A mixed week for Stanford basketball

It was a tough loss in Provo, followed by a great win in Austin

Heartbreak in Provo, Cowboy Up in Austin Results: Lost at BYU, 79-77, and won at Texas, 74-71

After two ragged wins versus low-quality opponents, Stanford hit the road for a pair of legit tests. The Cardinal left town without a legit non-conference victory on its resume’, and a loss to DePaul that is looking worse as the season moves forward. After a Saturday night disappointment in Provo, the Cardinal stepped onto the Erwin Center floor in Austin and gutted out a very impressive win that stands as not just the Cardinal’s most impressive win of the season, but the best win of any Pac-12 team so far this year.

So what happened? In a sense, the games as a pair stand as a testament to idea that close games are pretty much toss-up affairs. One could have watched the final 30 seconds of each game and surmised that the difference was that in one game, Chasson Randle missed his final shot, and in the other, he made his final shot. True, but there were significant developments in both that had both short and potentially long term impacts on the Cardinal’s season and gave us a better idea of just what kind of team Stanford has moving forward.

School Pace eFG% TOV% ORB% FT/FGA ORtg
Stanford 65 .490 16.4 38 41 107
Stanford 65 .472 19 27 30 96


School Pace eFG% TOV% ORB% FT/FGA ORtg
Stanford 74.8 .530 16.6 34 .106 102.7
Brigham Young 74.8 .475 14 31.4 .344 105.3


School Pace eFG% TOV% ORB% FT/FGA ORtg
Stanford 60.1 .493 6.5 24.2 .119 108.8
texas 60.4 .500 14.8 30.8 .268 104.4

 The first thing that sticks out from Stanford’s Saturday in Provo is the pace. Stanford has established itself as a team that doesn’t really want to play at an elevated pace. It’s not an accident that in both of Stanford’s true road defeats, the pace of the game was above 70 possessions. This is a function of Stanford running the triangle, its commitment to feeding the very deliberate Stefan Nastic in the paint, and the fact that the Cardinal does not pressure the ball or extend its defense if it doesn’t have to and so doesn’t really look to run very often. The biggest contrast in the two games Stanford just played was Stanford’s turnovers. The Cardinal did a phenomenal job taking care of the ball against the Longhorns, and not so much against the Cougars. Consequently, Stanford went -9 in a loss to BYU and +8 in its huge victory against Texas. Don’t underestimate the role pace played in what essentially amounted to arguably the deciding factor in both games.

The biggest difference for Stanford when they leave Maples so far is their ability to generate points from the foul line. Of course one would expect teams to get fewer calls on the road, but that’s not enough to account for the massive contrast the Cardinal experiences when it leaves the friendly confines of its one third-filled student section. Against BYU, the Cardinal couldn’t get to the line and suffered a -14 deficit as a result. In Austin, Stanford continued to struggle to earn free throws, but did a better job defensively. They still ended up -9 in this category, though. Moving forward, it’s going to be difficult to win road (and postseason) games without the ability to generate points from the free throw line.

Finally, the boards are going to continue to be a huge issue. Yes, Stanford allowed Texas the edge in OReb percentage, but the Cardinal ended up a +6 in this category. Furthermore, Texas gets to the offensive glass at a 42% clip on the season, so for Stanford to hold them down to 30.8% is a testament to the grit and aggression with which it played. This was a significant factor in Provo as well, where the Cardinal allowed BYU to 31.4% of the possible offensive rebounds, and even though the Cardinal themselves attacked the offensive glass at a 34% rate they ended up -12 on 2nd chance points. Turnovers and rebounding both stand as significant indicators for Stanford as conference play starts in a week. Now let’s look at the our points of emphasis for the past two games.

What To Like

Brown and Randle, the Platinum Backcourt: : Both players were up and down in the two game homestand. Against BYU they were a combined 12-29, and the Cardinal fell. More relevant, Anthony Brown was not nearly as involved as he needs to be. Coming off a phenomenally efficient season last year, I advocated for more involvement for Anthony this year. On the year, he’s taking about 21% of his team’s shots. Against BYU, he took seven of Stanford’s 66 shots. For whatever reason, he just wasn’t involved in the offense. That all changed against Texas, and Christmas came early to Cardinal fans because of it. He took a far more active role on Tuesday night and had the game of his career. Combined, he and Randle poured in 47 points on 34 field goal attempts. They played 79 of a possible 90 minutes (more on that later), and looked every bit like one of the best wing tandems in the nation. Brown’s coast to coast three-point play and Randle’s step back jumper stand as enduring images from the Cardinal’s signature win, and more importantly indicated that when both play well, Stanford can play with elite teams (if the game is being played at a Cardinal-friendly pace.)

