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.
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.
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.