For the first time since 1998, the Stanford Cardinal and The SMU Mustang's will duke it out on the hardwood.
Both teams have had strong starts to their respective seasons, as each has had fantastic showings along the boards, especially from some of their underclassmen.
The Mustang's (1-0-American) galloped to a dominating 85-50 performance in their opening night thrashing over Sam Houston State (1-1, Big South). Shake Miller, a crafy-6-foot-5 freshman guard, showed SMU fans an early glimpse of the contributor he could be in the 2015-2016 season. Making seven out of his first nine NCAA shots, Miller scored 17 points in the blowout win over the Bearkats.
Miller showed he is a talented shooter, hustler, and playmaker in his debut, as he also posted four rebounds, four assists, and four steals. He also knocked down three of the teams seven three pointers on the night. He was easily the team's best weapon in the dominant first victory, but in terms of overall team skill, the strong shooting performance had the biggest impact that led to such a lopsided victory.
Stanford (2-0, Pac-12) will need to account for the Mustang's ability to dictate the game on the offensive end in Thursday's game plan, especially with the confidence they must have coming off an impressive 31-49 (63.3%) shooting performance. On the polar opposite side, they held scrubby ole Sam Houston State to just 17-61(27.9 %) from the floor. With a positive first showing of their defense, which included 9 steals and 9 blocks, the Cardinal should also note the team's ability to put strong, consistent pressure on the ball.
SMU finished last year's campaign 27-7 and earning an NCAA tournament bid. Despite losing in the early going of March Madness, there was still plenty to be proud of. Since the 2013-214 season, the Mustangs have posted a 57-17 record. Last season, SMU spent nine weeks in the AP and USA Today Top 25, finishing No. 18 in the AP and receiving votes in the USA Today Coaches Poll. Senior guard Nic Moore, who was named the AAC Player of the Year, only scored 8 points (2-7) on opening night. Though off to a slow start shooting, Moore is still a serious threat to the Cardinal. The past two seasons he has averaged 13+ points per game.
For Stanford, riding out the momentum of a 2014-2015 effort that resulted in another NIT championship, things are looking quite better than expected given all of the untimely injuries. The underclassmen guard showing his potential early on for Stanford, similar to SMU's Shake Miller, is Sophomore guard Dorian Pickens.
Pickens posted a career-high 20 points in Stanford's 93-59 throttling of Charleston Southern Buccaneers (0-2), Tuesday night, boosting his average to 17 points a night over the first two games. Considering he only averaged 8 minutes a game last year and two points, it's safe to say he's filling the hole well of a clearly depleted cardinal roster. Look for Pickens to establish himself as a major option in the Cardinal offense early on in the matchup.
Senior forward Rosco Allen continues to progress in his final year at Stanford. Now in a serious leadership role, Allen's play hasn't failed to impress in the team's first couple of games. Against the Bucs, Allen reassured Cardinal fans he could be the scoring option the team needs to rise above expectations in the new season. The Hungary native posted a career-high 19 points, to go along with 6 rebounds and a 7-9 shooting performance.
Sophomores Reid Travis and Michael Humphrey, who has posted back-to-back double-doubles, both contributed 13 points in the win over Charleston Southern. Just like opening night, four Stanford starters finished with 13 or more points, as Stanford once again showcased their high-scoring roster.
If Stanford can keep the scoring balanced and stay consistent on both sides of the ball like all of last game, they should have no problem staying close with SMU and garnering a 3-0 start.
The Cardinal owns the all-time battle with SMU 2-0, with the last victory being a 86-51 in a preseason NIT game on Nov. 18, 1998, and the second a 80-70 result in Moody Coliseum on Dec. 28, 1963.
Which team will suffer their first defeat of a fresh season? Will Stanford's strong starting lineup lead the team to another convincing victory? will Nic Moore show the NIT champs why he was last years AAC Player of the Year after a poor first showing? Is Michael Humphrey soon to be known as the "Double-Double King"?