Pac-12 Season Preview: Stanford Cardinal

Posted by Tracy McDannald on October 24th, 2014

The Pac-12 microsite will preview each of its league teams over the next few weeks, continuing today with Stanford.

Stanford Cardinal

Strengths: Losing an all-league player (Dwight Powell) and one of its premier defenders (Josh Huestis) will be an adjustment, but there is still enough of the group remaining from Johnny Dawkins’ first NCAA Tournament qualifier to make some noise. Look no further than senior Chasson Randle, the team’s top scorer from a season ago and one-half of a seasoned backcourt to go with the Pac-12’s reigning most improved player in Anthony Brown. The duo started all but one of the Cardinal’s 36 games last season. Center Stefan Nastic, a fifth-year senior like Brown, also logged significant minutes as a starter in the run to the Sweet Sixteen.

Stanford Can Be Fun When They're Scoring, But Their Defense Is The Big Question (Ben Margot, AP Photo)

Chasson Randle (5) and Anthony Brown (21) give Stanford a formidable backcourt high on experience. (Ben Margot/AP Photo)

Weaknesses: Brown just happens to be Stanford’s top returning rebounder at a mere five boards per contest. Those two aforementioned departures, Powell and Huestis, combined to pull down 15 rebounds per game, accounting for 43 percent of the team’s production. Coming into the program will be a pair of top-50 frontcourt recruits, Reid Travis and Michael Humphrey, but the boards and their development will be worth watching early. Point guard play is also a concern, despite the abilities of Randle and Brown. Powell led the team in assists last season as a stretch-four, and freshman Robert Cartwright is the only true floor general expected to play a role.

Non-conference tests: A late-November Coaches vs. Cancer Classic meeting in Brooklyn with what should be a top-5 Duke team will give the frontcourt a test against prized freshman Jahlil Okafor. More size will be waiting just before Christmas in a true road environment at Texas. Three nights later, the Cardinal will face another true road contest at BYU, an NCAA Tournament team a year ago. There will be a break from Pac-12 action in mid-January to host defending national champion but a much different-looking Connecticut, which Stanford knocked off in a stunner last season.

Toughest conference stretch: The most difficult string may involve that quick detour to face the Huskies. Starting on January 8, Stanford hits the road for two in Southern California, heads back up north to California on January 14, and then following the UConn contest must get ready to host Arizona on January 22.

If everything goes right… Then it will prove to be a smooth transition for a talented 2014 class, headlined by Travis. A healthy roster would be a welcome change too, particularly in the case of Rosco Allen, who appeared in just one game last year because of a shin injury. Guard play is everything in college basketball and Randle could be the force behind, dare we say, consecutive NCAA Tournament trips and strong contention in the Pac-12.

If nothing goes right… Then the void left behind by Powell and Huestis, especially on the defensive end, becomes too much for the younger, re-tooled Cardinal. The Pac-12 gauntlet of quality big men becomes too much for Nastic to navigate without consistent help. March returns to a time to start thinking about spring football on The Farm.

Projected starting lineup:

  • SG Chasson Randle (Sr, 6’2”, 185 lbs., 18.8 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 2.1 APG)
  • G/F Anthony Brown (RS Sr, 6’6”, 215 lbs., 12.3 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 45.3% on 3-pointers)
  • SF Rosco Allen (Jr, 6’9”, 220 lbs., appeared in just one game in 2013-14)
  • PF Reid Travis (Fr, 6’8”, 240 lbs.)
  • C Stefan Nastic (RS Sr, 6’11”, 245 lbs., 7.4 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 58% from the field)

Randle and Brown are as rock solid as it gets in the league in terms of production and experience in the Pac-12. There just isn’t a true floor general between them, but their intangibles win out. Allen has impressed early, and Dawkins told CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein that “people have forgotten about him.” Nastic has to be a more effective rebounder or Stanford needs to make the boards a collective effort.

Key reserves:

  • PG Robert Cartwright (Fr, 6’2”, 165 lbs.)
  • G Marcus Allen (So, 6’3”, 190 lbs., 1.7 PPG, 8.7 MPG in 33 appearaces)
  • G/F Dorian Pickens (Fr, 6’5”, 210 lbs.)
  • PF Michael Humphrey (Fr, 6’9”, 215 lbs.)
  • C Grant Verhoeven (Jr, 6’9”, 245 lbs., 1.1 RPG, 5.7 MPG in 32 appearances)

The bench is thin on experience but high on potential. Cartwright is a gritty competitor who doesn’t make a ton of mistakes. Pickens has a quick release from the three-point line and could end up being one of the better shooters in the conference — if the opportunity is there. Allen will be his competition for minutes. Humphrey gives the Cardinal a mobile big man and solid passer, but lacks strength.

Tracy McDannald (18 Posts)

Tracy McDannald spent the last three years covering the Arizona Wildcats. Baseball ends when college basketball is getting ready to begin, and vice versa. Coincidence? Nope, just perfect.

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