Cardinal Sin: More Non-Conference Struggles For Stanford and Dawkins

Posted by Bennet Hayes on November 27th, 2013

Bennet Hayes is an RTC national columnist. He filed this report after Tuesday night’s Pittsburgh vs. Stanford game from the Legends Classic. 

As our own Chris Johnson noted last week, Johnny Dawkins and the Stanford Cardinal have had little issue of late on the recruiting trails. The same cannot be said for their life on the hardwood. After a shaky Legends Classic semifinal victory over Houston on Monday, the Cardinal were blasted in last night’s championship game, losing 88-67 to Pittsburgh. The Panthers deserve much of the credit for the lopsided result. Dawkins’ went so far as to label Pitt a “buzzsaw” in the post-game presser, and Jamie Dixon’s team really was that clinical in dispatching the Cardinal. But while a loss to said buzzsaw won’t do too much harm to the Cardinal NCAA Tournament resume, Tuesday’s loss is just the latest example in a troubling trend of missed opportunities. The talent has been there at Stanford, especially of late, but they have yet to find their way out of the cloud of mediocrity that has followed Dawkins to the Bay Area. The half-decade with the former Duke assistant at the reins has been an era sans signature victory – sorry, those don’t come in the NIT – and after the not-so-well disguised ultimatum offered in the offseason by Stanford AD Bernard Muir, it’s an epoch that may need at least one such win to survive. Needless to say, Dawkins and the Cardinal couldn’t find it at the Barclays Center on Tuesday night.

It Didn't Happen On Tuesday Night Against Pittsburgh, But Johnny Dawkins Needs To Find Stanford A Marquee Victory Or Two. The Consequences Of Not Doing So? Dawkins Doesn't Want To Find Out.

It Didn’t Happen On Tuesday Night Against Pittsburgh, But Johnny Dawkins Needs To Find Stanford A Marquee Victory Or Two. The Consequences Of Not Doing So? Dawkins Doesn’t Want To Find Out.

Dawkins was effusive with praise for Pittsburgh after the game, and he may be right that his team “just ran into a team that was playing very, very well” on this night. But unfortunate timing or not, this wasn’t the first non-conference test that the Cardinal have failed in recent years. Two seasons ago, Stanford dropped its sole showcase game to Syracuse. Last year, attention-grabbing opportunities went by the wayside in losses to Missouri, Minnesota, and NC State – all teams that finished in KenPom’s top 35. In fact, Dawkins has just one non-conference win against a team that ended the season in KenPom’s top 50: a 2011 home victory over an NC State team that wouldn’t end up hitting its stride until February. December dates with Connecticut and Michigan should allow for two more chances to improve upon that distressing total, but the early season losses to BYU and Pittsburgh fit right in with recent history.

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Stanford Basketball: What Needs to Change?

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) on November 15th, 2013

So, Stanford. You, me and just about everybody the both of us know were ready to write them off on Monday night, following their pitiful defensive performance against an admittedly very good offensive team in BYU. But, given the underachieving we’ve seen from the Cardinal in recent years, given the questionable coaching from Johnny Dawkins, and given their uninspired performance on a pretty big ESPN-created stage, one couldn’t have been blamed for just throwing in the towel and moving on to greener pastures. But here’s the thing. It’s one loss early in the year to a team that will likely be pretty firmly in the NCAA Tournament picture in four months. Come Selection Sunday, a loss to BYU, even a home loss, is not going to kill anybody.

Stanford's Defensive Struggles Against BYU Were Well-Publicized, But All Hope Is Not Lost (George Nitkin, AP)

Stanford’s Defensive Struggles Against BYU Were Well-Publicized, But All Hope Is Not Lost (George Nitkin, AP)

Meanwhile, last night, Stanford looked, well – certainly not dominant or anything, certainly not good enough to completely erase the memory of Monday night’s non-existent defense – but they looked, at the very least, like they understood that defense mattered. They blocked six shots, they snatched six steals, they forced 16 turnovers, and they held a halfway decent offensive Northwestern team (albeit in the midst of a coaching transition) to less than 0.90 points per possession. Now the preceding are not necessarily stats upon which hats are hung, but they show progress. And they show that the team is capable of dialing in the defense.

