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Men’s basketball set for first round matchup against Arizona State
Junior guard forward Dorian Pickins dropped 20 points in Stanford's loss against Utah to end the regular season, and his shooting contribution will be needed in order to defeat Arizona State in the first round of the conference championships. (RAHIM ULLAH/The Stanford Daily)

Men’s basketball set for first round matchup against Arizona State

Stanford men’s basketball (14-16, 6-12 Pac-12) will look to improve its case for any semblance of a postseason tournament bid when kicking off the Pac-12 men’s basketball championship tournament against the Arizona State Sun Devils (14-17, 7-11 Pac-12) on Wednesday in the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

The No. 8 seeded Sun Devils swept the No. 9 seeded Cardinal in their regular season series, first winning a 98-93 shootout at Maples Pavilion in December and then sneaking past the Cardinal for a 75-69 win in Tempe a few weeks ago.

Stanford enters the tournament on a three-game losing streak after losses to Colorado and Utah last week. While Arizona State ended its regular season last week with a thrilling 83-82 win against likely NCAA tournament team, USC followed by a loss to rival Arizona.

The Cardinal will look to avoid a repeat of last season’s conference tournament, when they also held the No. 9 seed and subsequently lost to Washington 91-68 in a first-round rout. The last and only time the Cardinal won the conference tournament was in 2004.

Defensively, Stanford will likely focus on keeping the Sun Devil backcourt pair of senior guard Torian Graham and junior guard Tra Holder in check. As the leading scorers for Arizona State, the two have combined for an average of 34.7 points a game this season. The duo proved particularly effective against the Cardinal, averaging a combined 42.5 points per game in the two meetings between the teams.

The offensive weapons do not end there for the Sun Devils, with junior guard Shannon Evans II and senior forward Obinna Oleka each averaging in the double digits in scoring, accumulating an average of 15.2 and 12.2 points per contest, respectively. Oleka averages just under a double-double, pulling down 9.8 rebounds per game.

As for the Stanford offense, it will look to find a combination of outside shooting and inside scoring that has been elusive this season. Sharpshooting junior guard Dorian Pickens has lead the team’s outside shooting effort. Against Utah last Saturday, Pickens hit five-of-seven shots from beyond the arc.

The Cardinal will also look to junior forward Reid Travis as their reliable inside scorer. Travis, named to the All-Pac-12 First Team, finished the regular season ranked No. 3 in the Pac-12 in scoring and No. 5 in rebounding.

Stanford will take into account the high number of assists allowed by the Arizona State defense and look to increase efficient ball handling in order to claim its first victory over the Sun Devils.

Arizona State allows 18.8 assists per game, compared to Stanford’s 14.3. The Sun Devils defense ranks last in field goal percentage in the conference.

If the Cardinal can successfully move the ball, Stanford will generate the open shots necessary to move past the first round in the tournament.

In the long run, a Pac-12 Tournament championship is the only hope of a NCAA Tournament bid for either team, whose resumes are simply not strong enough to be considered for an at-large bid. With national title contenders like Oregon, Arizona and UCLA standing in the way, a Pac-12 Tournament title will be one of the most difficult in the nation to attain.

The Cardinal and the Sun Devils will vie for the right to move on to the quarterfinals and play the top-seeded Oregon Ducks starting at 12 p.m. PT Wednesday. The game will be aired on the Pac-12 Networks.


Contact Samuel Blake Curry at currys ‘at’ stanford.edu.

About Samuel Curry

Sam Curry '20 is a sophomore desk editor for The Daily. Most of the time, people can find him cheering for all of the teams they probably hate, like the New England Patriots and the New York Yankees. Sam is a proud native of Big Timber, Montana, where he enjoys the great outdoors with his family and friends.