Stanford Hoops Preview

Over the next few weeks DevilsDigest.com will endeavor to bring you a comprehensive breakdown of the upcoming 2003-2004 basketball season in the Pacific-10 conference. The eighth part of this multi-part series looks at the Stanford Cardinal.

Stanford Cardinal (Palo Alto, California)
2002-03 Record: 24-9 (14-4)
Postseason: NCAA
Returning Starters: 4
Head Coach: Mike Montgomery (eighteenth season)

Projected Starting Lineup: (Returning Starter(s) in BOLD)

PG: Chris Hernandez, 6-2, 190 So. (redshirted in 2002-03 following injury)
SG: Matt Lottich, 6-4, 205 Sr. (11.3 ppg, 3.1 apg, .387 FG% .382 3PT% .692 FT%)
SF: Josh Childress, 6-8, 205 Jr. (14.1 ppg, 8.1 rpg, .427 FG% .333 3PT% .719 FT%)
PF: Justin Davis, 6-9, 230 Sr. (10.8 ppg, 7.8 rpg, .552 FG% .551 FT%)
C : Rob Little, 6-10, 260 Sr. (8.8 ppg, 5.7 rpg, .569 FG% .546 FT%)


Key Returning Reserves:

Nick Robinson, 6-6, 200 Jr. (4.5 ppg, 4.2 rpg .477 FG% .273 3PT% .515 FT%)
Joe Kirchofer, 6-9, 250 Sr. (2.3 ppg, 1.9 rpg in 9.8 minutes per game in 2002-03)
Matt Haryasz, 6-10, 225 So. (1.8 ppg, 1.7 rpg in 7.7 minutes per game in 2002-03)
Jason Haas, 6-2, 190 So. (3.7 ppg in 10.5 minutes per game in 2002-03)
Dan Grunfeld, 6-6, 210 So. (7.6 minutes per game in 2002-03)

Key Losses:

Julius Barnes (16 ppg, 4 apg, 2.8 rpg)

Recruiting Class:

Tim Morris, 6-4, 215 Fr.
Fred Washington, 6-5, 205 Fr.

Recruiting Class Grade: C+

It was just an average year recruiting-wise for Mike Montgomery and his staff, at least by their standards. Tim Morris is a real player, athletic and strong on the wing with a nice, full complement of skills. He'll be able to contribute immediately; in a couple years perhaps even be an all-conference threat. The other newcomer, Fred Washington is a similar athlete, if a bit less advanced. He's shifty with the ball and a good threat to penetrate and dish and/or finish. His shot is a little suspect out to the stripe yet, and he'll need to improve in this area to be given Montgomery's full approval. A bit concerning however is the fact that both Morris and Washington are, ideally, wing guards.

Team Overview:

Throughout much of the past decade, Stanford has largely built its success on an ability to out-rebound and out-muscle its Pacific-10 opponent in the paint. Not coincidentally, these are the key categories by which most college basketball games are won and lost as well as two of the central focal points of coach Mike Montgomery's program.

So it should come as no surprise that this year's version of the men's basketball squad at Stanford is, once again, poised to have the most powerful and dominating frontcourt lineup in the conference. There is little doubt the Cardinal will be the best rebounding team in the league with senior Justin Davis and juniors Josh Childress and Rob Little leading the way.

Childress was the second-leading rebounder in the Pacific-10 conference last year with an average of 8.1 per contest, and he is a small forward. Davis was also among the top-five in this category (7.8) and Little, ironically the biggest man of the three at 6-10 and at least 260-pounds, finished third on the team with a respectable 5.7 caroms per game as well.

But these players are more than just shot-retrievers. Childress is among the best in the conference and a near-lock for all-conference honors. In addition to being the best rebounding small forward in the league, Childress is one of the better scorers, with nice range and the ability to get to the basket off the dribble or pull up and shoot it. He has an expansive mid-range game and can hurt teams in a variety of ways.

