Stanford Preview: Life After Randle and Brown

Posted by Michael Lemaire on November 10th, 2015

In the next three weeks leading up to season tipoff, the Pac-12 microsite will be evaluating each of the league’s 12 teams. Today, we head to Palo Alto.

Stanford Cardinal

It feels like we are entering Year 20 of the Johnny Dawkins era in Palo Alto, but in reality he has only been the head coach on The Farm since 2009. The Cardinal have made the NCAA Tournament just once in the Dawkins era, earning a bid in 2014 and defeating New Mexico and Kansas to make the Sweet Sixteen. Dawkins may have saved his job with that season’s strong finish, but the Cardinal again missed the NCAA Tournament in 2015 (they did win the NIT, if that matters to anyone). They have now lost their top three scorers to graduation, including the program’s all-time leading scorer, Chasson Randle, and current Los Angeles Laker, Anthony Brown. Given those departures, this was already looking like a rebuilding year. And then came the off-season injuries. Starting point guard Robert Cartwright (compound fracture of his arm) went down for the season, and starting shooting guard Marcus Allen (stress fracture in his foot) likewise for who knows how long. There’s now little doubt that this team is at least a year away from competing in the Pac-12. If the Cardinal can remain competitive this season, Dawkins could buy himself more time to rebuild; but bottoming out will leave fans with a sour taste in their mouths and athletic director Bernard Muir with a decision to make.

Dawkins' Challenge Is Clear: NCAA Tournament or Bust (AP)

Johnny Dawkins’ Job Could Be In Trouble If Stanford Doesn’t Perform. (Photo: AP)

Strengths: Normally, no matter the attrition, there is always at least one strength on which a team can lean. But for this Cardinal team, almost everything is unknown. Randle, Brown and center Stefan Nastic barely left the court last season and were the only players to average double figures. Now the onus falls on returnees like Allen, Cartwright, senior forward Rosco Allen and promising sophomore Reid Travis to lead a crop of talented freshmen. Nothing against any of those players, but it’s hard to know exactly how much they can contribute. Rosco and Marcus Allen (no relation) logged the most minutes, but both looked like nice supporting players and nothing more. Travis battled injuries last season but showed some promise in his time on the floor; still, it’s tough to predict how much better he will be this season. Christian Sanders has barely been able to get off the bench in his three seasons in Palo Alto, and while the freshmen enter with ample decoration, they also have that whole “never played college basketball” thing going against them. Perhaps the most encouraging part of Stanford’s roster is that, while they may not have as much standout talent this season, they do have a deep roster of potential contributors. Unfortunately, in a conference as good as the Pac-12, that might not be nearly enough.

Weaknesses: The Cardinal were a top 40 offense in terms of efficiency last season. That productiveness was aided significantly by Brown, one of the best three-point shooters in the country, and Randle, a creative shot-maker who also made 200 of his 228 free throw attempts last season. Randle’s foul line tendencies were representative of the Cardinal at large, too: They were one of the best teams in the country in both getting to the line (FTA/FGA was 40.5 percent) and making shots once there (72.6 percent as a team). But the main contributors to that free throw bonanza — Brown, Randle and Nastic — are all gone. None of the remaining rotation members shot even 70 percent from the stripe last season. Run through as many numbers as you want, but the bottom line isn’t going to change: There is no overstating the importance of that trio to last year’s squad. Without them, the Cardinal will now be relying on inexperienced guards and an untested frontcourt. Absolutely anything could end up being a weakness.

Chasson Randle, the school's all-time leading scorer, will be hard to replace. (USA TODAY Sports)

Chasson Randle, the school’s all-time leading scorer, will be hard to replace. (Photo: USA TODAY Sports)

Non-Conference Tests: The Cardinal leave the familiar confines of Maples Pavilion just twice during the non-conference portion of their schedule. The first time they leave campus is to head just an hour north to Moraga to play St. Mary’s; four days later they fly east for the NIT Season Tip-Off  to play Villanova and either Arkansas or Georgia Tech. Despite the friendly travel schedule, the Cardinal will bring a surprising number of good teams to Palo Alto. Before they play the Gaels, SMU comes to campus for a nationally televised match-up. Exactly one month later, new coach Shaka Smart will visit the Bay Area for another national television spot with Texas. We tend to applaud a coach and program that schedules worthwhile non-conference opponents, but the Cardinal’s brutal early season schedule could make things looks a lot worse by the time the season is over.

