With road wins at San Diego State, Michigan, and UCLA as well as a preseason NIT championship over Duke at Madison Square Garden, Arizona has proven itself to be well versed in handling hostile environments.
The Wildcats will have another opportunity to battle-test themselves for March when they travel to Maples Pavilion Wednesday night to take on an inconsistent but potentially dangerous Stanford team that is in desperate need of a signature victory.
The Cardinal (13-6, 4-3 Pac-12) have likely been looking forward to this game since November. In non-conference play Stanford looked impressive in a victory at Connecticut but missed chances to bolster their resume by losing to Pittsburgh and Michigan.
Stanford started Pac-12 play 0-2 but since then have won four of their last five, most recently an overtime victory at USC.
In what has been considered a make-or-break year for Johnny Dawkins in Palo Alto, the Cardinal's post-season hopes took a major hit when they lost Aaron Bright after he dislocated his right shoulder. Three other players, including one-time Arizona recruit Rosco Allen, also have undergone significant injuries, leaving Stanford with little depth.
The lack of depth nearly cost Stanford a loss against USC when Dwight Powell and Chasson Randle, the team's two leading scorers, got into early foul trouble. The Cardinal, who lead the Pac-12 in fouls per game, can ill afford to have either Powell or Randle get sent to the bench quickly against Arizona.
Powell is Stanford's versatile senior big man who can shift between the four and five positions. He is shooting a career high 48.5% from the field this year and is a double-double candidate every time out. Surprisingly, Powell also leads the team in assists with nearly four per game.
Randle, meanwhile, has taken his game to another level as a junior. Offensively, he as potent a scorer as anyone in the conference. The 6'2 shooting guard is third in the Pac-12 with 19.1 ppg and scored 33 points against Washington a few weeks ago.
Stanford also receives major scoring contributions from Anthony Brown – the 6'6 wing is shooting 50% from behind the arc – and Josh Huestis who is the team's best rebounder.
Like many opponents Arizona has faced, Stanford boasts eye-catching numbers but no one so far has been able to crack the Wildcats' stymieing man-to-man defense.
Even when Arizona is shooting uncharacteristically poor from the field, the Wildcats can fall back on their defense until the shots start falling. While Utah put up a valiant effort for 30 or so minutes, the Utes didn't have the stamina and strength to hang with Arizona for a full 40.
Like Utah, Stanford might not have enough support from the bench to keep up with Arizona all game. The best case scenario for the Cardinal is to get off to a hot start and get Maples rocking, but even then, Arizona has proven it can come back from large deficits away from home.
Sean Miller's major concern in conference play has been Arizona's rebounding and if the Wildcats are apathetic getting to the glass, Stanford – a good rebounding team – could certainly win the rebounding battle. However, there's nothing to suggest Arizona's bigs will have a poor rebounding game, especially after racking up 20 offensive boards against Utah.
Every time Arizona has faced a pressure situation, whether it be at McKale or on the road, the Wildcats have responded by playing some of their best basketball. If things get tough against Stanford, they should be seasoned enough to overcome any adversity.