The Triangle Offense: Stanford continues to be a team led by its offense. Its efficiency (points per 100 possessions) now sits at 108.9, good for 30th in the nation. The team seemed to abandon the Triangle during both endgames, and got a bit stagnant and reliant on one-on-one or two-man actions. I’d argue that this is still the offense that Stanford wants to be playing, for no other reason that at a minimum it ensures spacing out on the floor. The inability to generate points at the foul line seems to be more of an indictment on shot selection, not necessarily the offense. Stanford assisted on 20 of its 32 buckets against BYU, but only 6 of its 29 field goals against Texas, more proof that the Triangle was abandoned against Texas. On nights when you have a guy go 4-4 from 3, you can get away with that. On poor shooting nights, however….

Reid Travis: This was a big week for the freshman. Against BYU, he had a great offensive game, going 7-11 from the field and looking very comfortable on a variety of shots. More crucially, though, he was the physical presence Stanford desperately needed against Texas. He grabbed 14 rebounds while only committing two fouls in 32 minutes. He grabbed one impressive offensive rebound and fought off four Longhorns, then dished to Anthony Brown for a huge three pointer. He held up against a very physical Texas front line, and looked like he’s ready to be the physical foundation Stanford will need during Pac-12 play. That his offense didn’t carry over from Provo doesn’t bother me too much at this point. If he hits the boards for double digits night in and night out, he’s doing his primary job for this year.

Concerns

Depth We got into some more Rotation Roulette on this road trip, but at this point I can live with it because of how many new players Stanford is attempting to integrate into the rotation. Dorian Pickens impressed against Loyola Marymount, then played only 14 total minutes on the road. I’d like to see more of him, but his fellow freshman Robert Cartwright continues his ascent to what I believe will be the starting point guard role before this season is over. Against Texas, he played 28 turnover-free minutes, and along with the use of Christian Sanders, it seems clear that the coaching staff wants very much to slide Chasson Randle to his natural wing position and bump Brown to the small forward. His stats are modest, but the fact that he played so cleanly while also being a tenacious and willing defender will hopefully earn him an increased role. It’s going to be necessary because Brown and Randle cannot continue to play as much as they have for the entire season. Hopefully as Cartwright and Rosco Allen round into shape, the minutes get a bit more evenly distributed and Randle and Brown can get the rest that they are going to need to have their legs at the end of the season.

Defense The Cardinal defense continues to struggle, at least relative to its offense. Certainly this was the case versus BYU. Against Texas, Stanford went into a zone defense and immediately gave up five points on two possessions. I still maintain that the team is going to have to commit to one defense, and that it’s ultimately going to be man. The arrival of Verhoeven should help the defense as well as protect against foul trouble. He won’t improve the lateral movement of the frontline, which is the number one reason why the team is not destined to be an effective zone squad. Against Texas, Stanford didn’t necessarily play well, but it played hard, and it didn’t give up on plays. The wings had active hands, and they were able to turn Texas over on a number of occasions where it initially seemed a player had been beat. We’re at the point where the cement is about dry on what kind of team Stanford’s going to be, so it’s unlikely we’re going to see drastic defensive improvement. Nevertheless, the increased usage of Cartwright means Brown goes from a “big” guard to a “quick” small forward, so laterally the Cardinal may reasonably expect some progress, especially if Pickens also receives more play moving forward.

I watched the BYU game and was increasingly frustrated at the poor rebounding and the lack of defense, and when the team went down 13 with four minutes after a Marx Brothers routine led to a BYU layup, I’d say the trip reached its nadir. However, I have to say I was really impressed with the heart and grit the team showed in not going away, and the fact that they had two legit shots to win or tie the game at the end when they had every reason to lie down and move on should serve them well. I’ve been as outspoken as anybody about the lack of quality coaching this team has received over the last seven years, but the game against BYU suggested that this team does have some fight.

