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Stanford falls in conference tourney opener

Stunning loss on a surreal day

NCAA Basketball: Pac-12 Tournament-Califonia vs Stanford Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

If there’s an NCAA tournament this year, Stanford probably won’t be part of it.

A win today over Cal would’ve likely kept them on the right side of the bubble. The Bears entered as the lowest graded team in the Pac-12 per advanced metrics, and the Cardinal were healthy favorites. But you wouldn’t have known it from watching this one.

This team has played with a high level of energy all year long, which is a big part of why they’re the 6th best defense in the country. For whatever reason, they came out flat tonight, and stayed that way for the full 40 minutes. Perhaps the noise got to them, or the stage was too big. Whatever the reason, it couldn’t have come at a worse time.

After some unmolested looks in the final minute, Stanford bumped up its shooting at the rim to 33% for the game. They made a concerted effort to get the ball into the paint and attack the teeth of the Cal defense. But the Bears and Mark Fox knew they didn’t need to honor the threat of pitches to the perimeter, so they converged onto ball handlers and made life miserable for rim finishers.

To make matters worse, Spencer Jones, the top floor spacer, came off the bench today. There simply wasn’t much room with which to operate. According to Jerod Haase, it was a “coach’s decision.”

It wasn’t all the rim protection of Cal, though. A lot of players simply went up weakly at the rim. Oscar da Silva entered with the 17th best field goal percentage in the nation, but went 2-11 today. He had more turnovers than field goals, as did normal second-leading scorer Tyrell Terry.

The two Stanford losses to Cal this year came on bizarrely memorable days. The first was the day that Kobe and 8 others died. This one was on the day that professional sports came to an abrupt halt and Sarah Palin appeared on the Masked Singer.

It’s conceivable there won’t be any postseason play in the NCAA this year, after the NBA suspended their season. If there is, Stanford is in line for at least an NIT invitation. An NCAA bid isn’t completely out of the question, but it seems like an improbability after this clunker.