Stanford Week: Q&A With Pachoops’ Adam Butler

Posted by Connor Pelton on July 22nd, 2012

As we go to wind down our coverage of the Stanford basketball program, we head back to Adam Butler of Pachoops for his perspective on the Cardinal basketball program. Adam and I go over every pressing topic surrounding the team’s immediate future, including how they plan on replacing three key seniors and expectations for sophomore-to-be extraordinaire, Chasson Randle. Here’s our conversation:

RTC: How do the Cardinal replace players like Josh Owens, Jarrett Mann, and Andrew Zimmerman?

AB: First of all, you don’t replace an Andrew Zimmerman. Beards like that don’t come around often, but when they do, they’re irreplaceable. On the court, however, Mann and Zimmerman were very solid role players and integral to the success of a Johnny Dawkins team in which hustle and defense would seem to be heavily rewarded. How else does a guy averaging 3 PPG and 3 RPG (Mann) play 20 MPG? So replacing those guys in some respects is easy in that they brought effort to the table. Guys like Josh Huestis, Gabriel Harris, and John Gage should be able to fill those roles. But it’s Owens who leaves the most gaping hole in the Cardinal lineup. Hustle, effort, all of the Tebow stuff, cannot replace talent, and Josh Owens had that. I loved his game and believe he’ll be tough to replace. But this is a roster seemingly full of eligible Owens replacements. My favorite of those candidates is Dwight Powell, who has length and athleticism for days but basketball IQ for minutes. Some more floor time for the rangy Canadian should go a long way in helping the Cardinal replace Owens. I’ll talk about Anthony Brown later.

Before Playing Basketball At Stanford, Zimmerman Starred As The Geico Caveman

RTC: Through some luck and upsets along the way, Stanford never faced a team seeded higher than fifth in the NIT. Do you think it would have won the whole thing if they had to face teams like Mississippi, Arizona, and Seton Hall instead of Illinois State, Nevada, and Massachusetts?

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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)

MVP

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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RTC’s Pac-12 Season Superlatives

Posted by AMurawa on March 6th, 2012

Yesterday we named our All-Pac-12 team, today we hand out our awards. It may not have been a banner year in the Pac-12, but we have had good races for each of these awards and come away with some very deserving honorees.

Player of the Year

Terrence Ross, Soph, Washington: California’s Jorge Gutierrez won the official Pac-12 award, but Ross gets the nod here for a variety of reasons: 1) he’s the best player in the conference; 2) he’s the best player on the conference champion; and 3) when he gets in a rhythm (which is often), no other player in the conference (save perhaps his teammate, Tony Wroten) can make as big of an impact on the game. Ross’ best game of the year may have come on January 15 when he scored 26 points in the second half (while also adding a game-high 14 boards) to bring the Huskies back from a six-point halftime deficit to beat Washington State. Or maybe it came against UCLA on February 2 when he scored 10 points in the final five minutes to help bring the Huskies back from a 10-point deficit with seven minutes left. Or maybe it was his dominant performance inside the three-point line against Arizona on February 18, when he scored 25 points despite a perimeter jumper that took the day off.

Terrence Ross, Washington

Terrence Ross Was A Clutch Performer All Year Long For The Huskies (Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

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Pac-12 Burning Questions: Senior Moment?

Posted by AMurawa on March 2nd, 2012

Each week through conference play, we’ll offer up a couple of different takes on the biggest question of the week in the Pac-12. This week:

“In honor of senior days around the conference, which Pac-12 senior will be most missed by his team next year?

Connor Pelton: I’m going to go an interesting route and say Devoe Joseph. Joseph’s contributions have been huge for Oregon this season, as they had lost two of their first six without him. Since then Oregon has gone 16-6, and those losses can hardly be pinned on the senior transfer from Toronto, who has averaged 16.3 PPG. That mark is good enough for fourth in the conference, but perhaps even better than that stat is this: Joseph has only had one game in which he hasn’t scored in double figures this season. That was in their New Year’s Eve meeting with Washington, where he was subject to double teams all night long from a feisty Husky defense. But the reason he will be missed most is not for the jaw-dropping stats, but rather that Oregon doesn’t have a shoot-first player returning next season. E.J. Singler can certainly light it up from behind the arc, but he would still rather attack than shoot from around the perimeter. With both Joseph and Garrett Sim departing, he is going to have to adapt into that type of player, and that could cause some early-season troubles for the Ducks.

