Card Restart Slate vs. Denver Pioneers

It’s still too early to draw grand conclusions about Stanford men’s hoops, but the sample size starts to get bigger on Saturday. First up: Denver at 3 p.m. Saturday.

Finals week is over. But the tests for Stanford men’s basketball continue as the Cardinal ramp up towards Pac-12 play. On Saturday, Stanford (4-2) hits the court for a 3 p.m. tipoff against Denver (4-4), marking the Card’s first game in 13 days.

The high point for Stanford’s start was an 89-60 dissection of UNLV at a neutral site and—more importantly—on national television. Since, however, the Cardinal have dropped two of three games. Fourth-ranked Duke dealt Stanford a 70-59 loss, and DePaul spoiled Chasson Randle’s return to his home state, running away and holding off the Cardinal with an 87-72 win.

Spoiled homecoming aside, Randle has been off to an effective start this season. The senior guard leads Stanford with just under 18 points per game, including a 23-point night against South Dakota. In front of nearly 200 friends and family members who made the trip from Rock Island, Illinois, Randle put up 16 points on DePaul and dished six assists, a season high.

Alas, Randle also committed seven turnovers against the Blue Demons, also a season high. His assist-to-turnover ratio for the season is currently underwater at 17 to 21. Valuing the basketball was a point of emphasis for Cardinal head coach Johnny Dawkins immediately after the DePaul loss, and Randle will shoulder much of the load in helping the team improve in that area.

Though Randle may draw the most eyes, Stanford’s youth are also under the microscope this season. Freshman forward Reid Travis has already turned heads with his abilities to score in the low post, rebound, defend, and do the dirty work that usually results in victory. But, as can be expected with young players, consistency in all phases isn’t a given. Against Duke, Travis grabbed 12 rebounds, but shot just 1-for-7 from the floor, finishing with a mere two points.

Meanwhile, seniors Stefan Nastic and Anthony Brown have been steady. Nastic is averaging over 15 points per game and leads the team in assists, while Brown has a team-best 8.2 rebounds per game.

As Stanford retakes the floor, they will do so against a familiar non-conference opponent. The Denver Pioneers appear on the Cardinal’s schedule for the third straight season, and for the 12th time overall. Last year, Randle torched the Pioneers with 29 points, and Stanford won 66-57 in the Mile High City.

Picked to finish second in the Summit League, Denver is coming off a 65-55 loss to No. 23 Northern Iowa, marking its second loss in three games. Senior guard Cam Griffin leads the Pioneers with 13.6 points and 5.8 rebounds per game, and 14 steals on the season. Griffin has reached double figures in seven of his team's games. Senior guard Scott Olson and junior guard Nate Engesser get top billing of Griffin’s supporting cast.

The Pioneers have yet to be involved in a nailbiter, with their contests decided by an average of 18.8 points. Few things would thrill Denver more than to reverse that trend against Stanford, keep it close against the Cardinal, and perhaps earn their first win over a Big Five conference team since 2000.

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