7:30 PM PST -- Maples Pavilion
Kenpom.com prediction: Cardinal win 60-58 (61 possesions, 59 percent confidence)
Well, despite the loud protests of everyone on this site -- and probably every other site -- Tony Bennett is back to the old guy lineup. You know, the one that more or less got killed early by Stanford last game before getting rescued by Marcus Capers and DeAngelo Casto for a one-point victory at home? Apparently, he's looking for more scoring punch -- never mind the fact that A) Stanford's defensive strength is on the perimeter, and B) The Cardinal feature a massive, gaping, vacuous hole in the middle.
One can only hope he comes to his senses early, before this team gets in a funk it can't get out of. It would help if Daven Harmeling would shoot better than 30 percent, so if he comes out and hits a couple of 3s early, this move looks a lot better. Bennett is probably also hoping to a certain degree that he can protect Casto from early foul trouble, hoping that he can be a difference maker down the stretch.
Unlike a lot of people, I'm not convinced this is a game the Cougs have to win. Don't get me wrong, you want to win this one -- anything you can do to separate yourself as better than the also-rans is a good thing -- but I think picking up quality wins and avoiding bad losses is more important in terms of the Tournament resume. More important is proving you belong I'm not convinced a win or loss here does either.
I see winning the next three as more critical to our chances, as Cal is still a tournament team, and home losses to Oregon or OSU would be bad, bad, bad. Win those three, and then pick up two or three against those good teams we finish with, we're squarely on the bubble. If we go 4-0 over the next four but finish 1-4 against those top teams, we're not. I think it's that simple.
I think we can win tonight -- honestly, I think we will win tonight, because Stanford's defense has been positively atrocious over the last three games, as their lack of depth and undersized frontcourt have been exposed -- but I'd sure like for the Cougs to take care of all this conjecture for us by, as Grady said in an e-mail to me earlier today, "wiping that grin off that stupid tree's face."
NCAA Tournament implications aside, that's the greatest reward in beating Stanford.