Despite Just One Active Season In Eugene, Devoe Joseph Will Be Sorely Missed Next Year (credit: Eric Evans)

Andrew Murawa: I’ll skip some of the obvious choices as well, as while California is sure to miss the work-ethic and passion of Jorge Gutierrez, they should still return a very nice backcourt, and while Arizona will miss the steadiness and leadership of Kyle Fogg, he’s done a good job of beginning to pass the baton to underclassmen like Nick Johnson and Josiah Turner. At Stanford, however, there is no immediately obvious replacement for senior forward Josh Owens. No, Owens isn’t exactly an all-conference performer for the Cardinal, but he brings an interior toughness and physicality that is largely absent from the rest of their roster. While sophomore forward Josh Huestis has athletic gifts that Owens doesn’t, he doesn’t yet have all the tricks of the trade in the middle to make the most of his undersized body. And most of the other returning big men on Johnny Dawkins’ current roster (John Gage, Dwight Powell, Stefan Nastic) are more finesse players. Further, Owens may only average 12.4 points per game, but he is the most efficient offensive player on the Cardinal roster, and a solid choice for the go-to guy when the team needs a bucket down the stretch. Incoming freshman center Grant Verhoeven may eventually eventually grow into that kind of role in the middle, but he’ll need at least a year of the weight room and training table before he gets there. While Owens leaves Palo Alto as one of the most underrated players in the Pac-12, the impact of his loss on the Cardinal could be understated as well.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 02.27.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 27th, 2012

  1. It doesn’t go down as a surprise of any kind, but Colorado’s win over California on Sunday afternoon certainly doesn’t lack in importance. The Buffaloes got off to a strong start and withstood some pushback from the Golden Bears to lead for the final 30 minutes of the game and knock Cal from their perch atop the conference standings. Colorado, meanwhile, kept themselves in the mix for one of the four first-round byes in the Pac-12 Tournament. The Buffaloes were led by Austin Dufault and Nate Tomlinson, who celebrated their Senior Day in style, as Dufault went for 15, while Tomlinson had 11, four assists, and four boards and had a major hand in throwing a wrench into the Cal backcourt. Jorge Gutierrez and Justin Cobbs were held to a combined three-of-18 from the floor Sunday night, and in both games against Colorado this season, that duo was just eight-of-44 (18.2%) from the field. Lost in all the lovey-dovey Senior Day celebrating was fellow Colorado senior Carlon Brown slumping on the bench and seemingly not all that pleased to watch freshmen Spencer Dinwiddie and Askia Booker finish the game off. Maybe Tad Boyle is already sick of Brown’s act (it is his first year of eligibility in Boulder after transferring from Utah), but with important games still remaining for Colorado (not just their trip to Oregon next week, but the Pac-12 Tournament, which it seems like they will need to win in order to earn an NCAA Tournament invite), Boyle will have to find some way to get something out of Brown, who is just 22-of-76 from the field in the month of February.
  2. The California loss leaves Washington all by its lonesome in first place in the conference. The Huskies needed a second-half comeback to knock off Apple Cup rival Washington State on Saturday, and they earned that victory largely at the free throw line, not bad for a team in the bottom 10% of the nation in free throw percentage. The Huskies made ten of its final 12 free throw attempts while the Cougars hit just 17 of their 32 second half attempts from the charity stripe and U-Dub escaped with a four-point win. Tony Wroten led the way with 21 points (albeit on 6-18 from the field), while Terrence Ross, in his first game after being declared the Pac-12 POY favorite by yours truly, was limited to just 21 ineffective minutes by foul trouble – he was just one-of-five from the field with two points and three rebounds.
  3. It’s been a long, rough season for Utah, with little talent and as a result, little to play for. But, give credit to head coach Larry Krystkowiak who has kept the Utes scraping hard all season long, and give credit to his team, who the head man describes as “resilient.” It took until the middle of December for the Utes to win a game against Division I competition, and there have been two separate eight-game losing streaks, but Utah got back on the right side of the final score on Saturday, knocking off Stanford 58-57. Junior Chris Hines hit a game-winning three with 27 seconds left and Cardinal senior Josh Owens missed a potentially game-tying free throw with eight seconds, and the Utes escaped with just their sixth win of the year. Meanwhile, for a Stanford team that looked brilliant on Thursday in handing Colorado its first home loss in Pac-12 play, it is just the latest in a long line of uneven performances in conference play.
  4. Normally, if there’s an Arizona/UCLA game being played on the last weekend in February, that’s the headliner in this conference. But, the fact is, as go the Bruins and the Wildcats, so goes the Pac-12. There have been more problems around the conference than just some ordinary teams in Westwood and Tucson, but you have to imagine that if these two stalwarts had lived up to their reputations, there would be a lot less jabbering about the weakness in the conference. As far as the game goes, the Wildcat seniors protected their Senior Day with Kyle Fogg leading the way. The senior guard has averaged at least 24 minutes per game every year of his career, but he is certainly wrapping up his eligibility in style. After going for his second double-double in three games against USC on Thurdsay (and the only two double-doubles of his career), Fogg came just one rebound shy of yet another double-double, but still wound up with 20 points and nine rebounds. The ‘Cats tried to give the game away down the stretch, missing four of six free throws in the final minute, but a Jerime Anderson jumper that could have sent the game to overtime was awry.
  5. Elsewhere around the conference this weekend, the nightmare season for USC continued with a four-point loss at Arizona State, as the undersized and undermanned Trojans couldn’t deal with Sun Devil sophomore center Jordan Bachynski who had 19 points and nine boards. However, it was embattled point guard Chris Colvin who iced the game, converting a three-point play with 19 seconds left to seal the win. Freshman guard Byron Wesley has come up big recently for USC, with new career-highs in each of his last two games, but there just isn’t enough help there for now. And, Sunday night, Oregon held off Oregon State in the 337th edition of the basketball version of the Civil War behind 25 points from Oregon senior guard Garrett Sim, whose parents are both Oregon State alumni.
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Pac-12 Burning Questions: Pick A Part?

