As the Stanford men’s basketball team prepares for its last two games in Maples Pavilion this year, it finds itself in the all-too-familiar position of playing for little more than pride and a meager chance at a magical run.
A win against Colorado (18-8, 8-6 Pac-12) this Wednesday would do little for the Cardinal’s meager chance at an NCAA Tournament bid, but an opportunity to avenge its most lopsided loss of the season should provide motivational fuel for the second to last home game of the season.
In the teams’ previous meeting, Colorado thrashed Stanford 75-54. The Buffaloes took over the game early, breaking open a 15-point lead by halftime and holding Stanford to its fewest point total of the season.
Colorado has gone 5-2 since then, a run that includes wins over No. 24 Oregon and No. 11 Arizona, but a loss to Utah. Stanford, meanwhile, has gone a lackluster 5-4.
Even if Stanford (16-12, 7-8 Pac-12) wins its final two games, the only shot to make the NCAA Tournament would be to win the Pac-12 Tournament. Considering Stanford’s 1-4 mark against the conference’s trifecta of top teams — Arizona, Oregon and UCLA — , that will be a tough challenge.
The Cardinal could improve its seed for the tournament with wins, though. It currently sits in a tie with Washington for eighth place, but it is two games behind three teams in the standings.
However, with Stanford expected to get the dreaded call to defend its title at the NIT Tournament, expect younger players to have expanded roles in the upcoming games since they have few direct postseason implications.
It didn’t matter who was in the rotation during the last meeting with Colorado, as the entire team was held to 31.3 percent shooting. No starter shot above 50 percent from the floor, headlined by a 5-of-21 night from sophomore guard Chasson Randle, though he did have 15 points.
The only players to make at least half of their shots from the floor were junior forward Josh Huestis and freshman forward Rosco Allen, who both hit 2-of-4, and senior guard Gabriel Harris, who made his lone shot.
Colorado in comparison shot 52.6 percent from the field as a team with all five of its starters scoring in double digits. The major threat from the Buffs was junior forward Andre Roberson, who dominated the boards to the tune of 20 rebounds to go along with 12 points and three blocks.
Nobody for Stanford managed more than seven rebounds, although early foul trouble for Heustis was a big factor in the lack of paint presence.
Now the Card at least has a chance for redemption. Huestis and junior forward Dwight Powell are accustomed to success on the boards and on the blocks and so may well have personal points to prove.
Both Huestis and Powell have nine double-doubles on the season, making them the only teammates in the country to have at least eight each. Huestis is averaging just a hair under 10 rebounds for the entire season and with a strong finish he could average a double-double with points and rebounds, making him the first Stanford player to do so since Curtis Borchardt ’02 in the 2001-02 season.
For the less hopeful this last weekend will be about personal statistics and preparing for a return to NIT glory. For the wishful thinkers it could just be about building momentum for the Pac-12 Tournament and perhaps a March Madness miracle.
Stanford will tip off against Colorado in Maples Pavilion at 8 p.m. PT tonight, with the contest broadcast live on ESPN2 and KZSU.
Contact David Perez at davidp3 ‘at’ stanford.edu.