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.
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.
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. Read the rest of this entry »