The Annotated Bill Walton: Arizona at Stanford Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on January 30th, 2014

The Bill Walton Experience has become a regular happening during Pac-12 conference games over the past two seasons. And, while the brash and talkative legend can run some people the wrong way, his commentary during games contains references to classical and pop history, the collected wisdom of one of the handful of the greatest basketball players of all time, and more than a couple off-handed Grateful Dead references – along with a handful of other comments that defy reasonable explanation. For those of you who may not get many of his references, below we’ll take a look at some of Walton’s best comments from Wednesday night’s Arizona/Stanford game and give some backstory to them, when needed.

Bill Walton's Pac-12 Commentary Has Become Must-Watch TV (Earl Wilson, The New York Times)

Bill Walton’s Pac-12 Commentary Has Become Must-Watch TV (Earl Wilson, The New York Times)

For your listening pleasure while reading, I suggest a little Grateful Dead accompaniment, such as the only time the Dead played at Maples Pavilion: 2/9/73, a classic in Grateful Dead lore. While you can’t go wrong anywhere here, maybe skip ahead to Playin’ in the Band or China Cat Sunflower->I Know You Rider.

First half:

18:32 – “This is a really good team. If they had been able to beat UCLA 10 days ago in a game that they just got pushed around in Pauley Pavilion, it would have been outstanding for Johnny Dawkins.”

Comment: Not a great start for Grateful Red. “If ifs and buts were candies and nuts…”

16:20 – In response to straight man Dave Pasch’s questions about what he did yesterday: “I had a grand time. I went to church – Memorial Church yesterday and prayed for your salvation.”

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R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Houston Isn’t Very Good, But TaShawn Thomas Sure Is

Posted by mlemaire on November 26th, 2013

Last night’s 10-point loss to Stanford may have exposed Houston’s fast start as a byproduct of some soft scheduling, but those expecting last night’s game to expose junior forward TaShawn Thomas‘s gaudy statistics as a byproduct of the same scheduling received a rude surprise. Thomas entered last’s night game averaging 16.8 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 4.6 blocks per game. Those are impressive numbers no matter the competition, but because Houston’s schedule had thus far featured such college basketball luminaries as Howard and UT-Pan American, most expected Thomas to regress against some improved competition.

It's About Time People Start Paying More Attention To TaShawn Thomas (Photo: Kathy Willens, AP)

It’s About Time People Start Paying More Attention To TaShawn Thomas (Photo: Kathy Willens, AP)

Then the Cougars squared off with a Cardinal team that featured a lot of size and athleticism on Monday and all Thomas did was shoot better than 57 percent from the floor on his way to 22 points, 14 rebounds, five steals, and three blocks in losing effort. Stanford’s strength is its frontcourt and between Stefan Nastic, Dwight Powell, and Josh Huestis, the Cardinal seemingly had more than enough size and talent to control the paint and the glass. Instead it was Thomas who controlled the paint and the glass all by himself. The Cardinal frontcourt got its buckets, but Thomas almost kept the Cougars in the game on his own by grabbing seven offensive rebounds and repeatedly getting to the free throw line in the second half. He was so obviously the best interior player in the game that when Nastic went to the bench with four fouls in the middle of the second half, ESPN’s announcers openly wondered how the Cardinal would get rebounds even though it still had two players on the floor — Powell and Grant Verhoeven — larger than Thomas.

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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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Stanford Isn’t Ready For The Limelight Yet

Posted by Mike Lemaire on November 12th, 2013

Mike Lemaire is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after last night’s Stanford vs. BYU game in Palo Alto. 

The season isn’t even a week old and there is still plenty of time to make improvements, but considering the preseason expectations as well as the prolonged NCAA Tournament drought and coaching uncertainty within the program, Stanford’s home game last night against BYU was one the Cardinal really needed to win. It might not have been the Cardinal’s marquee non-conference match-up — that will be a game against Michigan right before Christmas — but it was a nationally televised opportunity for the program to make an early statement against a potential NCAA Tournament team.

