Stanford Post-MortemPosted 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.
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.
What Went Wrong
After Aaron Bright and Chasson Randle led the Cardinal to an NIT title with impressive play last March, it was assumed that they would be ready to build on their success and become consistent performers throughout the regular season. Suffice it to say, that did not happen. Randle, an all-freshman team member in 2011-12, took a step back in scoring and his shooting percentages as a sophomore and rarely showed the same explosiveness as last season. Meanwhile, Bright had a nightmare season, seeing his three-point percentage dip from a blistering 43.6% mark as a sophomore to just 32.1% this season. He was particularly bad early as he dealt with an ankle injury; he missed his first 12 shots from deep on the year and shot just 36.3% eFG in his first 15 games of the year before rebounding nicely done the stretch. Both players squeaked over the 100.0 ORtg mark for the year, in part due to their free throw shooting and lack of turnovers, but neither made the type of contributions that Johnny Dawkins had to have been hoping for.
Powell’s the easy choice here, but let’s get adventurous and make a case for Josh Huestis as the team’s most valuable player. He led the team in rebounding (and was fifth in the conference) with 9.0 boards per night, and he led the team in blocked shots (fourth in the conference) with 2.1 swats per contest. He’s always had a taste for stepping away from the hoop and launching threes, but this season he actually knocked them down at a decent rate (33.8%), causing defenders to respect his jumper, freeing him up to attack the hoop more easily, and resulting in career-high shooting percentages across the board. He has also made his name as the team’s best defender, capable of not only banging with the big boys inside and providing that shot-blocking and rebounding presence, but also stepping away from the hoop and being a pestering perimeter defender. In short, while Powell – and to a lesser extent, the guards – may get most of the glory, Huestis not only does plenty of dirty work for the Cardinal, but he provides plenty of offensive skill to boot.
All in all, the team you’ll see take the floor for the Cardinal in 2013-14 will be much the same as the one you saw this season with just one exception – graduating senior Gabriel Harris’ career on The Farm is over. All other question marks, thus far at least, have been answered in the affirmative; Dawkins will return as the head coach, Powell won’t declare early, and thus far, there are no pending transfers.
Players Coming In
Dawkins already had problems narrowing down his talented roster to a regular rotation this season, and with three good recruits coming in next season, expect there to be a logjam towards the back of the rotation. Those three recruits in question are a pair of twin guards from the Las Vegas area – Marcus and Malcolm Allen – and 6’9” power forward Schuyler Rimmer. Of the three, Marcus Allen is the most talented and could slide right into the third guard role behind Bright and Randle (although sophomore Christian Sanders will have something to say about that), but Rimmer – a rugged, physical presence – may be the most-needed guy, although Grant Verhoeven could fill a similar role. And, aside from the three freshmen, Stanford will regain the services of athletic wing Anthony Brown, who missed the 2012-13 season due to a hip injury.
Reason for Hope
My god, is there a lot of talent here. While Arizona clearly has the most raw talent in the conference, the Cardinal, provided they can get improvement across the roster during the offseason, have enough talent to push the Wildcats right to the very end. Powell will be in the conversation for preseason Player of the Year, Randle and Bright should be due for a bounce-back season, everybody has been waiting for an Anthony Brown breakout for two seasons now, and there are a ton of talented pieces elsewhere on the roster including guys we haven’t even mentioned yet, like Rosco Allen, John Gage and Stefan Nastic.
Reason For Concern
Give credit to Dawkins for assembling this much talent at Stanford, but he hasn’t proven that he is capable of winning games with the talent just yet. Without a doubt, the Cardinal underachieved this year, despite being right with the leaders in the conference on a per-possession basis. And while just about every key player on this roster has put together at least one good season, they haven’t all come at the same time. We need to see Randle and Bright bounce back from their lackluster season; we need to see Powell duplicate (or better yet, improve upon) his breakout campaign; and we need to see Anthony Brown not only return from injury but enjoy his own breakout year. This Cardinal team has the potential to be something special, but they’ve also got a lot to prove.
C-. Fact is, this team underachieved. It had the talent to be an NCAA Tournament team and came up short. The evolution of Powell and the feel-good Andy Brown story bump the grade up into the C range, but this was definitely a disappointing season for the Cardinal.