But, there are concerns. Many, many concerns. We could start anywhere, but let’s start where BYU exposed the most glaring weakness on Monday: defense. The most egregious place where the Cardinal got exposed against the Cougars was a simple one: effort. The Cardinal repeatedly failed to box out rebounders; they showed no inclination to stop the ballhandler in transition; there was no communication between teammates. These are simple fundamentals. And sure, it’s November and in most cases you could say, oh, this team will improve as they get used to each other. But this is a team made up of mostly juniors and seniors. How do these guys not have a grasp of those fundamentals by this stage? As mentioned before, there was improvement last night, although against a lesser offensive opponent, but we’ll need to keep an eye on how this effort issue progresses this season.

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The RTC Interview Series: Pac-12 Preview with Don MacLean and Miles Simon

Posted by Walker Carey on November 6th, 2013

Rush The Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you periodically throughout the offseason. If you have any specific interview requests or want us to interview you, shoot us an email at

With the college basketball season nearly upon us, we thought it would be a good idea to gather some expert opinions on the nation’s major college basketball conferences. To read through the entire 2013-14 preseason interview series, click here. As part of our national preview with the Pac-12, RTC correspondent Walker Carey recently had the pleasure of speaking with two Pac-12 experts in Pac-12 Network analyst and former UCLA star, Don MacLean, and ESPN analyst and former Arizona star, Miles Simon. (Ed. note – we spoke to each individual separately, but for the sake of expediency, combining their answers into a round table format made the most sense.)

Don MacLean and Miles Simon Shared Their Pac-12 Thoughts With Us

Don MacLean and Miles Simon Shared Their Pac-12 Thoughts With Us

Rush the Court: Arizona is the overwhelming preseason favorite in the league. What is it about Sean Miller’s team that has expectations so high in Tucson?

Don MacLean: The talent level there is very high. Sean Miller has brought in some very high-level recruits. Aaron Gordon brings another dimension for the team with his great athleticism and versatility to play inside and on the perimeter. T.J. McConnell is going to be great for the team. I worked the exhibition game last week and I was really impressed by McConnell. I think he is really good. He is the first true point guard that Sean Miller has had since he has been at Arizona. When you have all that talent, you need a pass-first guy to spread the ball around. From what I have seen, McConnell seems to be that guy. Sean Miller is also a great coach. With this roster, the depth that the team has, and Miller’s coaching, I think it is warranted to put Arizona as the best team in the league right now.

Miles Simon: Sean Miller obviously brought in a tremendous recruiting class. Getting Aaron Gordon, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Elliott Pitts to come in is a good place to start with this team. Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell is going to be an excellent addition for the team at point guard. When you look at this team, it is just so long and athletic. I think defensively, this might be the best group that Sean Miller has had since he has been at Arizona. There are just so many positives with this team going into the season.

RTC: Oregon made a surprise trip to the Sweet Sixteen last March after pulling off upsets over Oklahoma State and Saint Louis. Gone from last season’s team are Arsalan Kazemi and E.J. Singler, but the Ducks did secure the services of UNLV transfer Mike Moser. With Moser joining a team that has the talented backcourt of Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson returning, should Dana Altman’s squad take a step forward in the Pac-12 this season and should another NCAA Tournament run be expected?

MacLean: You can never expect an NCAA Tournament run, but I think the team should be just as good. Do not forget that Oregon also added Joseph Young, the transfer from Houston. Adding Mike Moser as a fifth-year guy is an important piece and Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson will be better as second-year players. With what Dana Altman does with his style of play and the way he changes up defenses, I think the Ducks will be as good as they were last season.

Simon: I think Oregon will get back to the NCAA Tournament. It really has some nice pieces, but when you lose guys like Arsalan Kazemi, E.J. Singler, Tony Woods and Carlos Emory, you are losing what was the heart and soul of your team. A lot of leadership and toughness left with those guys. If Mike Moser is able to return to where he was with UNLV two years ago, he will be excellent. The backcourt of Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson should be explosive and one of the best in the league. Johnathan Loyd is the third guard and he has some experience because he had to play a lot when Artis was injured last season. When you consider these pieces, this is a team that should get back to the NCAA Tournament and finish in the top half of the Pac-12.