Against Texas they overcame what could have been a crippling meltdown in regulation and then a quick deficit in overtime to earn the biggest regular season win of Coach Dawkins’ career. There is a long way to go, but as a fan I do enjoy watching this team play, and that Texas win was exhilarating. They had numerous chances to let Texas’ momentum sweep them out of the game. They had to stand up to a very physical team, on the road, and they did it. Anthony Brown and Randle rose up as the game wound down, and they played with the confidence that seniors should. Yes, the turnover by Brown at the end of regulation was devastating, but that was as much Rosco’s turnover as it was Anthony’s. Stanford heads into its final tune-up on Monday night, and then Pac-12 play is underway later that week against Washington State. It’s had some bumps, but so far, I’m really enjoying the ride.





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The Bootleg Top Stories

Follow\r\n@TheBootleg\r\n\r\n

Heartbreak in Provo, Cowboy Up in Austin\r\nResults: Lost at BYU, 79-77, and won at Texas, 74-71
\r\n

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After two ragged wins versus low-quality opponents, Stanford hit\r\nthe road for a pair of legit tests. The Cardinal left town without\r\na legit non-conference victory on its resume’, and a loss to\r\nDePaul that is looking worse as the season moves forward. After a\r\nSaturday night disappointment in Provo, the Cardinal stepped onto\r\nthe Erwin Center floor in Austin and gutted out a very impressive\r\nwin that stands as not just the Cardinal’s most impressive win of\r\nthe season, but the best win of any Pac-12 team so far this year.

\r\n

So what happened? In a sense, the games as a pair stand as a\r\ntestament to idea that close games are pretty much toss-up\r\naffairs. One could have watched the final 30 seconds of each game\r\nand surmised that the difference was that in one game, Chasson\r\nRandle missed his final shot, and in the other, he made his final\r\nshot. True, but there were significant developments in both that\r\nhad both short and potentially long term impacts on the Cardinal’s\r\nseason and gave us a better idea of just what kind of team\r\nStanford has moving forward.

\r\n

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\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n
SchoolPaceeFG%TOV%ORB%FT/FGAORtg
Stanford65.49016.43841107
Stanford65.47219273096
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\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n
SchoolPaceeFG%TOV%ORB%FT/FGAORtg
Stanford74.8.53016.634.106102.7
Brigham\r\nYoung74.8.4751431.4.344105.3
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\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n
SchoolPaceeFG%TOV%ORB%FT/FGAORtg
Stanford60.1.4936.524.2.119108.8
texas60.4.50014.830.8.268104.4
\r\n
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 The first thing that sticks out from Stanford’s\r\nSaturday in Provo is the pace. Stanford has established itself as\r\na team that doesn’t really want to play at an elevated pace. It’s\r\nnot an accident that in both of Stanford’s true road defeats, the\r\npace of the game was above 70 possessions. This is a function of\r\nStanford running the triangle, its commitment to feeding the very\r\ndeliberate Stefan Nastic in the paint, and the fact that the\r\nCardinal does not pressure the ball or extend its defense if it\r\ndoesn’t have to and so doesn’t really look to run very often. The\r\nbiggest contrast in the two games Stanford just played was\r\nStanford’s turnovers. The Cardinal did a phenomenal job taking\r\ncare of the ball against the Longhorns, and not so much against\r\nthe Cougars. Consequently, Stanford went -9 in a loss to BYU and\r\n+8 in its huge victory against Texas. Don’t underestimate the role\r\npace played in what essentially amounted to arguably the deciding\r\nfactor in both games.

\r\n

The biggest difference for Stanford when they leave Maples so\r\nfar is their ability to generate points from the foul line. Of\r\ncourse one would expect teams to get fewer calls on the road, but\r\nthat’s not enough to account for the massive contrast the Cardinal\r\nexperiences when it leaves the friendly confines of its one\r\nthird-filled student section. Against BYU, the Cardinal couldn’t\r\nget to the line and suffered a -14 deficit as a result. In Austin,\r\nStanford continued to struggle to earn free throws, but did a\r\nbetter job defensively. They still ended up -9 in this category,\r\nthough. Moving forward, it’s going to be difficult to win road\r\n(and postseason) games without the ability to generate points from\r\nthe free throw line.

