Pac-12 Post-Mortems: StanfordPosted by Andrew Murawa on April 24th, 2014
Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll go through each Pac-12 team one by one and recount the season that has just completed and begin to turn the page to what we might see next season. Today, Stanford.
What Went Right
It wasn’t always pretty, and you probably still can’t say that this Stanford team ever consistently played up to its potential, but Johnny Dawkins and his senior class finally got to the NCAA Tournament. And they didn’t stop there, beating two solid teams – New Mexico and Kansas – in the Big Dance in order to earn an unlikely Sweet Sixteen appearance. The team was well-balanced on both ends of the court; Chasson Randle took that long-awaited next step in his personal development; and Dwight Powell eventually slid into a new role in order to begin potentially a new era for Stanford basketball.
What Went Wrong
One major problem plagued the Cardinal all year: team-wide inconsistency. We saw it early in the season when the team decided to forgo any inkling of defense in a loss to BYU while giving up 112 points; or a couple weeks later when they were unable to come up with any more than a half worth of good basketball in Brooklyn in the Legends Classic; or in conference play where they backed up their non-conference accomplishments with an 0-2 start in the Pac-12. Nowhere was this more evident than in the Sweet Sixteen where, coming off of a win over Kansas, the Cardinal had a beatable Dayton team between them and a date with the Elite Eight. What happened? The Flyers scored at will against the Cardinal; Randle was at his brick-tastic worst; and Dawkins and company let a big opportunity slip away without much of a fight.
As Chasson Randle went this season, more often than not, so went the Cardinal. There were 10 games all year long where Randle had an eFG% at less than 50 percent. The Cardinal were 4-6 in those games, with the wins coming over Texas Southern, Houston, Washington State and USC, a group with a combined record of 57-73 this season. In other words, when Randle had a poor shooting game against quality competition, the Cardinal lost. Luckily for this squad, Randle rarely had poor games. After taking a step back last season, Randle was spectacular this time around, scoring in double figures in 34 of his team’s 36 games. At his best, he took over games late against good teams, confusing defenders with his ability to not only knock in three-point shots at a 38.9 percent rate, but also to use his quickness to get by his defender for either a pull-up jumper or a drive all the way to the hoop. While ideally his ability to drop dimes off the bounce would improve, Randle was excellent this season.
Four Stanford players have exhausted their collegiate eligibility: Powell, Josh Huestis, John Gage, and Robbie Lemons. Powell and Huestis will be the toughest to replace, not only because of their unique talents, but also because they grew into veritable leaders for this program. Beyond that, Aaron Bright also graduates but he won’t be back next season. After a season-ending shoulder injury in November, he was granted a medical redshirt. However, since Dawkins has a full boat of scholarship players coming in, there wasn’t going to be room for his services next season. Instead, he’ll be wrapping up his collegiate eligibility elsewhere in the Bay Area next year, as he tries to lead Saint Mary’s back to the NCAA Tournament.
Players Coming In
With all those strong players leaving the program, it is a good thing that Dawkins has this program’s best recruiting class since 2010 arriving. Reid Travis, a 6’8” five-star McDonald’s All-American power forward, highlights the class, and he’ll be a strong contender to step into one of those frontcourt spots vacated by the departing seniors. He’ll be joined up front by another ESPN Top 100 recruit in power forward Michael Humphrey, a guy who may need a year or two to improve his strength and polish his game before being expected to seriously contribute. Then in the backcourt, Dawkins has an intriguing pair of guards joining as well, with 6’2” point guard Robert Cartwright and 6’4” off-guard Dorian Pickens – neither of whom is regarded as an elite athlete – stepping into a Cardinal backcourt without many sure things outside of Randle; both will have the opportunity to play as freshman. Aside from these new players, Stanford will also welcome back Christian Sanders and Rosco Allen from seasons lost to injury. Throw in guys like Grant Verhoeven and Marcus Allen, who will have both benefited from additional years in the program, and there will be plenty of talent on the Cardinal squad next season.
Reason for Hope
The NCAA Tournament monkey is off the program’s collective back, and there is still plenty of talent around Palo Alto. Randle will be on the short list of preseason Pac-12 Player of the Year candidates, and he’ll have fellow seniors Anthony Brown and Stefan Nastic as experienced veterans, as well as plenty of youngsters with big future upside. At first glance, the Cardinal should be able to make it a second-consecutive Tournament appearance in 2015.
Reason For Concern
While Randle is plenty capable of handling the ball, there is no truly experienced point guard on this roster. Unless Allen or Cartwright is ready to step into the starting lineup next year, Randle will need to be this team’s floor general and its primary scoring force. Sure, Shabazz Napier handled such a role well this season, but that’s a lot of pressure on Randle. Of more concern, further on down the line, while Dawkins has a fine recruiting class lined up for this season, he needs to continue to replenish the talent in Maples Pavilion. After Randle, Brown and Nastic leave next season, there will be a ton of question marks about the future.
B+. With their Sweet Sixteen performance, Stanford definitely nailed their final exam, but some struggles during their in-conference quizzes and a poor concluding term paper paragraph about Dayton results in their grade getting knocked down a mark. Still, this was a season to be proud of for Dawkins and his program.