Feast Week Mission Briefing: Stanford in the Legends ClassicPosted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on November 25th, 2013
With Feast Week tipping off over the weekend, we’re outlining the roads ahead for prominent Pac-12 teams involved in neutral site events this week.
What They’ve Done So Far: If you’ve heard much about Stanford this season, it is most likely because they scored 103 points against BYU – and lost. You can probably take away a couple of things from that little blurb, namely that Stanford’s defense isn’t very good but that their offense is. Still, BYU is no joke, so losing to a quality team like that isn’t necessarily a death knell and the Cardinal will have a chance to prove themselves on a national stage this week. Make no mistake, this is not only a talented team but it is also a veteran team with four seniors and three juniors among its nine-man rotation. Still, despite all that experience, none of these guys have yet learned how to win on a regular basis, so until they string together a number of wins, there is plenty of reason to have lingering doubts.
First Round Preview: The Legends Classic actually began last week, with Stanford taking care of Texas Southern in a inconsequential (literally of no consequence, as Stanford was going to advance to the semifinals in Brooklyn regardless of the outcome) regional round game. But tonight, the Cardinal will get the elimination portion of the tournament underway when it faces Houston in the nightcap of a pair of games at the Barclays Center. Houston hasn’t lost in five games, but its best win is over a middling Lehigh team. Given that last year’s best player, Joseph Young, is playing for Oregon these days, this is not a team that should give Stanford too much trouble. Still, TaShawn Thomas and Danuel House are talented scorers, and sophomore point guard L.J. Rose – formerly of Baylor – is a quality point guard. It’s possible the Cardinal could draw this team into a shootout and simply outscore them, but Johnny Dawkins needs to make sure his team starts to buy in on the defensive end.
Potential Later Round Match-up: The championship game to look forward to in this tournament is Stanford vs. Pittsburgh. Aside from being a potential game of contrasting styles (Pitt’s rugged defense-based system against Stanford’s offensive firepower), it would be a game that would give us a good window into a pair of teams about which several significant questions exist. We’ve talked about Stanford’s issues, but Pitt is a team that has won all four of its games by an average of 26 points per game against unimpressive competition. The Panthers run efficient offense, they defend like crazy, they pound the boards, and KenPom’s system certainly loves them. But are they any good in real life? If all goes as planned, we’ll get a chance to have that question answered tomorrow night.
Outlook: To put it mildly, this is not exactly a loaded tournament. Still, Houston is at least a decent team with a handful of quality players who can give the Cardinal a good run. And Pitt? If Stanford is fortunate enough to get a crack at the Panthers, they’ll get a good test of their mettle. There is not a game in this tournament that Stanford cannot win, but at the same time, we’ve seen enough of this squad to know that the Cardinal could surprise us – negatively.