USC's ensuing 10-0 run provided the kind of silence my newfound enemy apparently wanted. The low decibels continued as the Trojans kept their control, making sure no one confused the Maples confines with anything resembling Cameron Indoor Stadium.
The irony hit me later. I chronicle the best days in Stanford basketball history; yet there I was transported back in time – in terms the quality on the court and the atmosphere around it – to the domain of Dick DiBiaso and Tom Davis.
As for this year's team, a few thoughts come to mind. A squad that peaks early in the season and lacks a true offensive identity sends Johnny Dawkins into Buddy Teevens territory. The substitution patterns make little sense. Things look no better when put in a historical perspective.
Dawkins inherited a healthy program with 13 NCAA tournament berths in 14 years. The Cardinal will most certainly miss the NCAA's – and the NIT, for that matter – for the third straight year.
Yes, Mike Montgomery's first five years on The Farm featured only one NCAA tournament appearance But consider (a) his 1987-88 team's record (21-12, 11-7) is NCAA-worthy by today's standards, (b) he built a contender in a Pac-10 that was infinitely stronger than today's and (c) his third recruiting class featured Adam Keefe.
Regarding the third point, incoming star guard Chasson Randle turned down offers from Illinois and Purdue. Both Duke and North Carolina sought Keefe. Whether Randle becomes an impact player of a similar vein will decide where Captain Dawkins' ship goes. His crew needs help. Maples Pavilion could sure use some wind in its sails.
As for livelier days...
February 25, 1988: Stanford 84, Oregon 61
As a breakthrough season started down the final stretch, several previously unthinkable notions had merit. Maples Pavilion had suddenly became a place for opponents to dread. As importantly, Stanford could realistically dream of reaching the NCAA tournament for the first time in 46 years.
This day in Stanford history, Howard Wright paced Stanford with 19 points, helping his team capture its seventh Pac-10 home win in eight games. The Cardinal (18-8, 10-5) stayed in a second-place tie with Oregon State and clinched its first winning conference record since 1965-66.
"Maples used to be one of the softest places to play in the Pac-10, but now the fan support has made us awfully tough to beat in this place," Wright beamed.
Oregon went to a zone early, but Stanford carved it up. Point guard Terry Taylor converted on four of his five three-point attempts. In the post, senior center Greg Butler collected 16 points. The Cardinal shot 51 percent on the night to build an 18-point lead early, a 46-30 bulge by halftime and win going away.
The two teams met again two weeks later in the Pac-10 Tournament, and a Cardinal victory there sent Stanford to 20 season wins. The Card hadn't hit that mark since 1961-62.
Montgomery stayed mum on the NCAA topic, saying postgame "I'm not thinking about it; I'm not talking about it." His squad had played itself into consideration, however, now with a fourth win in five games since upsetting No. 1 Arizona earlier in the month. The thumping of Oregon was especially sweet, as it avenged a 24-point loss that January in Eugene, and had the Cardinal dreaming big.
"You can't help but think about the (NCAA) Tournament," Todd Lichti said.
But those dreams had to wait another season. Gary Payton drained a tiebreaking layup in the final seconds three days later, when Oregon State came to town. A trip to UCLA ended in another Bruin victory, sending Stanford to 0-23 all-time at Pauley Pavilion and, ultimately, the NIT. The Pac-10 sent only two teams, Arizona and Oregon State, to the Big Dance. It would be another 22 years before so few made it.
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