Feb. 11, 2004
It's a special season when you find ways to win the close games ... and stay undefeated. Stanford is enjoying a campaign to remember.
Maples Pavilion is a great place for a college basketball game. It was something special on Saturday when Stanford junior Nick Robinson hit the game-winning 3-pointer in an 80-77 win over Arizona. Stanford is now 20-0 (11-0 Pac-10).
|Point guard Chris Hernandez has garnered high praise for the way he's led Stanford.|
Coach Mike Montgomery has done a great job again. He's an underrated coach in terms of national publicity. Montgomery has reached his 10th straight 20-win season. The Cardinal is well on its way to a 10th straight NCAA tournament berth. Stanford has also won at least 12 Pac-10 games in each of the past eight seasons. Stanford can make it nine in a row with one more conference win.
I feel that we will see Stanford at the Final Four in San Antonio. It's that kind of season when you win games like the Cardinal did against Arizona.
I really love seeing Stanford's balance on offense. Cardinal players exhibit great ball movement, leading to good spacing. They move the basketball from side to side, reverse the ball well and find the open man. They make great entry passes inside and find the right angles to get the ball in the paint. I'm also impressed with the way they establish position inside.
Stanford plays unselfishly and always looks to make the extra pass. Cardinal players also do a great job getting back in transition and playing defense.
Sophomore point guard Chris Hernandez brings toughness to his team. He broke his foot twice last season, and Arizona coach Lute Olson has said that Hernandez is the difference-maker for Stanford. Senior guard Matt Lottich has great range with his jumper. They're one of the best backcourt tandems in America.
Junior center Rob Little has trimmed down and is effective in the three-second area. He has gotten a lot stronger around the basket. Junior forward Josh Childress is active inside.
Arizona coach Lute Olson has said that Chris Hernandez is the difference-maker for Stanford.
Stanford enjoys great team chemistry. You can see how much the players enjoy playing together.
The road to an unbeaten season so far has not been an easy one. Childress missed nine games. Senior forward Justin Davis, an excellent rebounder, is out with a knee injury. There was the comeback at Oregon from a 19-point deficit.
After losing to Connecticut in the second round of the NCAA Tournament last March, Stanford's players returned this season determined and focused. They clearly worked hard, and now they can't be pushed around physically.
You know there's great excitement at Maples when Stanford alum Tiger Woods, Bill Walsh and Jim Plunkett all show up. You could feel the energy during the win over Arizona. Stanford has another test Saturday at California. The Golden Bears are trying to push for a third Pac-10 berth in the Big Dance. Stanford won the first meeting 68-61.
Dick Vitale coached the Detroit Pistons and the University of Detroit in the 1970s before providing color commentary for ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979 (he's been an analyst for ESPN ever since). Send a question for Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.