Funny how eighteen months can change things, isn’t it?
The last time Stanford and Miami met, Chasson Randle’s pair of free throws with 3.4 ticks left anointed the Cardinal as champions of the 2015 NIT postseason tournament.
Friday will be a slightly different atmosphere.
Stanford journeys to Orlando to put its 4-0 record on the line against an undefeated (3-0) Hurricanes squad on Thanksgiving Day in the Advocare Invitational.
The Hurricanes had five players score in double-digits to beat Penn on Saturday afternoon. Guard JaQuan Newton led all scorers with 18 points (16 in the second half).
Let's look at the starting lineup for a moment.
Guards: The Canes usually roll with a three-guard backcourt in their starting five. Leading the attack is Newton, the team's leading scorer at almost 16 points per contest. Newton is also the Canes’ leading assist man (4 per game).
Newton’s backcourt mates are Davan Reed, whose size gives him a unique advantage against smaller guards in the rebounding department (7 on Saturday), and true freshman Bruce Brown, a guy who I think is the Canes’ best overall player, as the spark plug offensively for Miami. It will be interesting to watch Dorian Pickens, Christian Sanders and Robert Cartwright shadow Brown and Reed on Thursday.
Forwards: if this game is going to be decided in one aspect, it's Miami senior Kamari Murphy’s ability to stymie Reid Travis in the paint. Averaging a double-double, Travis (19 points and 10.5 rebounds per game) has already gotten two in of Stanford’s first four games this season. However, the post defense for the Canes is rock-solid, as evidenced by their five blocks against Penn.
Bench: Off the bench, athletic forward Dewan Huell and three-point shooting specialist DJ Vasiljevic are part of a second unit that is just as consistent as Miami’s starters. If Vasiljevic gets going from downtown (9/18 from three-point range) and Huell gets his hands dirt in the lane scoring and rebounding, the Canes will be hard to stop.
Now that I've identified the Canes’ key players, let's visit my keys to a Stanford victory.
Stanford will win if... They can keep up the same defense which ranks third in points allowed (59.2 per game) in the Pac-12. The Cardinal have locked down and given up less than 50 points in back-to-back games for the first time since 2011 against Weber State and Colorado State.
Stanford will lose if...Murphy can prevent Travis from gobbling up anything more than Thanksgiving turkey on Thursday. A rebound that finds itself in the Stanford big man’s hands usually results in the start of a fast break or a second chance opportunity, both of which usually lead to points. If Miami can keep him from cleaning up the offensive glass, Stanford may be staring at its first loss of the season.