#8 Villanova Wildcats (4-0) vs. Stanford Cardinal (2-2)
When: Thursday, November 26, 2015, at 4:30 p.m.
Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY
Stanford’s Previous Season Record: 24-13, Beat Miami in OT to win NIT Championship
Key Players for Stanford: #15 Marcus Allen (6-3, 190) Jr., G; #22 Reid Travis (6-8, 245) So,. F; #25 Rosco Allen (6-9, 220) Sr., F
Scouting Report: Last year’s NIT Championship seems like a distant memory after Stanford has gotten off to a rocky 2-2 start to this season. The three top scorers from last year’s squad were lost to graduation and the NBA draft, and the Cardinal have struggled with rebounding and turnovers in the early portion of this year. Stanford comes into this game coming off of back-to-back losses against Southern Methodist and Saint Mary’s.
Stanford has a deep, relatively talented group of forwards who bring an array of different skills to the table. Senior Hungarian Rosco Allen is the leading returning scorer for the Cardinal, and is one of their best shooters from long range. He is 8-for-16 from long range this season. Allen is a silky smooth ball-handler and shooter and creates match-up nightmares for opposing defenders with his combination of size and skill. He can also soar to the rim for finishes and chips in with 5.5 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game. 6-foot-9 sophomore Michael Humphrey has emerged as an enforcer inside for Stanford. Humphrey is averaging eight rebounds and three blocks in just 23.3 minutes per game. A bright spot for Stanford this year has been their efficiency, as they are tied for 34th in the nation with a 50.2% field goal percentage. A large part of this is attributed to sophomore Minnesotan Reid Travis, who is connecting on 64.9% of his shots. Travis has proved to be an efficient scorer this year, and has been rewarded by head coach Johnny Dawkins with a team high 35.3 minutes per game.
Despite this deep rotation of bigs, Stanford struggles to rebound the ball as a team. The team averages 34.5 rebounds per game, good for only 276th in the country. Coach Dawkins needs to emphasize rebounding as a team effort, as three players (Allen, Humphrey, and Travis) combine for 57.4% of the teams rebounds. To put that into perspective, Villanova’s top three glass eaters combine for 50.8% of team rebounds; a much more balanced effort.
The Cardinal also struggle with turnovers. The team has just a 1.12 assist-to-turnover ratio, and averages 13 turnovers per game. Marcus Allen is the team’s leading scorer so far averaging 16 points per game since returning from a foot injury. 6-foot-4 Senior Christian Sanders paces the team with 4.5 assists per game in his new expanded role. Sanders also boasts impressive shooting percentages, shooting 55% from the field, 76.2% from the charity stripe, and 33.3% from beyond the arc. Sanders loves to attack the rim, and has this aggression has led to 21 free throw attempts so far this year. The Stanford guards will be put to the test on Turkey Day, as the Villanova guards have looked like one of the best units in the country so far this year.
Outlook: Stanford is struggling coming into the Thanksgiving tilt, but they’re no turkeys. With that being said, if Villanova comes in focused and ready to play they should be able to handle anything the Cardinal throw at them. After an early season first half scare against Akron, the Wildcats should be primed for a big night.
I still think the ‘Cats are shooting far too many threes (48.8% of their field goal attempts are 3-pointers). While certainly exciting to watch, an over dependency on the three point shot can lead to scoring droughts and slow starts, which we’ve seen Villanova suffer both of this year. It’s not like Villanova lacks the talent to get inside buckets either. Daniel Ochefu has proven to be a useful asset on the block this year, and Josh Hart and Jalen Brunson have shown they can get to the rim at will. The Wildcats should look to play more of an inside-out style of offense, looking to drive inside before launching early shot clock threes.
Villanova’s bread and butter this year has been its defense. The ‘Cats run a stifling press causing opponents to cough the ball up and resulting in ‘Nova being a top 10 defensive scoring team so far this year. This should spell trouble for a sloppy Stanford team. Villanova is also rebounding at uncharacteristic rate. 43.5 boards per game puts them just outside of top 50 in the country. Once again, they have another huge match-up advantage against a Cardinal team averaging nine rebounds less per game.
Hart and Ryan Arcidiacono has been great so far this year. The Captain has shined this year and is putting up unconscious numbers. Arch is on pace to set career highs in almost everything — points, steals, assists, rebounds, 3-point %, FG%, and a career low in turnovers. Did I mention his assist-to-turnover ratio is 22:1 so far? Its scary to think that the Co-Big East Player of the Year got even better, but that’s exactly what it looks like so far. What’s even scarier is he might not even be the best player on the team. Hart is building off of his terrific Big East Tournament performance of last year and is slowly turning into a star. Hart is doing it all. He leads the team in ppg with 16.8, second with 6.8 boards, second with ten made threes, and second in steals with seven. He is turning in a terrific campaign and has been a force on both ends. I think the ‘Nova guards will be too much to handle, and the Wildcats will advance to play the winner of Arkansas/Georgia Tech.