Posted by AMurawa on February 17th, 2012

Each week through conference play, we’ll offer up a couple of different takes on the biggest question of the week in the Pac-12.

This week: “While there are no great teams in the Pac-12, there seem to be several teams that are just one key part away from being a Top 25 team. If you could pluck one role player from a Pac-12 team and bring him over to help out another team, who would it be?”

Andrew Murawa: Arizona’s lack of interior size is their biggest weakness. At present, they’re playing a seven-man rotation with only one player bigger than 6’7” – raw 6’9” freshman Angelo Chol – getting any serious time. Jesse Perry, a 6’7” senior best suited to a combo forward spot, is ostensibly the team’s starting center. Enter Washington’s 7’0” junior center Aziz N’Diaye, sliding right into the Wildcats center position, moving Perry to a move natural four-spot, Solomon Hill to the three, and sending freshman Nick Johnson to a sixth-man role. Not only would N’Diaye give Sean Miller a defensive stopper inside, he’s shown his ability to be a solid rebounder on both ends of the court. And, when the Wildcats want to get out and run, N’Diaye has the athleticism and the motor to keep up with their young backcourt. As they are now, the Wildcats are a solid but flawed team, scrapping along to keep in Pac-12 race. Magically drop N’Diaye onto that roster and they’re the favorite in the conference, even with inconsistent freshman Josiah Turner still growing into his role at the point.

Aziz N'Diaye, Washington

Aziz N'Diaye's Length And Athleticism Would Patch A Hole In Arizona's Defense (Ted Copeland/The Daily)

Connor Pelton: I’d like to take Washington State point guard Reggie Moore and bring him over to Stanford. The Cardinal have two solid scorers in forward/center Josh Owens and shooting guard Chasson Randle, but what they are missing is a true point guard. Aaron Bright has his games, but 3.4 assists per outing just isn’t going to cut it if Stanford wants to be a top tier team in the Pac-12. If you bring Moore into the picture, you have by far the best point guard in the Pac-12 (5.7 APG). He also averages 9.2 points per game, which isn’t bad at all for a pass-first type of player. The Cardinal’s new starting lineup would look a lot better as well. The Cardinal would have Moore and Randle at guard, then go with a three forward/center combo of Owens, Anthony Brown, and John Gage. The bench looks solid as well. Bright would come off the bench and could be developed into even more of a combo-guard, and with Andrew Zimmermann and Josh Huestis down low; this Stanford team would definitely have top-tier potential. If only …

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Pac-12 Game of the Week: Stanford at California

Posted by AMurawa on January 29th, 2012

Stanford at California, January 29, 5:30 PM PST, FSN

The Big Game, basketball edition (part one), lost a bit of its luster last weekend when Stanford got swept by the Washington schools, but with California sitting tied atop the conference standings with Oregon, and with the Cardinal sitting just a game back, there is still plenty of importance to go around here.

