Stanford Cardinal vs. Arizona State Sun Devils Preview and Pick

Stanford Cardinal (20-3) -3, 119 O/U at Arizona State Sun Devils (15-7) +3, 119 O/U, Well Fargo Arena, Tempe, Arizona, 10:30 PM Eastern, Thursday
by Badger of

The hottest team in the PAC 10 Conference, the 7th-ranked Stanford Cardinal, travels to Tempe, Ariz., to take on one of the coldest teams in the conference, the Arizona State Sun Devils, in a late West coast tipoff in the Wells Fargo Arena.

Stanford has won seven straight games, including a key overtime victory over Washington State on the road two weeks ago, to climb all the way up the AP Top-25 rankings to their current perch of No. 7. The Cardinal are coming off of a weekend sweep of the Oregon schools at home, drilling Oregon 72-43 on Feb. 7th and then cruising past Oregon State on Feb. 9th, 71-56.

Arizona State is coming off an inspiring and potentially momentum building, 59-54, victory over in-state rival Arizona last Sunday. But prior to that the Sun Devils struggled their way through a five-game losing streak that started with a 67-52 loss to this same Stanford team on January 19th.

Offshore sportsbooks opened the game with Stanford as a 3.5-point favorite on the road. The number has already dropped to 3 at a few of the books. The total for the game opened at 119, while Stanford is a -155 on the moneyline at most houses with Arizona State listed at +135.

Stanfords offense is run through 7-footer Brook Lopez. Lopez actually had an off night versus Oregon State last time out (just 14 points on 3-of-7 shooting), but he has been averaging 19.4 points and 8.2 rebounds during the seven-game win streak.

Forward Lawrence Hill has picked up some of the scoring slack for Stanford recently, averaging 15 points per game in the past thee games. Brooks twin brother Robin has also increased his scoring output as well, up slightly to 7.5 ppg during the run. With all of the height the Cardinal have, its no wonder they are near the top in the land in rebound margin (10.9 – 2nd).

Arizona State features one of the best freshmen in the country on offense, James Harden. While other freshman in the PAC-10 (namely USCs O.J. Mayo and UCLAs Kevin Love)have been getting more publicity, Harden has gone to work to the tune of 19.5 points and 4.5 rebounds per game in PAC-10 play on solid shooting (54.7 FG%; 44.1 3- PT%) as well.

Harden together with forward Jeff Pendergraph (29 pts., 8 reb. vs. Arizona) form a solid one-two punch for the Sun Devils on offense. Point guard Derek Glasser is a solid pass-first guard, but after those three the Sun Devil lineup is suspect offensively.

Stanfords defense is one of the best in the land (only 56.9 ppg – 5th). With two 7-footers in the lane, opponents dont often get easy baskets close to the hoop (only 38 FG% – 11th). Robin is considered one of the premier shot blockers in the NCAA, but its actually his brother Brook who has increased the defensive pressure the past few weeks (ave. 2.8 blocks a game last seven games.

Arizona State is also a good defensive team, allowing just 60.9 points per game (29th) and forcing a lot of turnovers due to heavy pressure (6.95 steals per game, 12.4 turnovers per game). With the amount of defense expected to be played in the game tonight, its no wonder most oddsmakers pegged this game at a low 119-point total.

Stanford has owned the recent history between these two teams, winning 18 of the last 20 head-to-head matchups. Not only has Stanford won five straight games versus the Sun Devils, but they have covered the spread in four of the five as well (the fifth was a push).

For the year neither team is winning bettors much money, as Stanford is just 12-11 ATS while Arizona State is 10-8 ATS. Stanford did cover five straight before failing to cover their last time out versus Oregon State (as 21.5-point favorites).The Sun Devils are 2-4 ATS in the last six games, including the five game slide and the big win over rival Arizona.

As you would expect, the under is a strong play tonight. Stanford has come under the total in 16 of their last 21 games overall, and Arizona State has come in under the total in 20 of their last 26 games versus PAC-10 opponents.

Badgers Pick: Like most of the country, the Stanford Cardinal has slipped under my radar for most of the season. But after watching just a few games, I like the way they play. They will struggle tonight, but I like the small number of 3 here as I feel they are clearly the better team. Three points is a few free throws down the stretch. Take Stanford minus the points.