The Stanford men’s basketball team (2-2) will travel to a familiar city this Thursday, kicking off the Championship Round of the NIT Season Tip-Off at the Barclays Center against No. 8 Villanova (4-0).
Stanford has played 12 games in New York City since November 2011 thanks to two NIT championship runs last season and in 2012. Thursday and Friday’s games will be the Cardinal’s seventh and eighth games in Barclays, and the team hopes to mirror its success in The Big Apple after defeating Miami at Madison Square Garden in April.
The Cardinal are still working on a consistent rotation after sophomore point guard Robert Cartwright and junior guard Marcus Allen suffered preseason injuries. Allen made his season debut against SMU and was inserted into the starting lineup against St. Mary’s alongside his brother Malcolm Allen, who was also making his first start of the season.
The lineup changes have hurt Stanford on the defensive end, particularly in its previous two games. Late switches on the perimeter and miscommunication on pick-and-rolls often yielded open driving lanes for opposing guards. As a result, Stanford gave up 42 points in the paint against St. Mary’s and 46 in a loss to SMU.
Stanford, however, has a solid defensive anchor to rely on in Michael Humphrey as it establishes continuity with its roster. The sophomore big man has tallied 12 blocks in his 4 games as his minutes per game are up from last year. Humphrey has shown that he can hold his own in the post and finishes possessions well with his quality rebounding.
The Cardinal will need to put up a better defensive effort against an undefeated Villanova squad with an average margin of victory of 29 points. Despite slow starts in all of their games, the Wildcats have shown their firepower by going on large runs after establishing their offensive rhythm.
Senior Ryan Arcidiacono has been pivotal for the Wildcats thus far. He’s done a superb job of orchestrating a talented Villanova roster capable of being one of the best in the country come March. Arcidiacono has dished 22 assists with only 1 turnover this season and has shown great poise as one of the leaders on this team. Though he’s only averaging 13.3 points per game, he’s a capable shooter and can certainly score when necessary.
On the other hand, Stanford’s offense has also been efficient thanks to the likes of Rosco Allen and Reid Travis. Travis has shown some versatility on the pick-and-roll, catching the ball at the elbow and driving to the rim against his defender. He is shooting 65 percent thus far. Allen, who had a great showing during Stanford’s preseason tour in Italy, is shooting over 50 percent from beyond the arc.
The winner of Stanford-Villanova will play against the winner of Arkansas-Georgia Tech in the tournament championship game on Friday, with the other two teams facing off in an earlier game.
Contact Irving Rodriguez at irodriguez ‘at’ stanford.edu