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Buffaloes vs. Cardinal : Keys to beat Stanford

Colorado will finish their trip to the Bay Area with a showdown with the Stanford Cardinal at 8 p.m. (MST) Sunday night.

Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

Let's make this quick, yeah?

Stanford isn't all that good. They may be the 10th or 11th best team in the Pac-12 right now, depending on how you feel about the Washington schools.

Stanford just beat Utah, who may be the second or third best team in the Pac-12 right now, depending on how you feel about Oregon and Cal.

There is so much parity in the Pac-12 right now that Colorado can finish second or tenth in the conference and no one would be exceptionally surprised. With so much parity, anybody can beat anybody and nobody can beat everybody.

Stanford has eight wins to four losses thus far. Before their win over Utah, none of Stanford's wins were resume builders. Of those eight wins, only Arkansas (No. 87) is in the top-150 on KenPom.

To say their lack of quality wins lies in a dearth of quality opponents could be assumed, but that's not the case here. Stanford's four losses have come against SMU (No. 6 in RPI), Saint Mary's (44), Villanova (3) and Texas (36). The first three were blowouts, as you might have expected.

Stanford did nearly beat Texas for the second year in a row, but they mostly stayed close because Dorian Pickens had the game of his life, shooting 6-7 on three-pointers. Pickens isn't exactly Kyle Korver, so that shooting performance is quite an aberration; in games other than that, Pickens has shot just 31% from deep.

If there's a common theme to the losses, it's that talented guards can absolutely trash the Cardinal defense. Stanford has an excellent shot blocker in Michael Humphrey, but other than him, they don't have any above average defenders. Hell, Marcus Allen is their only average defender and his playing time is oddly sporadic.

Extending this pattern, we could definitely see Josh Fortune have a huge game tonight to bounce back into form after Friday's debacle. Fortune is the exact type of guard that Stanford has struggled against. He's a good shooter, so he forces the defense to play him tightly. When the defense closes out on him, he just as easily dribble past them to slice the defense. Once he's past the first line of defense, Fortune can dish off to looming bigs or to shooters spotting up. Tad Boyle hasn't exactly run the offense through Fortune this year, but to capitalize on a massive Stanford weakness, I'd love to see Boyle give him the keys tonight.

If Tad Boyle chooses to run the usual offense, Josh Scott should have a big game. Stanford doesn't pack the paint like SMU, and they don't have the disrupting size and athleticism of Cal. Yes, their best defender is their center Michael Humphrey, but he can rack up fouls in no time at all. After Humphrey, Stanford would have to rely on offensive-minded Reid Travis and the seldom used 7-footer Josh Sharma. To put it nicely, Scott would devour those two in a matter of seconds. So, uh, Humphrey might want to keep out of foul trouble. Against Scott, that's a lot easier said than done.

With pronounced advantages in the frontcourt and backcourt, solid shooting contributions from Tre`Shaun Fletcher and George King would be icing on the cake. Stanford is too stingy to give up swabs of points, but Colorado can certainly challenge for 80 tonight.

On the other end of the court, Colorado will have to defend a well-rounded Stanford attack. Key among them is the Hungarian-born senior forward, Rosco Allen. He was shut down by Saint Mary's and Villanova in consecutive games, but has since scored in double figures in the past seven games. In those seven games, Allen has averaged nearly 17 per, all with excellent perimeter shooting and solid rebounding. Luckily for Tre and King, Allen is in their ballpark in terms of athleticism and size, so hopefully Allen won't gash them like Jaylen Brown did.

Just in case he ends up catching fire like Cal's Jordan Mathews did on Friday, Colorado needs to get Stanford's Dorian Pickens uncomfortable. Pickens is a high-volume, inconsistent shooter, but as shown against Texas, he can single handedly keep his team in a game if he's on.

Save for pointspolsions from Allen and Pickens, Stanford will likely struggle to score. That's assuming the Buffs don't play lethargic defense. Ha ha ha. Ha ha. Ha.

Prediction

Colorado 78, Stanford 74