Unlike 2007, when a loss to USC in the first round of the Pac-10 tournament put Stanford squarely on the bubble, there will be no drama for Cardinal men's basketball fans when the field of 68 is revealed tomorrow night. Stanford's NCAA tournament hopes officially ended in Wednesday night's 69-67 loss to Oregon State in the opening round of the Pac-10 tournament.
As of this morning, three Pac-10 teams are projected to be in the field, while USC and Washington State are on the bubble. Only one of Stanford's other opponents this season, Butler, will also be dancing. Here's a closer look at those four teams:
Record: (27-6, 14-4 Pac-10)
Best Win: vs. Washington
Worst Loss: at Oregon State
Projected Seed: 5
Johnny Dawkins Says: "They have so many weapons. They have five guys that are capable scorers, not just around the basket, but they can all step outside and shoot the three."
The Wildcats swept the Cardinal, but Stanford was competitive in both games against the Pac-10's regular season champs. Derrick Williams, who had 36 points and 17 rebounds in the two wins, gives head coach Sean Miller one of the most dynamic players in the country. He's strong around the basket and showed his range against Oregon State in the first round of the Pac-10 tournament, draining 5-of-6 3-pointers. Williams is shooting 63% from beyond the arc. Arizona doesn't have a marquee win this year, but the 'Cats don't have a bad loss either. Just how far Arizona goes in tournament will depend on how much support Williams gets from the likes of sophomore guard Momo Jones and sophomore forward Solomon Hill.
Record: (22-10, 11-7 Pac-10)
Best Win: vs. Arizona
Worst Loss: at Oregon State
Projected Seed: 11
Johnny Dawkins Says: "I think you have to be poised on offense.They're going to go after you, they're going to get in your face, try to pressure you. You can't let them speed you up."
The Huskies, who play Arizona later today for the Pac-10 tournament title, were 1-1 against Stanford during the regular season. Like Arizona, Washington doesn't have an impressive nonconference win. The Huskies lost to Kentucky, Michigan State, and Texas A&M. Washington is led by junior guard Isaiah Thomas (16.5 points and 6 assists per game) and forward Matthew Bryan-Amaning, who has nearly doubled his scoring output (16 points per game) as a senior. Experienced guard play can take a team deep in the NCAA tournament, and with Thomas and senior Venoy Overton to complement the Huskies young'ns, Lorenzo Romar has plenty of that.
Record: (22-10, 13-5 Pac-10)
Best Win: vs. St. John's
Worst Loss: vs. Montana
Projected Seed: 10
Johnny Dawkins Says: "(Josh Smith) creates problems for any team with his size and strength. He's like two guys when he's out there."
Stanford was fortunate that it only had to face the 300-pound Smith once, although the Bruins managed to beat the Cardinal with and without their freshman center. UCLA boasts an extremely balanced offense, with four players averaging double-figures, and has an experienced point guard in Malcolm Lee. UCLA boasts the conference's best rebounding margin and second-best scoring defense, which is no surprise for a Ben Howland-coached team. The Bruins don't rely much on the 3-pointer, so they're not as susceptible to a cold shooting night as most teams.
Record: (23-9, 13-5 Horizon)
Best Win: vs. Florida State
Worst Loss: at Youngstown State
Projected Seed: 9
Johnny Dawkins Says: "They're a very physical team, and they do a good job of getting in there and playing you tough."
The Bulldogs dominated the Cardinal, 83-50, back in December at historic Hinkle Fieldhouse. Last year's NCAA runner-up lost three straight games early in the Horizon League season and were in danger of missing this year's tournament altogether before rattling off nine straight wins to end the year. The inside-outside duo of Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack lead the Bulldogs, who won't sneak up on anyone this month. If they do wind up in the 8-9 game, I pity the No. 1 seed that has to play this group in the second round.