Aaron Bright, Stanford

Aaron Bright And Stanford Have Slowed A Bit As The Quality Of Opponent Has Increased (photo credit: Liza Hafalia, San Francisco Chronicle)

For the Cardinal, after losing just one of their first 11 games – and that one to Syracuse at Madison Square Garden – the uptick in level of competition over the last few weeks has exposed them a little bit. After beating up on low-majors (like Bethune-Cookman and Central Arkansas) and mid-majors (like Fresno State and Colorado State), and even sneaking out some tough wins over bubble-minded high majors (Oklahoma State and North Carolina State), Johnny Dawkins’ club has lost four of its last nine games, with all four losses coming to teams ranked lower than #80 in the nation by Ken Pomeroy. Throw in some tight wins (a one-point win against UCLA, a four-overtime battle over Oregon State and even a slugfest W over Utah), and it is clear that despite the major strides this Stanford team has made this season, this is certainly not a team that is going to outclass conference opponents on a regular basis. Along the way, their once stellar efficiency numbers on both ends of the court have taken a significant hit — in their last four losses, Stanford has averaged just over one point per possession offensively, while giving up 1.16 PPP. In their first 11 games of the season, they only allowed more than one point per possession once (the NC State win), but in the last nine they’ve done so five times. Part of that is due to the fact that they’ve been facing better athletes. Where they once were able to outclass opponents on the glass, they’ve now been playing teams with their athletic equals, and the rebounding numbers have dipped. Likewise, guys like Aaron Bright and Chasson Randle have been unable to keep up their ridiculously hot shooting paces; Bright was 49% from three in non-conference play and is down to 37% in conference play while Randle has dipped from 42% to 36%.

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Checking In On… the Pac-12 Conference

Posted by AMurawa on January 19th, 2012

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-12 and Mountain West conferences. He is also a Pac-12 microsite staffer.

Reader’s Take

 

Top Storylines

  • The third weekend in conference play went a long way towards settling the conference into some tentative tiers. With the Bay Area schools’ sweeps of Colorado and Utah, Stanford and California sit atop the conference with 5-1 records and have established themselves, for now, as the teams to beat in the conference. A half-step back sits Washington, winner of four of five conference games, but unproven on the road so far, and Oregon, the sole team in conference play with more than one road win – the Ducks have three. The next tier down is made up of Arizona, Colorado and UCLA, all teams with two losses who have been inconsistent, but have enough talent to leave a mark on the Pac-12 race. We’ll wedge in one more tier before the bottom, with Arizona State, Washington State and Oregon State all seriously flawed teams who for one reason or another are clearly better than the tier of Utah and USC at the bottom of the Pac.
  • Yesterday we got news of a couple more problem children coming to the end of their ropes with their current teams, as Cal’s Richard Solomon and Utah’s Josh Watkins, both of whom had already been suspended for a game once this season, ran into trouble. Solomon was declared academically ineligible and is done for the year, though he could return next season for his junior year provided he cleans up his grades. Watkins, however, is done. The senior was booted off the Ute team by head coach Larry Krystkowiak for his second behavior-related offense of the season. It’s been that kind of year in the Pac-12, with these two just the latest in a line that includes Reeves Nelson, Jabari Brown, Keala King, Sidiki Johnson and Bruce Barron (and I’m sure I’ve blocked another player or two from my memory), players whose seasons ended early because of their own decisions.

The Loss Of Richard Solomon Is A Potential Major Blow To Cal's Conference Title Chances (pac-12.org)

What to Watch For

  • Until further notice, we can just assume that whatever games involve the Bay Area schools any week will be the games to keep an eye on, with the two matchups between the rivals potentially being the games of the year. This week, it is the Washington schools hosting California and Stanford, and the Huskies, in particular, should provide a stiff test for both schools. Washington will be without the services of second-leading scorer C.J. Wilcox for both games this week, due to a stress fracture in his hip, his loss will rob Lorenzo Romar’s bunch not only of a pure shooter on offense, but also one of the Huskies’ best perimeter defenders, a situation that could spell trouble against talented three-point shooters such as Cal’s Allen Crabbe and Stanford’s Anthony Brown, to name two. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the Pac-12 Conference

Posted by AMurawa on January 12th, 2012

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-12 and Mountain West conferences. He is also a Pac-12 microsite staffer.