Johnny Dawkins Is On The Hot Seat And He Didn't Do Much To Silence His Critics Last Night (credit: Danny Moloshok)

Johnny Dawkins Is On The Hot Seat And He Didn’t Do Much To Silence His Critics Last Night (credit: Danny Moloshok)

Instead, in front of a listless home crowd that was repeatedly drowned out by the BYU contingent, the Cardinal fell flat, losing 112-103 and allowing the Cougars to basically do whatever they wanted to offensively. Led by guards Matt Carlino (26 points on 8-0f-16 shooting), Kyle Collinsworth (14 points and nine assists), and Tyler Haws (31 points on 10-of-18 shooting), the Cougars shot better than 53 percent from the field and repeatedly got into the lane and pushed the tempo to find easy baskets. On the other end of the floor, Stanford scored a lot of points, but they never looked comfortable attacking BYU’s zone defense and, despite its obvious size advantage, ended up settling for a lot of long and contested jump shots.

Don’t make the mistake of pinning all of the blame on Stanford’s shortcomings, because the Cougars are a really good team. Haws is a legitimate All-American candidate and when Carlino and Collinsworth get going and are able to create offense by attacking the rim, BYU is going to be tough to stop. But Stanford wasn’t overmatched in any facet of the game, they just looked confused and uncertain on both ends of the floor while some of head coach Johnny Dawkins‘ moves exacerbated the issues.

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Pac-12 Team Preview: Stanford Cardinal

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) on October 30th, 2013

We continue unveiling our team-by-team breakdowns, in roughly the reverse order of where we expect these teams to finish in the conference standings.

Stanford Cardinal

Strengths. Experience and depth. Oh, and a lot of talent. This Cardinal roster is littered with upperclassmen, with seniors Dwight Powell, Aaron Bright and Josh Huestis expected be in a starting lineup joined by a couple of juniors in Chasson Randle and Anthony Brown. More upperclassmen are among the names of  the guys in competition to contribute off the bench – John Gage, Stefan Nastic, Robbie Lemons. And if there are still some holes left after listing those guys – and there definitely are – the freshmen and sophomores on this club are generally highly regarded players who are expected to be able to fill roles around the stars on this team; prospects like Grant Verhoeven, Rosco Allen, Christian Sanders, Elliott Bullock, and twin guards Marcus and Malcolm Allen.

Stanford Basketball Has Enough Talented Veteran Depth To Return To The NCAA Tournament (Steve Solis /

Stanford Basketball Has Enough Talented Veteran Depth To Return To The NCAA Tournament (Steve Solis /

Weaknesses. There’s all that veteran talent, but the most this group has accomplished in their time on The Farm is an NIT title a couple years back. And while that was a genuine accomplishment for a program coming back from the ashes left in the wake of Trent Johnson’s departure, last year the Cardinal failed to improve upon it. The blame for the lack of success comes down on the head of one man: head coach Johnny Dawkins. He’s assembled plenty of talent in Palo Alto, but now is the time for his group to put it all together. A lot of that will have to do with finding a coherent rotation. Last year, 12 different players on this team played in more than 20 games and averaged more than five minutes per game; nine of them averaged more than 10 minutes per contest. Ideally, we’d like to see Dawkins find his eight-man rotation and, depending on the circumstance or the opponent, rotate a ninth guy in there as needed. But these players need to know their roles, and even if it means some of the guys on the bench wind up wearing a redshirt or seeing a year of eligibility go down the tubes, that may be better in the long run for the ultimate goals of the program.

