Stanford Isn’t Ready For The Limelight YetPosted by Mike Lemaire on November 12th, 2013
Mike Lemaire is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after last night’s Stanford vs. BYU game in Palo Alto.
The season isn’t even a week old and there is still plenty of time to make improvements, but considering the preseason expectations as well as the prolonged NCAA Tournament drought and coaching uncertainty within the program, Stanford’s home game last night against BYU was one the Cardinal really needed to win. It might not have been the Cardinal’s marquee non-conference match-up — that will be a game against Michigan right before Christmas — but it was a nationally televised opportunity for the program to make an early statement against a potential NCAA Tournament team.
Instead, in front of a listless home crowd that was repeatedly drowned out by the BYU contingent, the Cardinal fell flat, losing 112-103 and allowing the Cougars to basically do whatever they wanted to offensively. Led by guards Matt Carlino (26 points on 8-0f-16 shooting), Kyle Collinsworth (14 points and nine assists), and Tyler Haws (31 points on 10-of-18 shooting), the Cougars shot better than 53 percent from the field and repeatedly got into the lane and pushed the tempo to find easy baskets. On the other end of the floor, Stanford scored a lot of points, but they never looked comfortable attacking BYU’s zone defense and, despite its obvious size advantage, ended up settling for a lot of long and contested jump shots.
Don’t make the mistake of pinning all of the blame on Stanford’s shortcomings, because the Cougars are a really good team. Haws is a legitimate All-American candidate and when Carlino and Collinsworth get going and are able to create offense by attacking the rim, BYU is going to be tough to stop. But Stanford wasn’t overmatched in any facet of the game, they just looked confused and uncertain on both ends of the floor while some of head coach Johnny Dawkins‘ moves exacerbated the issues.
The Cardinal have yet to make the NCAA Tournament in five seasons under Dawkins and have only won 20 games once during his tenure. It is pretty much assumed that if the Cardinal does not make the NCAA Tournament this season, then Dawkins will not be back. If last night was any indication, Dawkins should start worrying, because some of his strategic coaching decisions could be generously described as questionable.
The obvious concern was his stubborn insistence on using a larger lineup that included 6’7″ Josh Huestis at small forward and 6’6″ Anthony Brown at shooting guard while Chasson Randle handled the point guard duties. Randle seems more than capable of handling the role and Stanford doesn’t have a lot of depth in the backcourt, but by the ninth time Collinsworth easily drove past Huestis on the perimeter, it should have been obvious that the larger lineup was going to be exploited by BYU’s guards. But Dawkins stuck with the larger lineup, which would have been one thing if the Cardinal used its size advantage on offense, but Brown and Huestis were left standing on the perimeter to shoot a combined 2-of-10 from behind the three-point arc.
Outside of standing around and watching Randle create his own offense (which he did quite admirably), the Cardinal’s most effective offense was to get the ball into Dwight Powell in the post and let him work on a smaller and less athletic defender. But Powell spent most of the first half facing the basket out on the perimeter. The strategy worked well at the end of the first half as Powell got some easy baskets, but to start the second half, it was non-factor Stefan Nastic posting up the defense and Powell roaming the perimeter.
Dawkins doesn’t deserve all of the blame for these issues, but it’s the coach’s job to recognize advantages and exploit them and also identify deficiencies and find a way to plug them up. The good news is that the season is still young and the Cardinal have some pieces — mainly Randle and Powell — to work with. It’s completely possible that by December, Dawkins and his team will have things figured out and the Cardinal will make the requisite push to get back to the Big Dance. But if last night proved anything, it’s that Stanford doesn’t look a whole lot better than they did last year, and that’s not a good thing.