Reader’s Take

 

Top Storylines

  • This past weekend likely saw the best regular season game of the Pac-12 schedule, as Stanford battled Oregon State for four exciting overtimes before finally securing an all-important road victory.
  • Given the relative homogeneity of the conference, the recipe for winning the regular season title is going to be: 1) take care of business at home; and 2) steal a handful of road games against the middle and bottom of the Pac. On both of those fronts, Stanford is looking good now, sitting with California, Washington, and Arizona atop the conference. What’s that you say? Colorado actually leads the conference with a 3-0 record? Sorry Buffs, but get back to me once you have tasted the road in the Pac-12. Right now all three of their wins have come at home.
Chasson Randle, Stanford

Stanford's Four Overtime Win Over Oregon State Helped Keep Them Among The Contenders In The Pac-12 (Rick Bowmer/AP)

  • Elsewhere this past weekend, Thursday night was upset central as all six underdogs came away with victories that night, before things got back to normal, as only Stanford was able to spring the upset. UCLA got back to .500 in conference after sweeping the Arizona schools, making the Bruins and Buffs the only homestanders to win both of their games last weekend.
  • And, lastly, the Pac-12 lost another promising player to immaturity this week, as Keala King was dismissed by Arizona State head coach Herb Sendek after being left back from the Sun Devils’ trip to the Los Angeles-area schools week along with Kyle Cain and Chris Colvin. In Sendek’s press conference on Tuesday, he referred to King being unhappy with being forced to play point guard in the absence of ineligible freshman Jahii Carson and butting heads with Sendek over his role. As a result, King joins the growing list of Pac-12 players who have divorced their programs this season. Read the rest of this entry »
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Pac-12 Game of the Week: UCLA at Stanford

Posted by AMurawa on December 29th, 2011

A couple of weeks ago, there was no way we would have picked this game to be the most interesting game of the first week of Pac-12 play. While Stanford has been a pleasant surprise through their non-conference schedule, UCLA was on the very short list of the least enjoyable teams in the conference to watch. However, the Bruins have quietly strung together five straight wins albeit against abominable competition and the Cardinal, coming off a tough home loss to Butler, have to prove that they are capable of contending for the regular season title. In short, while both of these teams have plenty of doubters, and rightfully so, each has a chance to earn a modicum of respect by taking care of business on opening weekend.

Stanford’s loss to Butler last week could be explained away in a variety of ways: it was their first game against significant competition in two and a half weeks; the home crowd was absent most of the students and provided little boost to a sleepwalking team; the Bulldogs got plenty of fortunate bounces; and really, it’s a loss to a fast-improving team that has been the national runner-up the past two seasons. Regardless of the excuses, it serves as a reminder that the Cardinal have largely built their status as one of the conference favorites on a loss – a hard-fought six-point defeat against Syracuse in the NIT Season Tip-Off championship game. They have a win over North Carolina State (in which they had to fight back from a 12-point second half deficit) and a win over Oklahoma State, but neither of those teams look like future recipients of an NCAA Tournament invite. So, there is little so far in the positive results category to indicate that this Stanford vintage is significantly better than last year’s 15-16 team that won seven conference games.

Josh Owens, Stanford

Josh Owens Has Been Stanford's Emotional Leader & Go-To Scorer (Credit: Zach Sanderson)

However, if you dig deeper into the metrics, you see a Cardinal team that is winning games because of excellent defense (only twice this season – in the loss to Butler and the uneven win over NC State – have they allowed more than a point per possession), while doing almost all the things that you want to see an efficient offensive team do (they shoot it well, they hit the offensive glass and they get to the free throw line). Only their turnovers on nearly 22% of their offensive possessions present cause for alarm, and that should be a number that sinks as their primary ballhandlers (sophomore Aaron Bright and freshman Chasson Randle) get more comfortable. And if you trust only the eye test, you see a team that appears to run a lot more smoothly than they did last year, when deep into the season the Cardinal appeared to be out of sync on both ends of the court. Bright has taken over as an extension of head coach Johnny Dawkins on the floor, senior center Josh Owens is the team’s emotional leader and go-to scorer, Randle is a steadily improving freshman, and there are a handful of other nice pieces elsewhere on this roster (Anthony Brown, Josh Huestis, Dwight Powell) ready to make positive contributions on both ends. This is an improved Stanford team, but they’ve still got to prove it and they’ll have plenty of chances, starting tonight.

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