Toughest Conference Stretch: Is it too late for Stanford to ask to play Washington State twice instead of Arizona twice? The entire conference slate looks like a slog for the Cardinal. If there is one stretch that deserves additional recognition, it is the January 6 to February 13 stretch where Stanford plays Cal, Oregon and Oregon State twice while also getting Arizona (at home) and a road date with Utah. According to KenPom, the Cardinal will be expected to lose all but one of those 10 games. At least setting the bar low makes it easier to exceed expectations?

Biggest Story: If you think Johnny Dawkins is back on the hot seat, then his job security is likely the biggest story. He hasn’t exactly set the world on fire at Stanford, despite having a couple of 20-win seasons under his belt. He has proven to be a solid recruiter, but the buzz on The Farm looks especially stale when compared to their Bay Area neighbors in Berkeley. Dawkins is a likable guy who has always run a clean program and has a solid basketball mind to boot. But if you recall, before his arrival, the Cardinal were regulars in the NCAA Tournament. No one is going to make the argument that the team was better off under Trent Johnson (he didn’t exactly leave Dawkins in an ideal situation), but the program has more than enough going for it to be an attractive landing spot for a hot coaching name. The allure of the Stanford name can also be an underrated recruiting tool for the players that want academics in addition to athletics as part of their future. Dawkins has kept his job because his teams are always good enough to avoid embarrassment, but with the cupboard looking bare this season, that could change in a hurry.

If Everything Goes Right… Allen’s injury doesn’t turn out to be serious and his twin brother (Malcolm Allen) is able to become a full-time contributor. Stanford’s touted recruiting class, especially Cameron Walker and Marcus Sheffield, gives the team some much needed athleticism on the wing. Rosco Allen becomes a legitimate floor-stretcher and averages double figures. Finally, players like Christian Sanders and Reid Travis become solid, if unspectacular, role players. The problem is that without a lot of true upper echelon talent, the Cardinal’s ceiling still remains quite low. But if all those things happen, it’s possible Stanford could be a bubble team? That might even be a stretch.

Marcus Allen (15) will be heavily counted on this season. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

Marcus Allen (15) will be heavily counted on this season. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

If Nothing Goes Right… If the Cardinal struggle with injuries and the freshmen don’t immediately contribute, Stanford is going to lose and they are going to lose a lot. Cartwright is already out for the season, leaving the team with a gaping hole at arguably the most important position on the floor. If Allen misses a lot of time (which seems likely) the Cardinal backcourt is going to be an even bigger eyesore. This is a team that won’t scare anyone on either end of the floor and if it starts to lose its depth — arguably the only thing Stanford has going for it right now — it could get ugly. The worst version of this team is one where everyone looks like a decent complementary player… but no one stands out as a leader. That version probably doesn’t win more than five games in the brutal Pac-12.

Projected Starting Lineup

  • PG Malcom Allen (Jr, 6’1”, 180 lbs, redshirted last season)
  • SG Marcus Allen (Jr, 6’3”, 190 lbs, 6.4 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 51.1 FG%)
  • SF Cameron Walker (Fr, 6’7”, 200 lbs)
  • PF Rosco Allen (Sr, 6’9’’, 220 lbs, 7.3 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 36.2 3PT%)
  • Reid Travis (So,  6’8”, 245 lbs, 6.2 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 48.9 FG%)

Cartwright’s injury means either Sanders or the other Malcolm Allen will play point guard while Marcus gets healthy. After that, things don’t just get thin, they fall off a cliff. Walker is the best and most athletic of the three freshmen and he is the type of player Stanford will need to get worthwhile contributions out of if it expects to surprise people this season. Allen will stretch the floor, play solid defense and be the team’s best outside threat. Travis is undersized and won’t be an elite rim protector, but he has the physicality and rebounding ability to hold his own and is a much better option than Grant Verhoeven or Josh Sharma.

Key Reserves

  • SG Christian Sanders (Sr., 6’4” 192 lbs, 0.7 PPG, 0.5 RPG)
  • SG Marcus Sheffield (Fr, 6’5” 180 lbs)
  • PF Grant Verhoeven (Sr, 6’9”, 250 lbs, 1.5 PPG, 2.3 RPG)
  • C Josh Sharma (Fr, 7’0” 220 lbs)

Sanders won’t blow anyone away with his play on either end of the floor, but he is an experienced backup who won’t ever be terribly overmatched. Sheffield is a scoring guard who should get a chance to pack some offensive punch off the bench. Verhoeven is a big body who works hard on the glass and has been around the program, while Sharma comes in as more of a project. The big man does have soft hands and decent athleticism for a player his size. He could eventually grow into a Nastic-like contributor.

mlemaire (324 Posts)

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One response to “Stanford Preview: Life After Randle and Brown”

  1. StanfordBB says:

    You miss a potentially BIG contributor in 6’9″ soph Michael Humphrey

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