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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Men’s basketball heads to Palo Alto for matchup with Stanford

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Tyler Baker
Tyler Baker / The Daily Wildcat

Fresh off a victory over then-No. 8 Utah, the No. 7 Arizona men’s basketball team hits the road for tonight’s matchup with upstart Stanford (13-4, 4-1 Pac-12 Conference) in Maples Pavilion for first place in the Pac-12. 

The Wildcats hold the all-time series lead 57-29 against the Cardinal and have won nine straight matchups dating back to B.M., or better known as Before Miller. Arizona coach Sean Miller has gone a perfect 8-0 against Stanford in his time as the UA head coach but said this Stanford team is as deadly as ever.

“Both Cal and Stanford are always difficult to beat at home and especially Stanford right now,” Miller said. “That’s the only one we’re worried about, especially because of their record. They just beat the defending national champions, UCONN, on their home court. They’ve gone to Texas and won. They’re having a great season and the reason is they’re a really good team.” 

As Miller alluded to, Stanford has beaten teams like UNLV, Texas and Connecticut this season and is starting to gain national attention, as the Cardinal is ranked No. 25 in this week’s USA TODAY Sports Men’s Basketball Coaches Poll. 

Leading the way for Stanford are guards Chasson Randle and Anthony Brown and center Stefan Nastic. Randle averages a conference-leading 19.8 points per game, Brown averages 15.4 points per game and a team-high 7.3 rebounds per game and Nastic averages 13.9 points per game and 7.2 rebounds per game. 

“I can remember when Randle came into the league, he was on the all-freshman team,” Miller said. “I think Nick Johnson and him came in together and I remember thinking those are two talented guards. … He’s really a four-year starter. Anthony Brown is ditto for him. He’s really, in essence, a four-year starter and somebody who’s been around for a long time. Not only are they talented, but they have great experience.”

From a pure talent perspective, Randle and Brown are right up there among the best starting backcourt that Arizona will face this season. Gonzaga’s Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. might be the only other starting backcourt that has more combined talent than Randle and Brown. 

It’s safe to assume T.J. McConnell, Stanley Johnson, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Elliott Pitts will take turns guarding Stanford’s backcourt duo. However, even with the Cardinal holding a pair of aces among the starting guards, Nastic down low could give the Wildcats the most trouble.

Despite starting 35 games last season, Nastic was almost an afterthought to do-it-all wings Dwight Powell and Josh Huestis. He averaged just 7.4 points and 2.8 rebounds in 19.7 minutes per game. This season, Nastic has seen his production increase as his minutes have increased.

Kaleb Tarczewski figures to be the one matched up with Nastic for the majority of the game and has at times struggled against talented opposing bigs. Luckily for Arizona, Brandon Ashley and Dusan Ristic wait in the wings if Tarczewski struggles. 

Regardless, McConnell said the Wildcats will be ready for whatever Stanford throws at them tonight because the team is playing together. 

“We have this motto: It’s all about the people in the gym,” McConnell said. “No one else outside matters. We pretty much have stayed in tune with that.

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Follow Roberto Payne on Twitter.

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