The Stanford Cardinal (ranked 8th in the tournament) face the Arizona State Sun Devils (ranked 9th) in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament at 12p this afternoon in Las Vegas. The winner gets the opportunity to face the best team in the conference, the UCLA Bruins, in the second round.
The Cardinal will have a tough task ahead of them this afternoon as they face an Arizona State team that is very stingy on defense. For one, they were third in the conference for shooting percentage against (40.7%). That comes as some pretty bad news for a Stanford squad that was dead last in shooting percentage in the Pac-12 shooting just 41.7% all season. This means the Cardinal will need to get as many high percentage shots as possible, meaning getting into the paint.
Unfortunately the Sun Devils play great defense there as well averaging 6.3 blocks per game, more than any other team in the conference. Still, the Cardinal players cannot be scared when driving to the basket because even if they do miss they have the dynamic duo of Dwight Powell and Josh Huestis to grab rebounds.
Huestis in particular has been incredible on the offsensive glass this season averaging 3.35 offensive rebounds this season as part of his 9.3 rebounds per game which ranks fourth highest in the conference.
Dwight Powell has been Stanford’s leading scorer this season averaging 15.1 points per game while also rebounding at an average of 8.2 board per game. He and Huestis have been a force to be reckoned with inside the paint all season and I expect no less against Arizona State.
Powell’s counterpart on the Sun Devils is sophomore guard Jahii Carson who averages 17.3 points per game and also adds 5.0 assists per game. Those numbers are good for fourth and third best in the conference, respectively. He has 16 straight games of at least 10+ points.
Also big for the Sun Devils this season has been senior Carrick Felix and his 14.2 points per game and 8.2 rebounds per game. Him and Carson have been a two-headed monster for Arizona State this season, although Felix has been fairly inconsistent. Still, he is a force to be reckoned with and is not to be taken lightly.
Stanford’s other big scorer, Chasson Randle, has had a great streak of consistency to end the Pac-12 season. In fact, the last time he did not hit the double-digit mark for points was the last time these two teams played on January 6th. This season Randle averaged 14.3 points per game and has been a big part of the great resurgence in the offense which has been much better in the latter half of this season compared to the beginning of it. He will need to play well in order for the Cardinal to win.