Know your nemesis, numero cinco!
So far we've heard about Cougars and Trojans and Huskies and Sun Devils (oh, my). In today's edition of our Pac-12 preview, we'll go over the Cardinal. The color. Not the bird. But their mascot is a big tree. Whatever. Next up: The Stanford Cardinal.
Johnny Dawkins is entering his 8th season at Stanford. His tenure at Stanford has been consistently...decent. In the last four years, they've had two 10-8 conference records and two 9-9 conference records. They've even won their postseason tournament two of the last four years! Granted, both times it was the NIT.
Nothing about Johnny Dawkins' run as head man at Stanford has been bad, necessarily. But it has been unspectacular. Mike Montgomery took Stanford to ten-straight NCAA Tournament appearances and the second Final Four in program history before leaving for the NBA. Trent Johnson followed that up with three tournament appearances in four years, highlighted by a Sweet Sixteen appearance in his final season. In Dawkins' seven years, he's been to the NCAA Tournament only once. You can blame part of that on the committee not viewing the Pac-12 as they should, but no matter how you cut it, one tournament appearance in seven years is not the Stanford we're accustomed to seeing.
It's being said nobody in the conference has lost more from last year than Arizona. Yes, Arizona lost a lot in the offseason. However, they're making up for it with transfers and a top recruiting class. Stanford, on the other hand, is losing a ton of their production from last season and they don't have the benefit of having a top recruiting class coming in. The Cardinal are losing six players to graduation. Among those six are their top three scorers, top two rebounders and top three assist leaders. This squad relied heavily on its seniors one year ago and their best hope is that those seniors rubbed off well on the underclassmen. Sophomore forward, Reid Travis, the only McDonald's All-American that Dawkins has brought to Stanford, might be the guy to watch. He was injured for parts of last season but showed a solid skill set in his time on the floor. Senior forward Rosco Allen is the highest returning scorer, and junior guard Marcus Allen will look to fill the scoring void in the backcourt left by Chasson Randle's graduation.
Games versus Arizona...
January 21st @ Maples Pavilion
March 5th @ McKale Center
The Projected Starting Five...
F Rosco Allen
F Reid Travis
F Michael Humphrey
G Marcus Allen
G Christian Sanders
Reid Travis resumes his role as a starter. As does Marcus Allen, though, he won't see the floor the first two weeks of the season due to a stress fracture in his foot. Forwards Allen and Humphrey go from seeing heavy minutes off the bench a year ago to the starting lineup. At the point guard position, as recently as a week ago, it was slated to be sophomore, Robert Cartwright. However, he sustained a compound fracture to his arm earlier this week. Junior Christian Sanders will get the first shot at running the offense in Cartwright's absence.
The Best Case Scenario...
First off, they need Allen to come back from injury in late November at 100 percent. After that, they need him and the other two best players on the team, Travis and Rosco Allen, to fire on all cylinders. This team has talent at the top but not a lot of depth. They'll need to find reliable bench players along the way.
I'll go with the best-case scenario. I don't think this team has a high ceiling due to circumstances beyond their control. They lost so much and don't have much coming in. As if their team wasn't already depleted, they've already been bit by the injury bug. But I also don't expect anything less than solid, consistent, gritty basketball. For that reason, I'll give them 8th place with a 7-11 record.