Team of the Week: Stanford
Stanford started their week by crushing the Washington Huskies, a feat that in and of itself has become rather mundane since the departure of Brandon Roy. However, the Huskies have proven difficult to beat at home and the Cardinals delivered the Huskies their biggest home loss in five years, 65-51. Jon Brockman, with the face of a pugilist and the intensity to match, has single handedly willed the Huskies up to the verge of relevance in the Pac-10. But his sheer will was not enough to stop Brook Lopez. With superior size and athleticism Lopez dominated Brockman, scoring a career high 31 points, securing 13 boards, and blocking three shots.
Next, Stanford headed to the other half of the state, where the Governor had declared a state of emergency due to record snow fall, to take on ninth-ranked Washington State. The Cougars had lost at home earlier in the week to Cal and were attempting to keep second year coach Tony Bennett from having his first ever losing streak. Reeling from the surprise of the previous loss, the Cougars managed a five point lead in the first half. However, Stanford once again dominated the post, holding the rapidly improving (and worst facial haired Washington hoops player since Adam Morrison) Wazzu big man Aaron Baynes to three points and two rebounds. Meanwhile, the Stanford front line of B. Lopez, Robin Lopez, and Lawrence Hill proved too much for the foul plagued Baynes and the undersized but resilient Robbie Cowgill. B. Lopez scored most of his team high 18 points from the free throw line, while also rejecting five shots. It took overtime, but Stanford completed the road sweep by beating a veteran team in a hostile environment.
Stanford has powered into sole possession of second place in the Pac 10, one game back of UCLA. With consistent post production and stifling defense, Stanford has the components of a team primed for a deep March run.
California (13-7, 4-5 in the Pac-10), Stanford’s travel partner, completed the same road sweep as Stanford. Although, instead of claiming sole possession of second place they clawed their way out of the cellar and into the conversation as one of six teams in the Pac-10 with either a 5-4 or 4-5 conference record.
Kansas State (15-5, 5-1 in the Big 12) handed Kansas their first loss, then choked against a diluted Missouri team, thus saving me from feeling guilty for choosing a west coast team as the team of the week.