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Stanford Breakdown

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Record 18-12 (10-8)

Five Best Wins

1. 75-68 vs. UCLA on 1/28
2. 76-75 at Virginia on 1/3
3. 88-69 vs. Oregon on 2/17
4. 71-68 vs. Washington State on 1/13
5. 65-60 vs. USC on 1/25

Worst Five Losses

1. 45-79 vs. Air Force on 11/15
2. 46-62 vs. Santa Clara on 12/16
3. 52-64 at Washington on 2/11
4. 71-90 at California on 2/3
5. 86-90 vs. Gonzaga on 1/31

Defense

Trent Johnson is a Mike Montgomery protege and thus his team plays strictly man-to-man. This means that the most important players for Louisville on offense will be the guys with the ability to break down defenders in one-on-one scenarios, namely Edgar Sosa and Terrence Williams. While the size of the Lopez twins will make scoring extremely difficult for David Padgett, a guy like Derrick Caracter could easily be successful in getting whichever twin is guarding him to extend, and then using his quickness or mid-range jumper to put points on the board.

The Cardinal's defense is designed to force opponents to attack the rack where the two 7-footers, including Robin Lopez who set a freshman record for blocks with 72, are waiting. As a team Stanford broke the Pac-10 record for swats in a season, are 11th in the nation in the same category, and have outblocked their opponents in 25 of their 30 games. What this means is that T-Will, and more importantly Sosa, have got to be willing to find the open players on the wing after they get into the lane.

Of course this also means that if Pitino's Clankinos return then we're one and done, and this might be a likely scenario since Stanford ranks second in the PAC-10 in three-point shooting defense, allowing opponents to shoot just 33% from beyond the arc. Louisville averages 22 three-point attempts a game and the Cardinal would love it if that number were surpassed on Thursday.

The Cardinals may choose to attack the Lopez's in the same way they did Georgia Tech's 7-1 center Luke Schenscher in the '05 NCAA Tournament which is to have our big guy bring them out to the top of the key and then set a screen for the ballhandler so we can take advantage of their lack of quickness to either get an open look from outside off the switch or something going to the basket where they're too far away to recover. Of course when the twins in at the same time there is a serious problem with this POA.

This is a game where we could really use Tello because his game is much more suited to score on Brook Lopez (who will be guarding our four to start the game) than is E5's. If we can get JDP into the game and have him get hot from the outside it could be a huge momentum boost.

Stanford doesn't pick up full court and rarely traps, and as a result they don't force many turnovers. For a comparison, the Cardinal have recorded 142 steals this season while Louisville has recorded 237.

SU is 2-6 when their opponent scores 75 or more points, and 14-6 when they score 70 or less points.

Offense

The key to this game between two very young teams may be turnovers. Nine of the Cardinal's 12 leading scorers are freshmen or sophomores, but those freshmen and sophomore have also been the catalyst for a turnover ratio that is in the red at - 2.9; Louisville is + 2.5.

The Cardinal have turned the ball over a total of 438 times this year, 87 times less than their opponents. If U of L can get one or two of Pitino's trademark spurts triggered by full court pressure, then that could end up being the difference in what should be an otherwise tight game.

Of course when you're talking about taking care of the ball you to talk about the point guard, and Stanford's point guard Anthony Goods is a natural two (ala Taquan Dean) who replaced the underachieving and outside shot lacking Mitch Johnson as the team's main ball handler for the first time in the Cardinal's huge win at Virginia, and has been there ever since. It's no coincidence that the team went 1-3 to end the regular season when he was out nursing an ankle injury.

Goods returned for the PAC-10 Tournament and performed admirably, scoring 19 points and dishing out five assists to just one turnover in 37 minutes, but his two missed free-throws late in the game may have cost Stanford the victory. But this exhibition of taking care of the ball isn't necessarily an honest representation of what he's done the rest of the year since there have been 15 games this season where he has had as many or more turnovers as assists.

This is a team that can go big against Louisville's man and then counter with a solid outside shooting small lineup against the Cards' zone. The fact that they are able to effectively change the nature of their offense to suit their opponent just like that is a bit scary.

As far as point production goes, the offense has been all over the place for Stanford this season, much as it has been for Louisville at times. The Cardinal scored 50 points in a half against defensive minded UCLA, but scored just 45 points in an entire game a week and a half later in a loss to Washington State. They are 12-4 when scoring 70 or more points, and 2-8 when scoring 65 or less points.

Player to Watch

At 12.4 ppg Brook Lopez is only the Cardinal's third leading scorer, but he's the most talented player on the team and has become their go-to-guy down the stretch.