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The Inane Ramblings of a Pac-12 Homer…

Posted by Andrew Murawa on October 25th, 2013

So, the other night, I’m sitting around, minding my own business, doing a podcast with Shane and Randy talking about the Pac-12. When out of the blue, I get accused by an attacker who shall remain nameless of being a Pac-12 homer, just because I picked seven conference teams to get invited to the NCAA Tournament next March. And yeah, maybe taking a flyer on Stanford as a Sweet Sixteen team might have been a part of the equation. But, being an upstanding southern (Californian) gentleman, I say this injustice shall not stand! So, I’m taking to the RTC Pac-12 microsite to air my grievances. Because, really, if anything, I’m a Mountain West homer.

You Have Insulted My Honor And I Demand Satisfaction

You Have Insulted My Honor And I Demand Satisfaction

So, let’s get right to the point. I’m entering my fifth season as an RTC Pac-12 correspondent and I’d like to establish my credentials. In 2009-10, I was right there making fun of the inept conference and coming up with scenarios until the last moment where the conference would only earn one bid to the NCAA Tournament. In 2010-11, as Arizona was following Derrick Williams’ lead on the way to the Elite Eight, I was one of the last holdouts, doubting the Wildcats’ supporting cast every step of the way, nevermind the fact that I was dead wrong. I also had the then-Pac-10 correctly pegged as getting just three NCAA Tournament invites, right up until the point where the Selection Committee screwed up and somehow determined USC was worthy of an at-large as well. In 2011-12, I was telling you all that there would be no redeeming qualities about the Pac-12 Tournament. Heck, I was the guy who was regularly driving several hours into the desert to watch the Mountain West Tournament instead of driving 20 minutes to the Staples Center and getting to sleep in my own bed while being forced to watch the Pac-12 version. Does any of this sound like the hallmarks of a Pac-12 homer? God, no. I hated the Pac-12 at its nadir as much as the next guy. Maybe more so.

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Stanford Post-Mortem

Posted by AMurawa on April 18th, 2013

Now that we are officially in the offseason, it’s time to take a look back and evaluate each team’s 2012-13 performance. Here’s a look at Stanford.

What Went Right

After three years of showing signs of a mouthwatering combination of skill and athleticism, Dwight Powell exploded in his junior campaign. At 6’10” and a now well-built 235 pounds, Powell displayed the type of versatile game that will have him playing in the NBA following the completion of his college career. He’s always had the hops and size to throw down massive dunks, but he’s now got the ball-handling, basketball IQ and, perhaps most importantly, confidence to complete those types of plays with defenders in the area. Throw in an excellent feel for rebounding the ball, a developing jumper that is slowly approaching the three-point line, improved post moves and a variety of ways to finish in the paint and Powell has established himself as one of the best and most exciting players in the Pac-12.

Dwight Powell, Stanford

Dwight Powell Had A Breakout Season In His Junior Campaign (AP)

Before we leave this topic, we’ve got to spend a second on Andy Brown. After three ACL tears in his left knee, it was just assumed that the chances of the 6’7” forward every being a meaningful on-court contributor at the Division I level had passed. Instead, Brown made for one of the nicest stories in this or any other season. He played in all but one Cardinal game this season, averaged 23 minutes a night, and wasvery effective, displaying a toughness (as if you didn’t already know that a guy who had rehabbed from three torn ACLs was tough) and a feel for the game that can’t be taught. Already 22, he’s got at least one year of college eligibility ahead of him and here’s hoping it is another healthy and productive season.

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Pac-12 Report Card, Volume VII: Solid Students

Posted by AMurawa on February 20th, 2013

Maybe Professor Pac is in a good mood this week, because he couldn’t bring himself to give any of the below teams  D’s.


