stanford starts three seniors and junior. Between the long road trip, the crowd, and the two team’s experience I think Stanford has the advantage in this game, but it should be close and if NU gets a few breaks the ‘Cats can win. Taking everything into account, though, my predication is Stanford, 66 Northwestern, 62.