Pac-12 Team Previews: Stanford CardinalPosted by KDanna on October 12th, 2012
Throughout the preseason, the Pac-12 microsite will be rolling out these featured breakdowns of each of the 12 league schools. Today’s release are the Stanford Cardinal
Strengths: The tandem of junior Aaron Bright and sophomore Chasson Randle in the backcourt is shaping up to be one of the most dynamic duos in the Pac-12. The diminutive Bright has some characteristics reminiscent of other small guys who made names for themselves in the Seattle area, most notably the moxie to take and make big shots for his team. While he might not have the speed of a Nate Robinson or Isaiah Thomas, Bright can still get into the lane and distribute with some flashy passes. However, he doesn’t break down defenses as well as Randle, who may very well be the most significant guard to come through The Farm since Brevin Knight when it’s all said and done. Randle finished second among Pac-12 freshmen in scoring, behind only the NBA-bound Tony Wroten. The Rock Island, IL native displayed an ability to go into “put the team on my back” mode during his freshman campaign, highlighted by the 24 points he scored to lead Stanford in its 103-101 quadruple-overtime victory at Oregon State.
Weaknesses: Stanford is going to be physically light down low with the departures of Josh Owens and Andrew Zimmermann. While the Cardinal have to potential to be a good rebounding team again with guys like Dwight Powell and Josh Huestis still in town to crash the glass, Stanford will have to make up for a lot of toughness lost with Owens and Zimmermann gone. Although Owens was the better athlete, Zimmermann might end up being a bigger loss for head coach Johnny Dawkins. He was a guy who did all of the little things in the paint, including taking charges and talking on defense (he didn’t have a bad jump shot, either). As such, this group also needs to find a vocal leader. That might be tough, considering none of the major rotation players are seniors and haven’t been called on to be captains before.
Non-conference Tests: After a pretty pedestrian non-conference slate in 2011-12 outside of Syracuse and NC State, the Cardinal have loaded up with two huge stretches in November and December. After an easy first couple of weeks capped off by a game against newly-minted OVC member Belmont, the Cardinal head to the Bahamas for the Battle 4 Atlantis, arguably the toughest pre-conference tournament this season. In a field that includes Missouri, Memphis, VCU, Northern Iowa, Duke, Louisville, and Minnesota, there’s no way to not get an RPI boost from this trip. It starts with a Turkey Day date with Missouri followed by either Louisville or Northern Iowa. If the Cardinal make it all the way to the championship game, there is a good chance Johnny Dawkins will coach his first game against Mike Krzyzewski and the Duke Blue Devils. The other trip the Cardinal make in the non-conference portion is a tough two-game road swing to NC State and Northwestern from December 18-21. NC State figures to be a borderline top-10 team, while Northwestern is still in search of its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance after four straight NIT bids. Stanford was also supposed to host A10 frontrunner Saint Louis, but the Bilikens backed out over the summer, according to the Stanford basketball staff. Denver replaced Saint Louis on the schedule, and while the Pioneers don’t have the name recognition of Saint Louis, they are still a worthy opponent coming off a 22-win 2011-12.
Toughest Conference Stretch: The second half of conference play begins with a Wednesday-Saturday road trip to the Arizona schools with the Wildcats up on February 6 and the Sun Devils on February 9. How tough of a trip has that been for Stanford? The Cardinal haven’t swept the ‘Zonas in the desert since their magical 30-win season in 2004. After the ‘Cats and Forks, Stanford returns home to face what should be a very competitive USC on Valentine’s Day with a potential top-10 UCLA squad to round out the weekend. Then it’s back on the road for the Beavers and Ducks. While the Cardinal have had a reasonable amount of success on the road in Eugene and Corvallis in recent years, they had to fight for their lives in the aforementioned quadruple-overtime thriller against Oregon State last year. A 4-2 result in these six is not out of the question, but Dawkins and comapny are sure to have some nerve-racking moments during that stretch.
If Everything Goes Right… The Cardinal build off the momentum of winning the 2012 NIT a la Wichita State last year and turn heads with a 2-1 showing in the Battle 4 Atlantis featuring wins over Missouri and Memphis in the third place game after a respectable showing against Louisville in the semis. Then they breeze through all their home non-conference games and enter Pac-12 play with an 11-2 record, the only other loss being at NC State. The Cardinal carry their solid play into the Pac-12 slate, renewing Maples Pavilion as one of the toughest places to play in the conference. For the first time in Dawkins’ tenure, Stanford wins more than half of their conference games on the road and finishes Pac-12 play at 14-4. This is due to Bright, Randle and Powell being vocal leaders for the team, while Grant Verhoeven steps in nicely to provide some much-needed nasty in the paint. Also, Dwight Powell and Josh Huestis have developed consistent jump shots, plus Anthony Brown emerges as a consistent double-digit scoring threat. Stanford winds up with a 4- or 5-seed in the NCAA tournament and makes it to the Sweet 16. The only worry then becomes how many more years Coach K wants to stay at Duke.