A road split. That’s good right? Yeah, it will work, but the way the Bruins lost their first game of the week (building up a 23-point half-time deficit and never making a serious push in the second half) is pretty inexcusable. They bounced back strong against Stanford and turned in their best offensive performance since, maybe Missouri, but this team is still a mystery.

Focus on: Kyle Anderson. Anderson was terrific against Stanford, scoring 18 points, grabbing 13 boards, handing out four assists, snatching a couple steals and even knocking down a three (he’s now 5-of-26 for the season from back there). That’s the guy that Ben Howland needs to show up on a regular basis for the Bruins. His ability to make plays for himself and teammates makes the Bruins more explosive and his newfound interest in hitting the glass is an absolutely necessity on an otherwise ridiculously poor rebounding team.

The Bruins Need Kyle Anderson's Versatile Game On A More Regular Basis (UCLA Athletics)

The Bruins Need Kyle Anderson’s Versatile Game On A More Regular Basis (UCLA Athletics)

Looking ahead: If the Bruins want to prove to themselves that they have the ability to be a national threat in March, they first have to prove that they can win a big local battle, as they travel 14 miles southeast to face USC on Sunday.

Washington State – C-

So you’re playing the conference leader to a draw. You’ve already got them in overtime and with just seconds left, your sophomore guard who is having a breakout career game knocks down a big three to tie the game and give you a real good chance to go to a second overtime. And then. Ugh. You probably know what happened. I can’t bring myself to repeat it, but suffice it to say, the Cougars went out of their way to ease Oregon’s route to a two-point overtime win. Hey, when you’re 2-11 in conference play, you usually have some bad luck and some ridiculous events. But that? That was above and beyond.

Focus on: Royce Woolridge. So, let’s focus on the positives. After struggling with his shot and his confidence early in the season, this sophomore transfer from Washington State is proving his worth. He has now scored in double figures in six straight games, but the piece de resistance came Saturday against those Ducks as he hit 10-of-15 shots from the field, including six threes on his way to a 36-point total that shattered his previous career-high. As recently as a week ago I was writing off Woolridge as a shooting guard that can’t shoot or a point guard that can’t handle. And clearly, I wrote him off too soon. His confidence is through the roof and he’s showing  that he can be a key part to this program for the next couple years.

Looking ahead: The Cougars travel to Arizona State tonight, then Arizona on Saturday. Nothing is for certain, but this looks like 2-13 is on the way.

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Marching to Vegas: Weighing a Pair of Midweek Upsets

Posted by AMurawa on February 1st, 2013

From the moment it was first rumored, the relocation of the conference tournament to Las Vegas has created quite a buzz among Pac-12 basketball fans. Adam Butler (@pachoopsAB) of PacHoops will be here every week as he offers his unique perspective along our March to Vegas.

Settling into my cubicle Thursday morning I was greeted by an instant message from my brain trust, Brad, “Which was the bigger win last night: USC or Stanford?” I will make no bones about this one; Stanford’s win was the bigger of the two. But it did get me to thinking about USC’s season and what it has and will become. Kevin O’Neill’s dismissal came at a truly strange time – as the team appeared to be turning either the cohesive group or easier schedule corner – indicative of the fact that Pat Haden has plans, big or otherwise, for that position.

The games themselves were solid, the respective performances impressive. From a strictly basketball perspective, Stanford may have been the best team in the nation Wednesday night. And with regards to magnitude of victory, it is my belief that Stanford’s win was the biggest. From an expectations standpoint, we thought the Cardinal would be doing this regularly. Their coach demands hard-nosed defense and their skill set – at least on an individual level – suggests an explosive offense. On Wednesday, they were exactly that, a perfect storm. They connected on their highest percentage of shots in a single game (52%) and held an opponent to the opposite, the lowest percentage of made baskets on their defensive season (34%). To say the Cardinal were due would be an understatement. And to acknowledge that the Cardinal were due is to recognize that their effort, while impressive and the best of the year, was not unexpected. Between Randle, Bright, Huestis, and Powell, Stanford can and should compete.

