Bob Bender Press Conference
Jan. 23, 2001
How to you approach this game against the No. 1 team in the country?
'I've always believed when you have preparation time before playing somebody ranked this high that you don't go overboard in trying to make adjustments because you send a message to your players that 'we're not good enough.' You walk that fine line. The reality with Stanford and what they do is that we can't play straight up on either end of the floor with them. We have to do some things that are different for us.
'Another interesting thing in preparation for this game is that they are undefeated. We tried to figure out what tape of them to watch and it turned into a highlight film. The one time they looked like they were in trouble was against Duke, but then you say to yourself, 'it's against Duke and how much to you get out of that?'
What impresses you most about Stanford?
'One area is statistically. They lead the league in over eight different statistical categories. I don't know if in my career we've played a team that has done that. Their statistics back up their No. 1ranking. Sometimes statistics can be irrelevant or misleading, but everything is justified with them.'
There is one category they don't lead the Pac-10 in. They are last in the conference in steals:
'They don't have to get steals. They play a containment, very solid, stay-between-your-man-and-the-basket defense. They say 'can you shoot the ball? And if you can't you have to go get a rebound.'
What is your biggest concern?
'Our concern is making adjustments. If you try to shut things down inside you are vulnerable to the 3-point shot that they can kill you with. If you face guard and try to eliminate the perimeter they kill you inside. They can all pass and they can all score. You have to understand how quickly this team can punish you. If you gamble and cheat they will basket cut and it's a layup.'
Can you comment on the fact that they seem to be playing better without Mark Madsen?
'I don't know if you would say they are better without Mark Madsen. I don't know that you ever lose a player like him and gain something. I'd be scared to think what they'd be like with him. They were a little more predictable with Mark. When they went high-low Mark went low and you pretty well knew that. Now with the Collins twins either one can step away from the basket. You can't say when Jason (Collins) is on the low block we'll do this defensively because Jason might not be on the low block.
'The same ingredients they have had for the last four years are there again. They are a very physically strong team. They are an excellent screening team. They punish you individually when you cheat because they read the defenses so well. That is fundamentally intelligent basketball. They have more freedom that they have ever had to do things off the dribble. The best example is Casey Jacobsen. He'll put it on the floor and go wherever he needs to go. Ryan Mendez is now really good off the dribble. When he first came in the scouting report was catch and shoot 3-point guy with no need to help off on him. Now he catches it, can put it on the floor, and create a shot at any time. They can go and be more creative off the dribble and in their offense and that brings a whole new element to it.'
What kind of defense will you implement?
'The problem with a zone against this team in particular is that we know they shoot the ball well from the 3-point line. Our zone needs to be played higher than we normally do because Jacobsen, Mendez, and (Michael) McDonald have such long range. You don't just guard the 3 against them you have to be a step above it. With their size they can play above the zone. Normally your zone will promote more of a perimeter game but they have size enough to go over it.'
Is Stanford better than Arizona?
'Stanford is playing better that Arizona right now, but I don't know if they are a better basketball team. We won't know until they play again in that last weekend. Arizona is going to do nothing but get better, but Stanford keeps getting better. Their talent level when both teams light it up is about even. They are both deep with production off the bench. But Stanford has been playing consistently at a higher level that everybody else.'