The Stanford Cardinal (16-13, 7-9 Pac-12) play their last home game of the season against the struggling Utah Utes (11-16, 3-12 Pac-12) who have lost three in a row and five of their last six. This is also Utah’s last road game of the season with their final two games coming at home.
Utah is currently in 10th place in the conference while Stanford is sitting just one place above them at 9th even though there is a huge disparity in their records. It just goes to show how tough the middle of the conference was this season and the difference between the upper and lower echelon of teams as well.
The Utes have three guys averaging just over 11 points per game; Jarred DuBois, Jordan Loveridge, and Jason Washburn. Loveridge and Washburn are the best rebounders on the team as well averaging 6.8 and 6.6 boards a game, respectively. But that is it. Offense has not really been their strong suit this season (lowest points per game in the conference), but they are a very strong team defensively.
Stanford is going to have to be at their best, even against a struggling team, because of how good Utah is on defense. The Utes are first in the conference in both field goal percentage allowed (39%) and points allowed per game (62.2). They are also the second best team in the Pac-12 allowing just 32.3% shooting from behind the arc.
In order to be successful this afternoon the Cardinal will have to be patient on offense and execute, expecially on set plays. Patient because if the play is not there, then keep passing the ball around and try to create something off the dribble. There is no need to force a bad shot because that is what the defense wants you to do. Work until you find the open guy.
They also have Dwight Powell and his 15.3 points per game (seventh best in the conference) who can do the work down low inside the paint and work the offense from the inside out. If he has nothing he can kick it out to a few of the good three-point shooters Stanford has. Again, patience on offense to find a hole in the great Utes defense to find open looks.
I expect Stanford to pick up the win to try to help out when it comes time for the conference tournament. A win puts them in striking distance of eighth place if then can win this one and their last of the season on the road.