Against Oregon, Stanford Finally Played Like We Had Expected Them To This Season (Ben Margot, AP Photo)

Against Oregon, Stanford Finally Played Like We Had Expected Them To This Season (Ben Margot, AP Photo)

On the other hand, the Trojans marched into a “Blue Out” with specialty tops of their own and simply didn’t care to adhere to the guest policy. They handed the ball over 17 times and still won. Sure they shot a shade over their season average but this was a road, rivalry game with an interim staff. What business did the Trojans have even flirting with victory let alone controlling the game? I’ll refrain from going in on the Bruins here. So what do these wins mean? For Stanford, outscoring the Ducks represented an exorcising of the demons. My impression – if not hope – is that this represents a tipping point or springboard by which the Cardinal become the team they were meant to be. Returning NIT champs has got to mean more than a middling Pac-12 squad.

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Humbled: Against Stanford, Oregon’s Problems Come Home To Roost

Posted by mlemaire on January 31st, 2013

Mike Lemaire is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Wednesday night’s game between Stanford and Oregon in Palo Alto. 

Those who had watched Oregon eke their way to a 7-0 start in Pac-12 play knew that eventually the team’s offensive struggles and turnover issues would bite them, but no one could have predicted the Ducks’ comeuppance would be so vicious. Even Oregon had to know as it rose to No. 10 in the national polls that their gaudy record was built on a shaky foundation that would struggle to create offense without injured dynamic freshman point guard Dominic Artis. But even without Artis, getting thrashed by Stanford to the tune of 76-52 proves that the young Ducks still have a long way to go if they want to capture a Pac-12 title.

Since conference play began, Dana Altman’s team has made a habit of starting slow before picking up the intensity as the game went on and ultimately finding a way to win. And as if on cue last night, the Ducks turned the ball over four times in the first five minutes and missed a handful of early open jumpers. Oregon tried to turn up the intensity after trailing by double-figures at halftime, but without Artis to create offense in the half-court and facing a veteran team hungry for a big win, things quickly got worse instead of better.

Dominic Artis, Oregon

The importance of Dominic Artis to the Ducks as never more apparent than it was last night.

The Cardinal deserve credit too. Led by guards Chasson Randle and Aaron Bright,  Stanford canned nearly 60 percent of its three-pointers (8-of-14) and harassed Oregon’s perimeter players into a 4-of-16 effort from behind the three-point arc. But Oregon didn’t exactly make Stanford beat them. Offensively they were again plagued by turnovers and poor shooting, and the team’s lackluster defensive effort in the first half — especially on close-outs — allowed Stanford to open up a big lead they would not relinquish. “It’s the first time we’ve fallen flat on our face this year,” Altman said. “I am not going to lie. I am very disappointed. But a lot of that has to do with Stanford. They just kicked us.”

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Pac-12 Report Card: Volume II

Posted by AMurawa on January 16th, 2013

Professor Pac is back to break down and evaluate each team’s performances in the past week. With three pet pupils atop the leaderboard still without a loss, it’s no surprise who is earning the As thus far.

Washington – A

After winning a conference road game over an intrastate rival last week, the Huskies decided to one-up themselves this week, taking down two more road games, this time over slightly more significant competition, to begin the season with a surprising three-game road winning streak.

Focus on: Andrew Andrews. The stats this week weren’t anywhere near mind-blowing for the redshirt freshman (9 PPG, 4 RPG, 0.5 APG), but he brings an energy and athleticism to a Husky backcourt that definitely needed it. Offensively, he is a threat to get to the paint and create opportunities on any possession, and on defense, as his four steals against Stanford on Saturday showed, he is capable of wreaking havoc on the opposition. He’s still green, but look for his role to continue to expand this season.

Looking ahead: For a team with a history of struggling on the road, the Huskies have taken care of business there in recent weeks. Now they have to prove they can win at home, something they have failed to do three separate times in the non-conference schedule. Colorado is the first test tonight with Utah visiting on Sunday.

