Stanford: 2011-12 Post-MortemPosted by AMurawa on April 25th, 2012
Over the course of the next two weeks, the Pac-12 Microsite will break down each team’s season: what went well, what didn’t, and a look ahead at the future. Today’s subject: Stanford.
What Went Right
The Cardinal dominated its non-conference schedule, winning 15 of their 17 games outside of the Pac-12. It wasn’t the toughest non-conference schedule in the world, but Johnny Dawkins’ team did wind up with a pair of wins against NCAA Tournament teams (Colorado State and North Carolina State) prior to their conference slate, then ripped through a field of also-rans in the NIT in March. All told, the Cardinal displayed a pretty drastic improvement on the defensive end of the court, finishing in the top 20 nationally in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted defensive efficiency numbers. And for a team that relied heavily on underclassmen (five different freshmen and sophomores played at least 40% of the team’s total minutes), there should still be plenty of room to improve, especially on the offensive end, in the near future.
What Went Wrong
While all that youth should pay off next year, it was the undoing of the Cardinal during the conference season. After getting off to a 5-1 start in Pac-12 play, the Cardinal lost five of their next six and struggled mightily, especially on the offensive end. Between Martin Luther King Day and Valentine’s Day they scored just 0.92 points per possession, highlighted by sophomore Aaron Bright’s 22-of-70 shooting during that stretch, good for just a 37.9% eFG.
On a squad that was a model of a team effort (11 different players averaged at least eight minutes per game, with six different players averaging somewhere between five points and 13 points per night), it is hard to pick out just one player, but the Cardinal were clearly a team whose fates aligned closely with Bright’s performance. He averaged four more points per game, one more assist and shot the ball nearly 20% better from behind the arc in wins than in losses. When Bright was going good, he was a tough defender, a confident floor general, and a deadly three-point shooter who made opposing defenses pay for collapsing in on interior players like senior Josh Owens. While there is something to be said for Owens’ 11.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and 57.1% field goal percentage (not to mention freshman Chasson Randle’s team-leading 13.8 points per game), Bright was really the most important player on this team, as evidenced by his near-perfect run through the NIT when he averaged 16.8 points, 4.2 assists and shot a whopping 79.5% eFG.
There are four departures due to graduation for the Cardinal: Owens, Andrew Zimmermann, Jarrett Mann and Jack Trotter. Of the four, Owens is by far the most significant loss, leaving the 2012-13 team without an established answer inside. Mann will also leave behind a gap, as he was the team’s best perimeter defender, although he never rose above the level of offensive liability.
Players Coming In
Dawkins welcomes in a very solid three-man recruiting class, with blue-collar big man Grant Verhoeven and stretch-four Rosco Allen each having a chance to become significant contributors immediately for the Cardinal. Stanford also welcomes dead-eye shooter Christian Sanders to the backcourt where he could potentially be the first guard off the bench next season. None of the three players are anywhere near finished projects (a lack of exceptional athleticism is the disturbing tie that binds the three of them), but for the Cardinal to take the next step, Dawkins will need to get help from the youngsters.
Reason for Hope
The returning fivesome of Randle, Bright, Anthony Brown, Dwight Powell and Josh Huestis is not only a group that has fairly-well proven its ability to produce, but it is a group of players who should have the chance to make a big leap. Brown was expected to take a big step forward in his sophomore season but seemingly was the same player that he was as a freshman, while Powell had his progress slowed by injuries. If one or both of those guys is ready to turn into a scorer on the wing for the Cardinal, their combination with their solid backcourt could be golden.
Reason For Concern
There is a lot of talent on the Cardinal perimeter, but with Owens moving on there is now a big hole in the middle. There is no obvious person who the Cardinal can throw the ball into the post and get a bucket, just as there is no clear strong rebounder on this team. Either Powell or Huestis could potentially be that guy, but neither has proven their ability to play that role yet.
B. A 26-11 record is definitely a big step forward for the Cardinal after consecutive sub-.500 seasons, and the run to the NIT championship at the end put a nice happy bow on the year aside from granting the team an extra couple weeks of practice. But, the slide in the middle of the year accounts for the markdown as there seemed to be a chance in mid-January that this team was intent on earning straight As.