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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 M5: 03.27.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 27th, 2013


  1. News on this UCLA head coaching search is moving quickly with Pete Thamel reporting that the Bruins are moving on down the list as Shaka Smart is working on an extension with VCU and Brad Stevens is reportedly not interested in the job. From out of the blue, apparently UCLA boosters are interested in their former assistant coach and current N.C. State head coach Mark Gottfried. Gottfried is fresh off of leading a team with arguably more talent that this year’s UCLA team to a fourth-place tie in the ACC and an early NCAA Tournament exit. Throw in his four other exits from the NCAA Tournament in his team’s first game, one Sweet Sixteen and one Elite Eight in nine Tournament appearances, and it is clear just what an upgrade he would be over UCLA’s former coach.
  2. Across town, one of USC’s potential targets for its open head coaching position is now officially off the market, as Memphis head coach Josh Pastner has committed to staying in his current position at Memphis and is working on details for a new five-year contract. But as the search for a new coach continues, you’ve got to wonder exactly what athletic director Pat Haden has been doing for the last couple months. Ostensibly, part of the reason that Kevin O’Neill was fired abruptly in the middle of the season was so that USC could get a jump start on finding a new guy. Apparently, that hasn’t worked out so well, which is just one reason I get a kick out of seeing things like “USC is a better job than UCLA” every so often these last couple days.
  3. The Pac-12 conference announced its All-Academic teams for basketball today and, before we get to the names on those teams, let’s just say we’re grateful that these teams only have five players on each team. Good to see that whoever is putting these teams together has more sense than those who come up with the 10-man All-Conference team. Anyway, here’s the five-man first team, with all players checking in with a GPA above 3.5: Sabatino Chen from Colorado, Carrick Felix from Arizona State, Jeremy Olsen from Utah, and John Gage and Robbie Lemons, both from Stanford. The second team features four additional Stanford players (Andy Brown, Stefan Nastic, Dwight Powell and Chasson Randle), with a seventh player from that roster (Anthony Brown) earning honorable mention. Special congratulations go out to Powell for being the only guy on these lists to also earn RTC All-Pac-12 first team honors. And, taking in that impressive haul makes it a lot clearer why Johnny Dawkins is getting another chance on The Farm.
  4. California’s season ended on Saturday with a loss to Syracuse in the round of 32, equaling the program’s best NCAA Tournament finish in the last 16 years. And so the question that California Golden Blogs asks is, does that make the season a success? The answers are almost resoundingly positive, with people noting that in the middle of January, the Golden Bears probably weren’t even on the radar for an NCAA invite, but that first stat – no Sweet Sixteen since 1997 – that’s gotta sting a little bit.
  5. Lastly, we’ve offered up our opinions on what we hope many of the Pac-12 underclassmen decide with regards to the NBA Draft, but Jack Follman of Pacific Takes also offers up his observations, suggesting that, aside from Shabazz Muhammad, who is already gone, Dewayne Dedmon and Allen Crabbe may well be the only other guys around the conference who leave early. While we hope that would ultimately be the case, as Eric Moreland has already shown us, there are always a couple of guys that come from off the radar to make peculiar decisions to leave early. Stay tuned.
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Stanford Week: Players Not Returning

Posted by Connor Pelton on July 17th, 2012

In last year’s NIT Championship campaign there were seven different Cardinal players who saw significant playing time under head coach Johnny Dawkins. Of those seven players, two will be lost in 2012-13 due to graduation. A third senior saw minutes when the situation or game plan called for it, and a fourth played mainly garbage minutes or was used in backup roles when an injury occurred. We fill you in on their details in the order of importance to the program below.

  • Josh Owens – After playing just garbage minutes as a freshman in 2007-08, Owens saw a major increase in playing time as a sophomore the next year. Poised to build on that solid foundation, Owens was forced to sit out the 2009-10 campaign due to a private medical condition. While some speculated he would never play basketball again, Owens returned for what would be the best season of his college career, averaging 11.6 PPG and 6.5 RPG in just over 27 MPG. His scoring and rebounding stats were almost identical in his final season with the Cardinal, but 2011-12 saw a more aggressive Owens, mainly on the defensive end of the floor. Andy Brown, Stefan Nastic, and Jack Ryan will all be competing this October to try to fill Owens’ shoes, with Nastic being the current slight frontrunner. As for Owens, the forward/center did not receive an invite to either the NBA Combine or Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, and while he went undrafted, he impressed enough in team workouts to earn a spot on the Charlotte Bobcats Summer League roster. Owens didn’t see any action in the team’s first game, but scored six points and grabbed two rebounds in its second summer competition.
Out Of Stanford’s Four Graduating Seniors, Owens Will Be Missed The Most (credit: John Todd Images)
  • Jarrett Mann – Mann still earned solid minutes as a senior, but due to the emergence of freshman star Chasson Randle, he saw a steep decrease in playing time compared with his sophomore and junior years. Due to Randle playing as a slash-and-score one, it appeared at times that Mann didn’t seem comfortable in his new role, which would led to indecisiveness both in passing the ball and scoring.