Andrew Andrews Has Been Providing A Spark Off The Bench For The Huskies (Elaine Thompson, AP Photo)

Andrew Andrews Has Been Providing A Spark Off The Bench For The Huskies (Elaine Thompson, AP Photo)

Oregon – A

If you wanted to pick one weakness on this Ducks team, it might be the lack of a proven go-to scorer at this point. This week, for instance, in each of their two home wins over the Arizona schools, four of the five starters scored in double figures, with nobody scoring more than 14 points. In fact, only four times all season has a Duck scored 20 or more (Damyean Dotson twice, Arsalan Kazemi once, and E.J. Singler once). I’m not one who thinks this is always necessarily a problem – if you have plenty of good offensive options and you wind up with balanced scoring that way, it certainly keeps the defense guessing – but I think in the Ducks’ case, they have a bunch of good players, none of whom are completely polished offensive options. And against Arizona down the stretch, the possibility of that being a problem raised its head. Part of it has to do with the decision to milk the clock way too early, but at some point they probably need somebody (the best candidate is Dotson) to become the go-to guy down the stretch.

Focus on: E.J. Singler. The senior had a great all-around game in the win over Arizona, going for 14 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, and three steals, while knocking down some key free throws late, but then once again disappeared for the most part against Arizona State, hitting just one of nine field goal attempts and grabbing only one board in 36 minutes of play. That’s been the M.O. for the most part this season for a guy expected to be an all-conference caliber guy: inconsistency.

Looking ahead: The Ducks leave the state of Oregon for the first time in almost a month and just the third game all year when they head down Los Angeles way. They will be the opponent for Bob Cantu’s debut with USC tomorrow night before headlining the Pac-12 schedule on Saturday with a visit to Pauley Pavilion and UCLA for the first conference match-up between Top 25 teams since 2009.

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Pac-12 Report Card: Volume I

Posted by AMurawa on January 9th, 2013

Starting this week and continuing through the rest of the season, we’ll take a moment in between games to run down every team in the conference, grade their previous week’s performance, highlight the performance of one of their players (either for good or for bad) and look ahead briefly to their upcoming schedule.

Arizona State: A

The Sun Devils put aside concerns that their 11-2 record going into the week was built mostly on wins over bad teams by giving the home folks a healthy dose of optimism to start the conference season.

Focus on: Jahii Carson. While Jordan Bachynski was dominating in Sunday’s win over Colorado, I was most intrigued by Carson’s performance. With CU’s Spencer Dinwiddie keeping him locked down most of the night, Carson didn’t force things, got the ball in the hands of his teammates with better match-ups and kept ASU on point, even while being limited to his lowest number of field goal attempts this season. This proves that he doesn’t need to always score to be a positive force for his team.

Looking ahead: The Sun Devils have shown their improvement, but if we’re to believe that this team’s postseason aspirations should be any higher than the CBI, we’ll need to see them win on the road. A trip to Oregon State on Thursday looks like a possible chance, while getting Oregon following its game with Arizona could mean ASU catches the Ducks in a trap game. Speaking of which, ASU could benefit mightily this year from having the ‘Cats as a traveling partner, as teams could be either looking forward to or recovering from their game with U of A.

Jahii Carson Showed Maturity On Sunday In Resisting The Urge To Force Shots (USA Today)

Jahii Carson Showed Maturity On Sunday In Resisting The Urge To Force Shots (USA Today)

Oregon: A

Any win in conference play is good. Any road win in conference play is great. Any road win in conference play in a rivalry game is a reason for outright celebration. Check all three boxes for the Ducks after one game.

Focus on: Arsalan Kazemi. In his first game back from a concussion, the senior Kazemi temporarily relinquished his starting spot to Carlos Emory and saw limited action. But, even in just 21 minutes, he was an impactful player, making four of his five field goal attempts, grabbing eight boards, handing out a couple assists and, per usual, coming up with a couple steals due to his relentlessly quick hands.

Looking ahead: The consensus, around here at least, is that the Ducks are going to be legitimate factors in the Pac-12 race. They get a chance to prove that this week when they host Arizona in a battle of contrasting strengths. While Zona has been through the ringer a time or two this season, these Ducks feature a pair of freshman guards ready for their first big spotlight. Meanwhile, the Ducks’ frontcourt features plenty of veterans, while the ‘Cats mix their three freshman with senior Solomon Hill.

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