If Nothing Goes Right… While Stanford has no trouble with its non-conference opponents at home, the Farm Boys put up a big golden sombrero in its big tests, going 0-5 in the Battle 4 Atlantis and road games at NC State and Northwestern. At 8-5 and the Pac-12 finishing with a near-.500 record combined against the Mountain West and WCC, there are hardly any quality wins remaining on the schedule. Stanford has its usual struggles on the road in conference, but they make up for it with a decent 7-2 home showing losing only to UCLA and Cal at home. The Cardinal again finish 10-8 in conference, and a 10-8 this year doesn’t feel much better than the 10-8 last year. After losing in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament, the Cardinal are 18-14 and earn the privilege of playing in the CBI. Dawkins’ seat gets scalding hot, maybe too much so.
Projected Starting Lineup
- PG- Aaron Bright (Jr., 5’11” 178 lbs., 11.7 PPG, 3.7 APG)
- CG- Chasson Randle (So., 6’1”, 180 lbs., 13.8 PPG, 3.2 RPG)
- SF- Anthony Brown (Jr., 6’6’’, 215 lbs., 8.1 PPG, 4.0 RPG)
- PF- Josh Huestis (Jr., 6’7’’, 230 lbs., 5.3 PPG, 4.8 RPG)
- PF/C- Dwight Powell (Jr., 6’1’’, 235 lbs., 5.8 PPG, 4.6 RPG)
A small, but quick and dangerous backcourt gives way to a lanky and athletic frontcourt. What the Cardinal don’t have in beef, they make up for in leaping ability and overall athleticism. Brown and Powell have a chance to be very special players. The two came highly regarded out of high school, but hit a bit of a sophomore slump after promising freshman campaigns. Brown could develop into a guy who averages 14 or 15 a game and shoots 40 percent from beyond the arc, while Powell can become all the more dangerous if he continues to hit that short corner jumper and drives aggressively to the hoop. Huestis has become a defensive stopper for the Cardinal, most notably blocking Lazeric Jones’ buzzer-beater attempt to preserve a Cardinal victory over UCLA in last year’s Pac-12 opener. In order for him to take the next step, Huestis needs to develop more confidence in his jump shot. The form isn’t all that bad, but he has had some ugly misses from the field and at the line during games.
- C- Stefan Nastic (RS So., 6’11’’ 245 lbs., 2.0 PPG, 1.1 RPG)
- C- Grant Verhoeven (Fr., 6’9’’ 240 lbs.)
- SG- Christian Sanders (Fr., 6’4’’ 185 lbs.)
- SF/PF- Roscoe Allen (Fr., 6’9’’ 215 lbs.)
- PG- Gabriel Harris (Sr., 6’2’’ 190 lbs., 3.6 PPG, 2.0 RPG)
- F- John Gage (Jr., 6’10’’ 235 lbs., 3.9 PPG, 1.2 RPG)
Dawkins was criticized last year for having too big of a rotation during conference play at times utilizing 11 guys in a game. While there are a total of 11 guys listed above between the starters and reserves, don’t expect all of them to get major minutes off the bench when January and February roll around. The leading candidates figure to be Nastic and Verhoeven. Nastic has nice touch around the basket and can draw fouls with the best of them; quickness is the main thing holding him back (he had a foot injury that led him to redshirt in 2010-11, and it seemed to hamper him at times last year). The freshman Verhoeven has drawn comparisons to former Cardinal player and current Cardinal assistant coach Mark Madsen for his tenacity on the court. Right now, Verhoeven figures to get the most time out of any of the freshmen. The other two rookies- Sanders and Allen- will need a little more time to get adjusted to the speed of the collegiate game, but both can pack a nice offensive punch somewhere down the line for Stanford. Allen was a 4-star recruit out of high school who chose the Cardinal over North Carolina, UNLV, and Oregon, and thus many think he has a tremendous upside. Gabriel Harris will be called upon for spot PG duties, while the 6’10’’ sweet-shooting Gage can provide a barrage of three-pointers off the bench; he scored 10 points in 12 minutes against Syracuse last year with two of his three field goals coming from deep.