Pac-12 Team Previews: StanfordPosted by Connor Pelton on November 2nd, 2011
Over the next two weeks, we’ll be previewing each of the Pac-12 teams as we head into the season.
Strengths. The Cardinal returns four starters from last year’s team, including senior power forward Josh Owens. Owens led the team in points and rebounds last year, and with the addition of freshman guard Chasson Randle in the backcourt, there is reason for hope in Palo Alto after a mediocre 15-16 season. While they have a highly-touted freshman in Randle, the Cardinal also have a great sophomore class that got a ton of experience last year. Leading that group is guard/forward Anthony Brown, who one minute will be draining threes from behind the arc, and the next he will be posting up in the paint. The second of the sophomore sensations is forward Dwight Powell, who averaged 8.1 PPG in 26 starts last year. However, Owens is the rock of this team, and if he is “on” night in and night out, the Cardinal will find themselves in a major postseason tournament come March. He has the ability to guard either position, back a big guy down in the paint, and beat someone off the dribble. Also, if you are looking for a guy besides Oregon State’s Jared Cunningham for a highlight-reel dunk, Owens is guaranteed to provide a few.
Weaknesses. They lose Jeremy Green to the NBA D-League, and he was by far the best outside shooter on the team. Sophomore Aaron Bright will be asked initially to fill Green’s shoes, which by last year’s stats will be an 11.6 drop in PPG. Finding a dynamic, outside scorer at the guard position is the main thing the Cardinal need to work out in preseason practices, because at the end of the day, Bright is much more comfortable dishing the ball off than taking his own shot.
Nonconference Tests. The Cardinal have a very manageable nonconference slate with the exception of three games. They will likely play in the NIT semifinals on Nov. 23 against (presumably) Oklahoma State and on Nov. 25 in either the championship or consolation game against (most likely) Syracuse or Virginia Tech. The final challenge will come against the Butler Bulldogs on Dec. 22 in Palo Alto. If Stanford can get out of that stretch 2-1 or 3-0, it will mean a lot for their RPI come Selection Sunday.
Toughest Conference Stretch. The 11-day stretch of Jan. 19-29 will be a rough one when the Cardinal goes to the Washington schools and to Berkeley. They should have a set-guy to replace Green by then (it would be pretty awful if they didn’t) and they will need whoever it is to take over. After that, Stanford gets a one game “break” (Arizona State) before hosting Arizona and traveling to the LA schools. There is a good chance that they only get one win in those seven games, which would really kill their chances of finishing in the upper half of the Pac-12.
If Everything Goes Right… Stanford wins 19 games and thanks to nonconference upsets over Syrcause and Butler, they are one of the last four teams invited to the NIT. From there, Stanford goes on a rampage. They return to Madison Square Garden for the second time this season and end up winning the whole thing. Randle is named Pac-12 Freshman of the Year and Brown averages in double figures.
If Nothing Goes Right… While the potential for talent is there, the Cardinal just aren’t turning it into wins. Embarrassing nonconference losses against NC State and San Diego kill the team’s confidence. They finish the year with 14 wins and coach Johnny Dawkins seat is scorching.
Projected Starting Lineup
- PG Chasson Randle (Fr, 6’1″, 175 lbs)
- SG Anthony Brown (So, 6’6″, 210 lbs, 8.7 PPG, 0.8 APG)
- F/C Josh Owens (Sr, 6’8″, 240 lbs, 11.6 PPG, 1.2 APG)
- F Dwight Powell (S0, 6’9″, 225 lbs, 8.1 PPG, 1.0 APG)
- F/C John Gage (So, 6’9″, 225 lbs, 3.8 PPG, 1.3 RPG)
Owens and Randle are the class of the starters, Owens being the experienced go-to guy and Randle being the hot newcomer. Stanford’s offense will live and die by those two. Brown and Powell both showed signs of greatness last season but need to perform at that same level night in and night out in order to replace Green’s production.
Impact Newcomer. Chasson Randle - Randle will contribute immediately, most likely sending other point guards Jarrett Mann and Aaron Bright to the bench. Randle has combo-guard ability but will play the point in order to keep Brown in the lineup.
- PG Aaron Bright (So, 5’11″, 177 lbs, 4.9 PPG, 4.2 APG)
- G Gabriel Harris (Jr, 6’2″, 190 lbs, 1.4 PPG, 0.6 APG)
- F/W Josh Huestis (So, 6’7″, 225 lbs, 2.3 PPG, 2.0 RPG)
- F Andy Brown (Jr, 6’7″, 218 lbs)
- F/C Jack Trotter (Jr, 6’9″, 225 lbs, 3.2 PPG, 3.4 RPG)
This is where Cardinal fans start to get worried. Bright is a solid option at point guard, but when both of your reserve guards have trouble scoring the ball you are going to have trouble winning games. Brown is the only solid reserve down low, but I expect big things out of Trotter this season, so there is a possibility of a nice combination in the paint. But the point is, Harris and Huestis have to score a lot more than they did last year to make this a feared group.