Stanford-Cal: Cardinal Face Early Must-Win Pac-10 Conference Game

D WizzleSenior Analyst IJanuary 17, 2009

The Stanford Cardinal will be back in action on Saturday night at home against the Cal Bears after suffering tough one-point losses to Washington and Washington State last week.

This is a must-win game for the Cardinal (1-3 in Pac-10) if they have any hopes of staying in contention for the Pac-10 title. A loss to the first-place Bears (4-0 in Pac-10) might make their next game against Oregon (0-5 in Pac-10) a battle for last place in the conference.

All the focus will be on Mike Montgomery returning to Stanford as coach of the rival Bears. None of the players on Stanford's current roster were coached by Montgomery, and his return won't have an emotional affect on the team.

In order to stop their two-game losing streak, the Cardinal must do a better job on the boards. They need their backcourt to help grab rebounds and they can't rely on just their bigs, Josh Owens and Lawrence Hill.

6-7 junior Landry Fields must help out along with Anthony Goods and Mitch Johnson.

Fields will be a big key to the success of the Cardinal in this game as he probably will be matched up with both Theo Robertson and Patrick Christopher throughout the game.

Fields is a good defender and his length gives opponents trouble on offense. He is averaging 11.4 points a game but he should be able to increase his scoring as the season goes along.

Christopher is a prolific scorer who has NBA potential.

Cal doesn't have a great frontcourt but they are tough and work hard. No one ever outhustles their 6-foot-8 forward, Jamal Boykin.

And Theo Robertson may only be 6-foot-6, but he rebounds as if he were a few inches taller.

The winner of this game probably will be the team that knocks down the most three-pointers.  Both teams are not afraid to launch from deep.

Stanford must figure out how to stop Cal's point guard, Jerome Randle, from scoring and also penetrating into the paint and kicking it out to open shooters.

The task of stopping Randle will go to Johnson. Johnson is bigger than Randle, but Randle will be the quickest player on the court.

While Cal has all the momentum from being undefeated in the Pac-10, look for Stanford to pull the small upset on Saturday night.

This should be a very exciting and high-scoring game, but give the edge to the desperate home team playing in front of their fans.