Davis is an extremely athletic big man. He runs the floor and can finish on the break as well as any power forward in the league. He possesses tremendous hops and is extremely consistent in the paint on both ends, with nice post moves and an ability to defend and block shots. Little comes into the new season slimmed down and more prepared than ever to do a lot of the interior work that may go unnoticed by the casual fan but will almost certainly make an enormous difference with this club.

Stanford has a nice assortment of options available to spell these interior players off the bench. Senior Joe Kirchofer is a well-rounded player with solid skills and a veteran presence and intelligence that is difficult to match. He is only a slight drop off in terms of his ability to rebound and defend. Matt Haryasz, a sophomore, is extremely skilled and athletic. Having a year under his belt and an extra 15-20 pounds should do wonders for his game.

The player described by Montgomery as the "glue" that holds the team together is versatile junior Nick Robinson. Capable of playing as many as four positions on the floor with his versatility and poise, Robinson will probably spend most of his time on the wing, spelling Childress and senior wing guard Matt Lottich, but don't be surprised to see him against some of the undersized power forwards in the conference in a spot role.

The starting guards will almost certainly be Lottich on the wing and sophomore Chris Hernandez at the point. Hernandez has battled foot and back problems and his health is a key to this team's success. His strength is his floor generalship and ability to make things happen for his teammates. Those attributes will be needed in order to replace Julius Barnes, the best offensive threat on the squad from last year. Lottich is the most pure shooter on the team, who is capable and willing to take the long-range shot from anywhere at just about any time.

The two returning players who will see time off the bench in the backcourt are sophomore Dan Grunfeld, a skilled wing who will also play a little small forward and Jason Haas, a savvy ball distributor and floor leader who will back-up Hernandez at the point.

New to the team are freshmen wings Tim Morris and Fred Washington. Morris seems to be the player of the two most likely to squeeze into the rotation with his more advanced perimeter skills. Both players are physically prepared enough to play and can slash and get to the basket, but Morris is a better shooter and more consistent threat to keep defenses honest.

Stanford is a team with few question marks as it relates to its players roles and abilities. The feeling out process of acclimating new players and developing chemistry that most other teams in the league will undoubtedly go through is almost non-existent at Stanford. With a pre-season practice schedule as limited as it is in college basketball, this fact, more than any other makes Stanford a compelling national player.

Interesting Factoids:

-Josh Childress is a pre-season candidate for the Wooden and Naismith awards, given annually to the best college player in the nation…With seventeen years tenure, Mike Montgomery has been in Pacific-10 longer than Ben Howland (UCLA), Dick Bennett (WSU), Lorenzo Romar (UW), Jay John (OSU), Rob Evans (ASU), and Ernie Kent (UO) combined…Stanford returns two of the top five rebounders in the league in Childress and Justin Davis…Both Childress and Davis were honorable mention all-conference last season…Montgomery was co-coach of the year with Lute Olson…Joe Kirchofer was all-academic all-conference

Best Case Scenario:

Chris Hernandez stays healthy and becomes the floor leader that made him one of the winningest high school point guards in California coming out of Clovis West high school. Stanford proves to be one of the better rebounding and defensive frontcourt teams nationally and the backcourt more than holds its own defensively on the perimeter. The Cardinal becomes more consistent shooting ball from long range and from the free throw line, two near-prerequisites for a deep NCAA Tournament run in March.

Worst Case Scenario:

Julius Barnes' departure hurts Stanford's ability to create easy scoring opportunities in transition and at end-of-shot-clock sequences. The Cardinal continue to struggle with free throw shooting and injury problems that have plagued the program in the past year and the team limps into an NCAA post-season appearance, where it is ousted relatively early.

Outlook:

This Stanford squad is too big, too strong, too experienced, too intelligent and too well coached to finish anything lower than second in the Pac-10 race, barring unforeseen injuries, illness or other unnatural calamities. Mike Montgomery is one of the best in the business, and, regardless of his usual pechant for making coy, defeatist remarks to the media, knows that this is the type of team he builds for, and indeed, relishes at Stanford. If the Cardinal can defend on the perimeter with effectiveness, it will be a dangerous team to watch come March.

Pac-10 Prediction: 14-4
Postseason Play: NCAA

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