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Stanford begins a pivotal week for its program Wednesday when it visits No. 10 Connecticut, which has won 54 consecutive home games against non-conference opponents. After the Huskies, the Cardinal meet Michigan in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Saturday. “I think it's important for us and it's also important for our conference for how things are looked at,” said Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins, whose team last reached the NCAA Tournament in 2008. “Things in November and December become very important.”
The game features the first collegiate matchup of guards Ryan Boatright and Chasson Randle, who were selected co-Illinois Mr. Basketball in 2011. Randle leads Stanford with 18.2 points per game, while Boatright averages 12 points and scored a team-high 17 in a 95-68 victory over Maine on Dec. 6. Boatright’s backcourt partner, senior point guard Shabazz Napier, became the fourth player in school history with at least 1,000 points and 500 assists in the win.
TV: 9 p.m. ET, ESPN2
ABOUT STANFORD (7-2): Senior forward Dwight Powell averages 15.1 points and 7.3 rebounds for the Cardinal, who are seeking their first quality win after losing to BYU and Pittsburgh last month. Randle, Powell, Anthony Brown, Josh Huestis and Stefan Nastic have started all nine games, and the Cardinal bench is limited with guard Aaron Bright out for the rest of the season with a dislocated right shoulder. Stanford’s defense has improved since allowing 112 points to BYU, but the Cardinal will be tested by a Huskies team shooting 46.5 percent from beyond the arc.
ABOUT CONNECTICUT (9-0): Napier has become a top contender for national player of the year honors while averaging 15.3 points, seven rebounds, 5.9 assists and shooting 50 percent from the field (57.1 percent from 3-point range). Junior center DeAndre Daniels is averaging 17 points while shooting 71.4 percent over his last three games, while freshman forward Kentan Facey has provided a spark in limited minutes off the bench. “His athleticism is off the charts,” said forward Niels Giffey. “He might be the best jumper on the team.”
1. Connecticut leads the series 5-0, including an 85-74 victory in the second round of the 2003 NCAA Tournament.
2. Stanford is 4-13 against Top 25 teams under Dawkins.
3. The Huskies haven't lost to a non-conference opponent in Connecticut since a 77-73 setback to Indiana on Jan. 20, 2007.
PREDICTION: Connecticut 83, Stanford 71