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Stanford: 2011-12 Post-Mortem

Posted by AMurawa on April 25th, 2012

Over the course of the next two weeks, the Pac-12 Microsite will break down each team’s season: what went well, what didn’t, and a look ahead at the future. Today’s subject: Stanford.

What Went Right

The Cardinal dominated its non-conference schedule, winning 15 of their 17 games outside of the Pac-12. It wasn’t the toughest non-conference schedule in the world, but Johnny Dawkins’ team did wind up with a pair of wins against NCAA Tournament teams (Colorado State and North Carolina State) prior to their conference slate, then ripped through a field of also-rans in the NIT in March. All told, the Cardinal displayed a pretty drastic improvement on the defensive end of the court, finishing in the top 20 nationally in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted defensive efficiency numbers. And for a team that relied heavily on underclassmen (five different freshmen and sophomores played at least 40% of the team’s total minutes), there should still be plenty of room to improve, especially on the offensive end, in the near future.

What Went Wrong

While all that youth should pay off next year, it was the undoing of the Cardinal during the conference season. After getting off to a 5-1 start in Pac-12 play, the Cardinal lost five of their next six and struggled mightily, especially on the offensive end. Between Martin Luther King Day and Valentine’s Day they scored just 0.92 points per possession, highlighted by sophomore Aaron Bright’s 22-of-70 shooting during that stretch, good for just a 37.9% eFG.

In A Solid Year, As Aaron Bright Went, So Did The Cardinal (credit: Zach Sanderson)


On a squad that was a model of a team effort (11 different players averaged at least eight minutes per game, with six different players averaging somewhere between five points and 13 points per night), it is hard to pick out just one player, but the Cardinal were clearly a team whose fates aligned closely with Bright’s performance. He averaged four more points per game, one more assist and shot the ball nearly 20% better from behind the arc in wins than in losses. When Bright was going good, he was a tough defender, a confident floor general, and a deadly three-point shooter who made opposing defenses pay for collapsing in on interior players like senior Josh Owens. While there is something to be said for Owens’ 11.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and 57.1% field goal percentage (not to mention freshman Chasson Randle’s team-leading 13.8 points per game), Bright was really the most important player on this team, as evidenced by his near-perfect run through the NIT when he averaged 16.8 points, 4.2 assists and shot a whopping 79.5% eFG.

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Stanford’s NIT Title: So What?

Posted by AMurawa on March 30th, 2012

On Thursday night, Stanford earned the right to be one of the handful of teams in Division I basketball to end its season with a win, storming to a 24-point win over Minnesota in the NIT Final. While plenty of people will write that off (with some reason) as just showing that the Cardinal are the 69th best team in college hoops, what exactly does the win mean for Johnny Dawkins and his budding program?

Stanford, NIT Champion

Stanford Took Home The NIT Title, But What Does It Mean For Next Year? (Frank Franklin II/AP Photo)

Conventional wisdom says that an NIT win bodes well for the future, providing a springboard to success in the following season. Even a cursory glance at the history in the last decade shows that this is not really the case. Of the last 10 winners of the NIT, just four teams made the NCAA Tournament the following year, with only one team, West Virginia’s 2006-07 squad, actually earning a victory in the ensuing NCAA Tourney. In fact, over those 10 years, the NIT winners actually turned in a record the following year that was, on average, 4.3 games worse than the record in the year of the NIT win.

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