Stanford Basketball Preview/Review: November

Year seven of the Johnny Dawkins Era tips off late Friday night at Maples. The Cardinal starts the season with certainty in the starting backcourt and uncertainty virtually everywhere else. After years of being a better defensive team than an offensive team, Stanford flipped the script last year and ended up in the Sweet Sixteen.

Did correlation mean causality in this case? What’s the team’s identity this season, and where do the Cardinal go from here? What follows is a look back and forward at the Cardinal and this weekend’s opponents.



The Stanford Cardinal
2013-‘14 W/L: 23-13
Conf. W/L: 10-8 (3rd)
Final Pomeroy Ranking: 36
2014-15 Preseason Pomeroy Ranking: 54
Adjusted ORtg (Points Per 100 Possessions): 110
Adjusted DRtg: 97
Adjusted Pace: 67 Possessions Per Game
Roster By Class: 3 5th Year Sr., 3 Sr., 3 Jr., 3 So., 4 Fr.
Top 5 Minutes Returners: 3 (Randle, Brown, Nastic)

What To Like
1. Brown and Randle, the Platinum Backcourt: Like J.J. and Captain Chaos, Riggs and Murtaugh, O’Reilly and Kelly, these two should be a nightmare for the opposition. Brown was one of the most efficient shooting guards in the conference last year, and with the availability of shots thanks to the departure of Powell (24% of shots used) and Huestis (20% of shots used), his productivity should see a significant upswing. Neither are true ballhandlers or “classic” point guards, but the triangle offense mitigates that a bit, and what they do bring to the table is scoring, shooting, athleticism, and experience. Brown has the potential to be a plus defender, and both should end up on the All-Conference Team.
2. The Triangle Offense: For the second straight season, Stanford will run a structured offense that will hopefully bring order and cohesion to a team that for so long in the Dawkins Era missed both. Hopefully in the second year, the returners can meld with the newbies to best Stanford’s offensive efficiency, which was third in the conference last year.
3. Reid Travis: A physical freshman who is clearly going to be a fixture in the Cardinal starting line-up. He’s going to be counted on to make up for the 35% of available rebounds that Powell and Huestis grabbed. Hopefully, the 11 that he grabbed in the exhibition opener are just the start of a season of glass-cleaning for the heralded freshman.

Concerns

1. Offensive Cohesion: Stanford had the lowest percentage of assisted baskets in the conference. Randle is really the Cardinal’s only viable one-on-one threat with the shot clock winding down. Stanford needs to do a better job with player movement, ball movement, and setting screens that actually create lanes and opportunities. Without multiple off-the-dribble scorers, the Cardinal needs to assiduously avoid end-of-clock situations, and they need to be as spaced as possible when those situations arise. If the triangle takes hold, the Cardinal’s offense should be able to maintain its effectiveness into postseason play. Remember, Stanford was a good offensive team and a poor defensive team in conference play, then had a complete role reversal in St. Louis. The transformation did not last into Memphis, and Dayton tore up a Cardinal defense to the point where the offense, dependent on an exhausted Chasson Randle, could not keep up with the Flyers. The goal this year is for the points to be a bit more systematic, and that leads us to the next area of concern….

2. Depth: In Stanford’s exhibition this week, three of its players had to play over 35 minutes, including Travis in his first game! The good news for the Cardinal is that nine players got in the game. The bad news is that Coach Dawkins didn’t seem to trust anybody in the backcourt for very long. Considering how fatigue and lack of backcourt depth hurt the Cardinal at the end of last year, it is imperative for the coaches to develop the bench. One reliable backup per position group (lead guard, wing, post) and the Cardinal will be prepared for the rigors of league play. The question is, who is going to comprise that trio?

3. Life Without Defensive Security Blankets: Stanford was not a great defensive team last year, and if you watched them play, you know that Powell and Huestis covered up for a lot of team deficiencies. Stanford had some decent defensive performances, but to me it’s always a concern when you have to vacillate between zone and man defenses. Better to master one than split time being mediocre with two.

Like Stanford Football, the Cardinal hoops team goes into this year with an awful lot of variables. The return of Rosco Allen and Christian Sanders, the increased dependence on Stefan Nastic and the durability and readiness of the freshmen not named Reid Travis are unknowns until tip off. Despite the uncertainty, AD Bernard Muir leveled a clear and resonant sounding of expectations when he extended Coach Dawkins. It was clear that the Sweet Sixteen and Stanford’s finish to the season prompted Mr. Muir’s decision, but it should also be clear that this team has yet to have a regular season commensurate with its March run last spring. Here’s hoping that regular season of excellence and consistency starts tomorrow night.

The Wofford Terriers
2013-’14 W/L: 20-13
Conf. W/L: 11-5 (3rd)
Final Pomeroy Ranking: 182
2014-15 Preseason Pomeroy Ranking: 112
Adjusted ORtg (Points Per 100 Possessions): 100
Adjusted DRtg: 102
Adjusted Pace: 62 Possessions Per Game
Roster By Class: 3 Sr., 4 Jr., 4 So., 4 Fr.
Top 5 Minutes Returners: 5 (Skinner, Cochran, Collins, Garcia, Neumann)
Wofford qualified for the NCAA Tournament by winning the Southern Conference Tournament and lost in the round of 64 to No. 2 seed Michigan. They return all five starters.

The South Dakota Coyotes
2013-’14 W/L: 12-18
Conf. W/L: 6-8 (5th)
Final Pomeroy Ranking: 259
2014-15 Preseason Pomeroy Ranking: 262
Adjusted ORtg (Points Per 100 Possessions): 101
Adjusted DRtg: 109
Adjusted Pace: 67 Possessions Per Game
Roster By Class: 3 5th Year Sr., 3 Sr., 3 Jr., 3 So., 4 Fr.
Top 5 Minutes Returners: 3 (Bos, Flack, Thoseby)
South Dakota was terrible last year. They are expected to be terrible this year. They do feature a Canadian in Brandon Bos, so yeah. On paper, Wofford could give the Cardinal a decent game. If South Dakota gives Stanford a decent game, then oy.


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