Way back before the start of the season, I got caught up saying some silly things: Stanford Sweet Sixteen this, Stanford Pac-12 contender that. And everybody I mentioned that kind of thing to just sorta blew me off, not even really bothering to offer up much of a reason why such notions were wrong-headed. I stuck to my guns, seeing a potentially potent offense and enough athleticism and depth to improve upon a poor defensive effort last season. While a nonchalant four-point win in the opener over Bucknell wasn’t impressive, it was easily written off with excuses about “first game of the year” and “oh, Bucknell’s pretty tough,” both of which were probably true to some extent. But then, against BYU in the second game, Stanford scored 103 points at home. And lost. In regulation. By nine. Alarm bells went off.
The Cardinal got back on track briefly, plowing through four mediocre teams and setting up a meeting with another significant challenge against Pittsburgh in Brooklyn. And it was not good. The team showed no heart in giving up 1.33 points per possession, and the same old questions about Johnny Dawkins’ ability to either: (a) gameplan to take advantage of his players’ strengths, or (b) coach his players up to the point where they can improve from season to season re-emerged. Stanford was officially buried until it could do something to prove that the team deserved to be taken seriously this season.
Since that time, the Cardinal have taken care of some bad teams, worked through a tough finals week and lost senior guard Aaron Bright to a season-ending dislocated shoulder suffered in practice. But beginning tonight and continuing on Saturday, this team has a chance to prove that it should be taken seriously. Fail in these two games – tonight at Connecticut, and Saturday against Michigan in Brooklyn – and we’ll check back in with Stanford in early February to see if anything has really changed. Otherwise, throw these guys on the scrap heap.