Cal @ Stanford MBB: Q & A with Rule of Tree

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Cal vs. Stanford is always intriguing. Last year's contest at Maples Pavilion featured a rocking gold-clad Cal section watching Jorge Gutierrez's last college game in the Bay Area. This year, the Crabbe/Cobbs-led Golden Bears look like a completely different team. How about Stanford? For more, we turn to Rule of Tree, Stanford's SB Nation Site. Thanks to Jack, Jacob, and Scott for their responses. Go Bears!

1. What Stanford player on offense should Cal fans know about?

Jack Blanchat
Dwight Powell. The talented 6-foot-10 forward has really blossomed this year, and he's subsequently leading the team in points per game. In years past, he's been too tentative around the rim, but he's more aggressive this season and should pace the Cardinal offense once again.

Jacob Jaffe
Chasson Randle. Cal fans should know him by now, since he went for 44 points in three games against the Bears last year. Dwight Powell is Stanford's leading scorer this year, but Stanford's offensive leader needs to be Randle. He has struggled mightily this year (39 percent from the field, 25 percent from three, scoreless game at USC), but his 32 points on 63 percent shooting against the Washington schools suggests he may be breaking out of his slump.

Scott Allen
Aaron Bright. His scoring is down this year and he's completely disappeared in several games, including Stanford's loss to Washington on Saturday (0 points in 33 minutes). Still, he's a capable scorer (21 points three days earlier against Washington State) who needs to step up if Stanford is going to turn its season around.
Scott Allen

2. What Stanford player on defense should Cal fans know about?

Jack Blanchat
Josh Huestis. Huestis began to get some more playing time last season, and this year he's been a defensive force. He's a crafty, aggressive player leads the team in rebounds (9 per game) and has 37 blocks so far this season, including 10 in one game.

Jacob Jaffe
Josh Huestis. Stanford's leading shot-blocker and rebounder has been a force on the defensive end, blocking 2.2 shots per game (third in the Pac-12) and altering many more. If he can control the paint, Stanford is a tough team to score on.

Scott Allen
Huestis. Had an 8-block game against Belmont and a 10-block game against Seattle. He's averaging 9 points per game, but his biggest contributions are on the defensive end.

3. What does Stanford need to do to win this game?

Jack Blanchat

Finish down the stretch. The Cardinal is very capable of battling with any team to the final minutes of a game, but they fade at the end of games all the time. I don't even want to look up what Dawkins' record is in games decided by six points or less.

Jacob Jaffe
Finish. Stanford's seven losses have been by 8, 8, 3, 9, 2, 8, and 5 points. The Cardinal has led in the second half in five of its seven losses. It's not very complicated. Stanford needs to play better down the stretch. In single-digit games, Stanford is 2-7, almost exactly the opposite of its football team.

Scott Allen
Finish and shoot well from beyond the arc and the FT line. When the Cardinal has shot well from 3-point range, it has stunk it up at the line. When it shoots well from the FT line, it can't hit a shot from deep.

4. Coming off the NIT championship last year, what was the expectation at the beginning of the season? What is it now?

Jack Blanchat

The expectation was that this team would ride a veteran junior class to a top-five finish in conference and a berth in the NCAA tournament. Now, they've lost all of their important nonconference games and are off to a bad start in the Pac-12, so the expectation is that the Card needs to finish the season really strong or Dawkins will be on his way out of town.

Jacob Jaffe
Before the season, everyone expected Stanford to make the NCAA tournament. There was enough talent coming back on this team and a good enough schedule that a trip to the Big Dance was the logical step. Instead, Stanford has blown every chance it has gotten, and now only a miraculous Pac-12 tournament run would save the Cardinal from another disappointing postseason.

Scott Allen
I'm embarrassed to revisit my preseason predictions, but yeah, I expected this team to make the NCAA Tournament. Now I expect them to finish no better than .500 in the Pac-12 and to be looking for a new coach in the offseason.

Calstanford_medium
Cal. Stanford. Always a classic.


5. This is the 8th season, post-Mike Montgomery. Hypothetically, if there is such a thing as a Stanford fan, how would he/she feel about Coach Montgomery now?

Jack Blanchat

Wistful. Montgomery is synonymous with the golden era of Stanford basketball, so there's no way any real Stanford fan should feel bitter or resentful toward him. Quite frankly, Stanford and Cal don't have the same kind of rivalry as Kentucky and Louisville, so this isn't some kind of Rick Pitino situation.

Jacob Jaffe
The very real (and not very optimistic) Stanford basketball fans are mostly just sad to see Mike Montgomery on the opposing sideline. Montgomery was one of the all-time greats on the Farm, and his absence was missed immediately after his ill-fated departure for the NBA. Many Stanford fans wonder what could have happened if Montgomery had been Trent Johnson's replacement instead of Johnny Dawkins, but we'll never know.

Scott Allen
Sad that he left the Farm when he did. I wish he was our coach, but I don't have a problem rooting against him.

6. What are the primary differences between Maples Pavilion before and after the Renovation?

Jack Blanchat

There are far fewer moments like this one in the new Maples.

Jacob Jaffe
Before the renovation, Maples was known as the place where Stanford men's basketball games are played. Now it's a place for volleyball and women's basketball that also happens to hold some men's basketball games as well.

Scott Allen
There's a better scoreboard and a worse team, not unlike Jerry World and the Dallas Cowboys.

7. What more should Cal fans know about this Stanford team?

Jack Blanchat

That this speech from Ray Lewis to the team came before an NIT semifinal game. An NIT semifinal game.

Jacob Jaffe
Know that Dawkins has absolutely no sense of a rotation, so any given player could be starting, and a player you don't expect to play could end up playing 25 minutes. By the same token, even if someone is on fire, Dawkins might sit him for an extended period of time. So there's basically no need to game-plan specific Stanford players.

Scott Allen
What Jacob said.

8. Who do you want to punch in the face?

Jack Blanchat

Johnny Dawkins. Once again, this team looks to be headed for a seventh-place finish in conference. For 20 years, Stanford basketball perennially made the NCAA tournament, and his teams havent even been close yet. And that's incredibly frustrating to watch. But I've never been a fan of Dawkins - I've kind of been hoping he would get fired for more than a year now.

Jacob Jaffe
Well, I kind of wanted to punch Jack Swarbrick while he cried for Manti Te'o's lost innocence. But as for someone that will be at the game on Saturday, I suppose Oski. The fuzzy head would be better for my knuckles, and his face is very irritating. Plus, it could lead to a brawl with the Tree, and everyone loves a good mascot fight.

Scott Allen
Since Jack has Dawkins covered and Chip Kelly has left the Pac-12, I'll say Lane Kiffin. And by "punch him in the face," I obviously mean get in a "noisy verbal exchange" with him.

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