Lopez is considered by many to be the second best NBA prospect at the center position (behind Greg Oden), even though both he and his twin brother Robin have said publicly that they will stay at Stanford at least until the end of their junior seasons. Brook is easily the more offensively skilled of the twins, possessing great footwork and touch around the basket to go along with a solid mid-range jumper.

After missing the first five games of the season while recovering from back surgery, Lopez emerged as a force in the PAC-10 at the end of the regular season when he scored 20 or more points in five of Stanford's last six games. He has managed to stay out of foul trouble for the most part, picking up five in just two of the 25 games he played.

Lopez turned the head of many an NBA scout by picking up the first triple-double in Stanford history with an 18-point, 11-rebound, 12-block performance against USC on Jan. 25. He followed that with a career-high 26 points and nine rebounds Saturday in Stanford's 88-69 win over then No. 15 Oregon, and earlier in the week he scored 20 points and added seven boards in a 70-55 win over Oregon State.

When the Cards go man, Lopez might be able to have a field day against the not so agile David Padgett and the defensively challenged Derrick Caracter. For all his talent the freshman is still a freshman and has a problem with getting flustered and throwing the ball away sometimes when he's doubled, but if he comes out, plays with poise, and is hitting tough shots early then the Cards might be in serious trouble.

Others

Sophomore all-conference performer Lawrence Hill is Stanford's leading scorer at just under 16 points a game. The 6-8 205 pound Hill is a shakly ballhandler, but has a sweet jumper that he's usually able to get off cleanly over shorter defenders.

He's a consistent scorer who rarely drops more than 25 or less than 10, but against USC in the PAC-10 Tourney he scored just three points on 1-of-8 shooting. He has been held scoreless only once, in the Cardinal's aforementioned 45-point performance against Washington State.

Fred Washington is the proverbial "glue guy" for Stanford, going a steady 8.2, 5.2 and 3.7 (leads team) across the board in the three main statestical categories. He is the only senior on the team, and the only Cardinal who can consistently break down defenders with the dribble. He's started all 30 games this season, averaging 30.3 minutes per game while shooting .528 from the field. In his three previous seasons Washington was averaging only 3.5 ppg.

Washington's a strong guy who won't hang out on the perimeter much (he's taken just two threes), but loves to get to the rack and draw contact. He got to the stripe nine times on his way to scoring a season-high 21 against Cal, and 13 times when he scored 18 against Arizona State. He's a 63% free-throw shooter on the season.

Robin Lopez isn't as skilled offensively as his brother, but his presence on defense has kept him in the starting lineup despite the fact that he's seen his overall playing time go down as the season has gone on. As I mentioned earlier, he set the freshman record for blocked shots, and remarkably he did so despite rarely getting in foul trouble.

He scored in double figures in four consecutive games in early January, but lately he's lost confidence in his post moves and hasn't scored ten or more since Jan. 18. He will likely be the Lopez assigned to Padgett to start the game, and the one assigned to Caracter if they're on the floor at the same time.

The aforementioned Mitch Johnson (4.5), fellow guard Landry Fields (4.0), and forward Taj Finger (4.0) are the only other players averaging four points or more for Stanford. Johnson and Fields have gotten hot from beyond the arc late in the season, while Finger is a 6-8 and does the majority of his damage around the basket and at the charity stripe where he shoots 80 percent.

Statistics of Note

--Stanford is 3-7 in their last 10 games while Louisville is 7-3.

--Stanford is 9-6 with a layoff of three days or more while Louisville is 13-3.

--Stanford is 1-3 in overtime this season while Louisville is 1-0.

--Stanford is 1-1 on a neutral floor while Louisville is 1-3.

--Louisville leads the all-time series with Stanford 1-0 with the only meeting between the two being an 82-75 Cardinals win in the 2004 Maui Invitational.

--The only common opponent between the two is Arizona, which beat Louisville 72-65 and Stanford 85-80 in overtime.

--Louisville is 18-18 all-time against California colleges.

--Stanford is making its 15th (19-13) NCAA Tournament appearance while Louisville is making its 33rd (53-34).

--Basic Stats

Stanford/U of L
Scoring Average .... 69.9 71.4

Points Allowed ...... 66.8 62.9

Scoring Margin ..... +3.2 +8.5

FG Percentage ...... .449 .432

Opp. FG Percentage .412 .401

3-Pt. Percentage ... .351 .332

FT Percentage ...... .691 .671

Rebound Margin ..... +5.7 +2.3

Turnover Margin .... -2.9 +2.5