Stanford did release the official non-conference schedule for the 2013-14 season, providing a perfect excuse for us here at The Bootleg to respond with some quick numbers, thoughts, and expectations because, well, that's what you do in the offseason.
In 13 OOC games last season, the Cardinal posted a 9-4 mark overall against a schedule that included four eventual tournament teams (Belmont, Missouri, Minnesota, NC State) and five teams with a final RPI of 75 or better (those same four plus Denver). Stanford finished 0-4 against the tournament teams and 1-4 against the 75 or better crew, the lone win coming against fellow NIT invitee Denver. The Cardinal themselves finished with an RPI of 75.
The 2013 Nonconference Schedule
This year's slate of thirteen does appear better, the caveat being of course that there's nothing to go on but last year's numbers. Up to four tournament teams from last year are scheduled (Bucknell, South Dakota State, Michigan, and a potential matchup with Pittsburgh in the Legends Classic) and seven in total that finished 2012-13 with an RPI of 75 or better [Michigan (11); Pittsburgh (46); UConn (47); Bucknell (53); BYU (58); Denver (63); South Dakota State (70))].
The opportunity is certainly there for Stanford to score some crucial resume building wins early in the year (in all honesty, though, these opportunities were also there last year). A key difference for 2013-14, however, may lie in the scheduling itself. Whereas 2012-13 saw a front-loaded schedule of quality opponents -- the Cardinal faced three of the four eventual tournament teams during a one-week stretch in mid-November and just one quality opponent (NC State) after finals break -- this year's slate looks to be much more balanced and, to that end, perhaps more manageable, if not more potentially rewarding.
The early part of the schedule has the Cardinal facing tough tests against solid, but certainly beatable mid-majors in Bucknell (Nov. 8; '12-13 RPI: 53) and @BYU (Nov. 11; '12-13 RPI: 58) in what should be preparation for a Thanksgiving week showdown against Pittsburgh ('12-13 RPI: 46) at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Stanford then returns home for a December 2 matchup against South Dakota State ('12-'13 RPI: 70), who despite losing star guard Nate Wolters, should not be a cakewalk like Alcorn State ('12-13 RPI: 307) or Cal State Fullerton ('12-13 RPI: 270).
The pre-finals portion of the schedule, then, does a nice job of establishing a consistent pace of quality opponents and of mixing tough mid-major road tests with neutral site battles against big name opponents. It's reasonably difficult, but it has set an extremely experienced Stanford squad up to succeed. It also the stage for what will undoubtedly be a telling two game mid-December road trip.
A game in Storrs, CT against a UConn team ('12-13 RPI: 47) fresh off a postseason ban and returning its top three scorers from a year ago and a contest back in Brooklyn against last year's national runner-up Michigan ('12-13 RPI: 11) will not only provide Stanford the opportunity to secure a couple of marquee wins, but will also ensure the Card enter Pac-12 play accustomed to a high level of opponent. This certainly may be a point worth mentioning, considering that while Stanford did travel to NC State ('12-13 RPI: 37) in mid-December last year, the matchup was sandwiched between games against UC Davis ('12-13 RPI: 235), Northwestern ('12-13 RPI: 164), and Lafayette ('12-13 RPI: 157). Stanford opened up Pac-12 play last year by getting swept on the road in Los Angeles.
In short, Johnny Dawkins and his staff appear to have taken a sizable step forward in their scheduling for the 2013-14 campaign. Only time will tell if the product on the court follows suit.
Andrew Santana graduated from Stanford University in 2013. He worked as the play-by-play man for the Stanford men's basketball team on KZSU. You can follow him on Twitter @asantan1 or reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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