Pac-12 Team Preview: Stanford Cardinal

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) on October 30th, 2013

We continue unveiling our team-by-team breakdowns, in roughly the reverse order of where we expect these teams to finish in the conference standings.

Stanford Cardinal

Strengths. Experience and depth. Oh, and a lot of talent. This Cardinal roster is littered with upperclassmen, with seniors Dwight Powell, Aaron Bright and Josh Huestis expected be in a starting lineup joined by a couple of juniors in Chasson Randle and Anthony Brown. More upperclassmen are among the names of  the guys in competition to contribute off the bench – John Gage, Stefan Nastic, Robbie Lemons. And if there are still some holes left after listing those guys – and there definitely are – the freshmen and sophomores on this club are generally highly regarded players who are expected to be able to fill roles around the stars on this team; prospects like Grant Verhoeven, Rosco Allen, Christian Sanders, Elliott Bullock, and twin guards Marcus and Malcolm Allen.

Stanford Basketball Has Enough Talented Veteran Depth To Return To The NCAA Tournament (Steve Solis / PRPhotos.com)

Stanford Basketball Has Enough Talented Veteran Depth To Return To The NCAA Tournament (Steve Solis / PRPhotos.com)

Weaknesses. There’s all that veteran talent, but the most this group has accomplished in their time on The Farm is an NIT title a couple years back. And while that was a genuine accomplishment for a program coming back from the ashes left in the wake of Trent Johnson’s departure, last year the Cardinal failed to improve upon it. The blame for the lack of success comes down on the head of one man: head coach Johnny Dawkins. He’s assembled plenty of talent in Palo Alto, but now is the time for his group to put it all together. A lot of that will have to do with finding a coherent rotation. Last year, 12 different players on this team played in more than 20 games and averaged more than five minutes per game; nine of them averaged more than 10 minutes per contest. Ideally, we’d like to see Dawkins find his eight-man rotation and, depending on the circumstance or the opponent, rotate a ninth guy in there as needed. But these players need to know their roles, and even if it means some of the guys on the bench wind up wearing a redshirt or seeing a year of eligibility go down the tubes, that may be better in the long run for the ultimate goals of the program.

Non-Conference Tests. The Cardinal have put together a non-conference schedule that will give them plenty of opportunities to rack up resume wins, all without getting to crazy. Games against Bucknell, BYU and Northwestern make up the first week of the season, a trip to Denver to face the favorite of the Summit League follows, and then Stanford will participate in the Legends Classic with games in Brooklyn against Houston and then potentially Pittsburgh in the championship round. Then, after the Cardinal get back to work after their finals break, they’ll travel to face UConn in Hartford, then back to Brooklyn to face Michigan in a made-for-TV event called the Brooklyn Hoops Holiday Invitational. Plenty of decent scalps to be had for the Cardinal, but they’ve got to take advantage of those early opportunities.

Toughest Conference Stretch. Stanford gets a manageable start to conference play, but at the end of January, it will take the trip down the coast to Los Angeles — where they were swept last season — then head back home to welcome the Arizona schools before a trip across the bay to face Cal and then up north for the Washington schools. By the time that stretch ends, if the Cardinal aren’t over .500 in conference play, they’ll be in trouble with their NCAA Tournament positioning.

Johnny Dawkins' Squad Will Need To Come Up Big Against A Tough Non-Conference Slate (credit: Danny Moloshok)

Johnny Dawkins’ Squad Will Need To Come Up Big Against A Tough Non-Conference Slate (credit: Danny Moloshok)

If Everything Goes Right…  Dawkins gets the rotation dialed in by the end of the Cardinal’s first trip to Brooklyn. The backcourt duo of Bright and Randle shake off their shooting woes and stroke it like they’ve shown they can, freeing up even more space for Powell to operate up front. Anthony Brown returns from injury to finally deliver on his immense promise. The Cardinal turn into one of the most potent offenses in the West, they’re at least solid defensively, and a lot of last year’s close losses turn into this year’s thrilling wins. When all is said and done, Stanford is right there in the second group of teams at the top of the conference and Dawkins scores his first NCAA Tournament invite, ready through the combination of solid guard play and senior leadership to allow them to make some noise in March.

If Nothing Goes Right… Dawkins is still scraping around for players, running 10 or more contributors out there every game. No one group gains any momentum together, their defense is toothless behind a pair of undersized guards, and the Cardinal’s recent history of losing close games continues. Midway through conference play, chemistry issues become apparent, road losses pile up, and guys like Powell and Bright end their Stanford careers without an NCAA Tournament appearance. As does Dawkins, shortly after an early NIT bow out.

Projected Starting Lineup

  • PG Aaron Bright (Sr, 5’11” 175 lbs, 9.3 PPG, 3.4 APG, 43.4 eFG%)
  • SG Chasson Randle (Jr, 6’2” 185 lbs, 13.6 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 2.6 APG, 47.7 eFG%)
  • SF Anthony Brown (Jr, 6’6” 215 lbs, 8.1 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 35.3 3P% in 2011-12)
  • PF Josh Huestis (Sr, 6’7” 230 lbs, 10.5 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 2.1 BPG)
  • PF Dwight Powell  (Sr, 6’10” 240 lbs, 14.9 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 1.1 BPG)

Field goal percentages for Bright and Randle are included because they are ridiculously low for two guys who have the reputation of two of the better shooters in the conference. Bright shot 43.6 percent from three as a sophomore and Randle 43.8 percent as a freshman; those are the types of numbers that this duo needs to approach again this season. They’re a small backcourt and can be taken advantage of by bigger opponents, so they need to even things up on the offensive end by knocking down their open shots. Up front, the Powell/Huestis/Brown combo is full of talent. Huestis and Powell in particular can cause match-up problems with their ability to score at the rim, out to three and plenty of spots in between.

Key Reserves

  • PF Rosco Allen (So, 6’9” 220 lbs, 3.2 PPG, 2.1 RPG)
  • SG Robbie Lemons (Sr, 6’3” 205 lbs, 3.4 PPG, 1.1 RPG)
  • C John Gage (Sr, 6’10” 225 lbs, 5.8 PPG, 44.6 3P%)
  • SG Marcus Allen (Fr, 6’3” 190 lbs)
  • C Grant Verhoeven (So, 6’9” 245 lbs, 0.7 PPG, 0.8 RPG in 5.2 MPG)

We’ll focus on the above five, although there are others in the mix for minutes as well. You’ve got three bigs with upside in the lanky Gage, one of the better shooters from deep in the conference, Allen, a pick-and-pop threat who can bang on defense, and Verhoeven, the enforcer of the group. In the backcourt, since both Bright and Randle can handle the point when needed, we’ll give the nod to a pair of off guards in Lemons, a glue guy and pesky defender, and Allen, an athletic scoring guard that could provide the most punch off the bench for the Cardinal.

AMurawa (765 Posts)

Andrew Murawa Likes Basketball.


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