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Cal Basketball vs. Stanford Cardinal Preview: Rule Of Tree Q&A

After a long hangover of meaningless college football bowls, the meaningful hoops season tips off with a trip to Maples Pavilion. The last time we were here, we clinched an outright Pac-10 title. The only thing we can do this time around is go 1-0 in conference play. So that's a bit of a bummer.

On the other hand, we get to beat the Cardinal. That can only be a good thing.

Cal really needs this game, because (a) it'd be a crucial road game, (b) it'd be against their prime rivals, (c) it'd bolster them for the brutal Arizona road trip the next week. Cal cannot afford to fall too far behind the rest of the pack and have the young guys start doubting themselves, because their confidence is key to keeping our heads above water in a highly competitive Pac-10.

We sat down with Rule of Tree (the Stanford Cardinal SB Nation site) and discussed this evening's game. Check out their site for their answers to our questions.

Have the touted freshmen lived up to expectations?

Only in the sense that they’ve been consistently inconsistent. It was unrealistic for anyone to expect Anthony Brown, Aaron Bright, Dwight Powell and the rest of Johnny Dawkins’s hyped recruiting class to immediately light the college basketball world on fire. Still, I think Stanford fans were hoping to see a little more reason to be excited about the future of the program at this point in the season. Bright, who has come off the bench in all but one game, has arguably been the most impressive freshman thus far. He’s only averaging 5.5 points per game, but he boasts a nearly 3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio, is shooting 39 percent from beyond the arc, and, perhaps most endearing
to Stanford fans who have watched this team shoot a maddening 64% from the free throw line, he’s 14-for-14 from the charity stripe.  Brown and Powell are the other two freshman who have seen significant playing time and each has struggled at times this season.

Besides Jeremy Green and Josh Owens, can anyone else provide a consistent scoring threat?

Powell has to be that guy. He’s shown flashes of explosiveness around the basket and an ability to hit the outside shot, though I imagine Dawkins would like him to be more active inside and improve on his 4.1 rebounds per game. After starting the first nine games, the 6-foot-9 freshman has come off the bench in each of the last two games with mixed results. He was 1-for-5 in Stanford’s last game, an ugly win against Yale, after contributing 10 points, four rebounds, and two blocks in 20 minutes in a loss at Oklahoma State. I expect Powell to find himself back in the starting lineup sooner rather than later, and I think he has the most potential to emerge as a consistent scoring threat for the Cardinal during conference play.

What is the calling card for this team?

Stanford’s still searching for an identity, but it’s certainly not a team that will light up the scoreboard on a nightly basis. The Cardinal is limiting teams to 60 points per game, outrebounding opponents, and producing more turnovers than its committing, but Stanford rarely seems to get into any sort of rhythm on offense. If Jeremy Green has an off game, Stanford is likely to struggle.

Do you think the media picking your team 9th are correct, or on crack?

I think the bottom half of the Pac-10 will be a jumbled mess of wildly inconsistent teams separated by one or two games, and I expect Stanford will be a part of that group, so I’ll give the media the benefit of the doubt on this one for now.

Players most likely to hate by the end of the year?

I’ll go with Jeremy Green, especially if he breaks out the Dougie, and Bright, who is one of the most fiery guys on the team. You’ll hate how awesome he is at shooting free throws, if nothing else.