Over the next two weeks, we’ll be previewing each of the Pac-12 teams as we head into the season.
Strengths. The Cardinal returns four starters from last year’s team, including senior power forward Josh Owens. Owens led the team in points and rebounds last year, and with the addition of freshman guard Chasson Randle in the backcourt, there is reason for hope in Palo Alto after a mediocre 15-16 season. While they have a highly-touted freshman in Randle, the Cardinal also have a great sophomore class that got a ton of experience last year. Leading that group is guard/forward Anthony Brown, who one minute will be draining threes from behind the arc, and the next he will be posting up in the paint. The second of the sophomore sensations is forward Dwight Powell, who averaged 8.1 PPG in 26 starts last year. However, Owens is the rock of this team, and if he is “on” night in and night out, the Cardinal will find themselves in a major postseason tournament come March. He has the ability to guard either position, back a big guy down in the paint, and beat someone off the dribble. Also, if you are looking for a guy besides Oregon State’s Jared Cunningham for a highlight-reel dunk, Owens is guaranteed to provide a few.
Weaknesses. They lose Jeremy Green to the NBA D-League, and he was by far the best outside shooter on the team. Sophomore Aaron Bright will be asked initially to fill Green’s shoes, which by last year’s stats will be an 11.6 drop in PPG. Finding a dynamic, outside scorer at the guard position is the main thing the Cardinal need to work out in preseason practices, because at the end of the day, Bright is much more comfortable dishing the ball off than taking his own shot.
Nonconference Tests. The Cardinal have a very manageable nonconference slate with the exception of three games. They will likely play in the NIT semifinals on Nov. 23 against (presumably) Oklahoma State and on Nov. 25 in either the championship or consolation game against (most likely) Syracuse or Virginia Tech. The final challenge will come against the Butler Bulldogs on Dec. 22 in Palo Alto. If Stanford can get out of that stretch 2-1 or 3-0, it will mean a lot for their RPI come Selection Sunday.
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