Stanford Week: Evaluating The Recent PastPosted by Connor Pelton on July 16th, 2012
Things were looking good for Stanford after the 2010-11 season came to a close. It wasn’t a great year by any means, but the Cardinal finished the regular season with a winning percentage of .500, picking up wins against #18 Washington and at Washington State along the way, all without a senior on the roster. Things took a turn for the worse, though, when leading scorer Jeremy Green announced he would be forgoing his senior season in Palo Alto to enter the NBA Draft. But instead of going somewhere like Sacramento or Dallas, Green ended up playing three games for the D-League’s Los Angeles D-Fenders before moving to glamorous Erie to finish the final 21 games of his inaugural pro season. Meanwhile, back on the Farm, the Cardinal was making some noise without him. Stanford won 15 of its first 18 games, led by sensational freshman Chasson Randle.
Taking Green’s place in the starting lineup, Randle made an immediate impact for Stanford. At times early in non-conference action he struggled to score the ball consistently, which is expected for a freshman when facing opponents like Oklahoma State, Syracuse, NC State, and Butler. But he made up for his lapses on the defensive end, constantly bugging opponents with his ability to poke the ball away and get the occasional block.
After starting out the season 15-3, the Cardinal came back down to earth. Randle and sophomore forward Dwight Powell went through a rough stretch of games, as did the entire team. Stanford dropped five of its next six contests, with all five setbacks coming by double-digits. With a mediocre RPI rating, its NCAA at-large hopes were pretty much sealed during that mid-January to early February stretch, but it was able to get back to its winning ways throughout the home stretch. The Cardinal finished the final eight games before Selection Sunday with a 5-3 record, with two of those losses at the hands of Pac-12 heavyweights Oregon and California. The strong finish took Stanford from an NIT bubble team all the way up to a #3 seed, where they would dominate the competition in the second-tier tournament. The only game that was reasonably close was a second round match-up against Illinois State, with the Cardinal pulling out a 92-88 win in overtime. Johnny Dawkins‘ team would go on to win the entire thing, providing a springboard into a pool of excitement for the coming season.