\r\n

\r\nFinally, the boards are going to continue to be a huge issue. Yes,\r\nStanford allowed Texas the edge in OReb percentage, but the\r\nCardinal ended up a +6 in this category. Furthermore, Texas gets\r\nto the offensive glass at a 42% clip on the season, so for\r\nStanford to hold them down to 30.8% is a testament to the grit and\r\naggression with which it played. This was a significant factor in\r\nProvo as well, where the Cardinal allowed BYU to 31.4% of the\r\npossible offensive rebounds, and even though the Cardinal\r\nthemselves attacked the offensive glass at a 34% rate they ended\r\nup -12 on 2nd chance points. Turnovers and rebounding both stand\r\nas significant indicators for Stanford as conference play starts\r\nin a week. Now let’s look at the our points of emphasis for the\r\npast two games.

\r\n

What To Like

\r\n

\r\nBrown and Randle, the Platinum Backcourt: : Both players were up\r\nand down in the two game homestand. Against BYU they were a\r\ncombined 12-29, and the Cardinal fell. More relevant, Anthony\r\nBrown was not nearly as involved as he needs to be. Coming off a\r\nphenomenally efficient season last year, I advocated for more\r\ninvolvement for Anthony this year. On the year, he’s taking about\r\n21% of his team’s shots. Against BYU, he took seven of Stanford’s\r\n66 shots. For whatever reason, he just wasn’t involved in the\r\noffense. That all changed against Texas, and Christmas came early\r\nto Cardinal fans because of it. He took a far more active role on\r\nTuesday night and had the game of his career. Combined, he and\r\nRandle poured in 47 points on 34 field goal attempts. They played\r\n79 of a possible 90 minutes (more on that later), and looked every\r\nbit like one of the best wing tandems in the nation. Brown’s coast\r\nto coast three-point play and Randle’s step back jumper stand as\r\nenduring images from the Cardinal’s signature win, and more\r\nimportantly indicated that when both play well, Stanford can play\r\nwith elite teams (if the game is being played at a\r\nCardinal-friendly pace.)

\r\n

The Triangle Offense: Stanford continues to be a team led by its\r\noffense. Its efficiency (points per 100 possessions) now sits at\r\n108.9, good for 30th in the nation. The team seemed to abandon the\r\nTriangle during both endgames, and got a bit stagnant and reliant\r\non one-on-one or two-man actions. I’d argue that this is still the\r\noffense that Stanford wants to be playing, for no other reason\r\nthat at a minimum it ensures spacing out on the floor. The\r\ninability to generate points at the foul line seems to be more of\r\nan indictment on shot selection, not necessarily the offense.\r\nStanford assisted on 20 of its 32 buckets against BYU, but only 6\r\nof its 29 field goals against Texas, more proof that the Triangle\r\nwas abandoned against Texas. On nights when you have a guy go 4-4\r\nfrom 3, you can get away with that. On poor shooting nights,\r\nhowever….

\r\n

Reid Travis: This was a big week for the freshman. Against BYU,\r\nhe had a great offensive game, going 7-11 from the field and\r\nlooking very comfortable on a variety of shots. More crucially,\r\nthough, he was the physical presence Stanford desperately needed\r\nagainst Texas. He grabbed 14 rebounds while only committing two\r\nfouls in 32 minutes. He grabbed one impressive offensive rebound\r\nand fought off four Longhorns, then dished to Anthony Brown for a\r\nhuge three pointer. He held up against a very physical Texas front\r\nline, and looked like he’s ready to be the physical foundation\r\nStanford will need during Pac-12 play. That his offense didn’t\r\ncarry over from Provo doesn’t bother me too much at this point. If\r\nhe hits the boards for double digits night in and night out, he’s\r\ndoing his primary job for this year.

\r\n

Concerns

\r\n

Depth We got into some more Rotation Roulette on this road trip,\r\nbut at this point I can live with it because of how many new\r\nplayers Stanford is attempting to integrate into the rotation.\r\nDorian Pickens impressed against Loyola Marymount, then played\r\nonly 14 total minutes on the road. I’d like to see more of him,\r\nbut his fellow freshman Robert Cartwright continues his ascent to\r\nwhat I believe will be the starting point guard role before this\r\nseason is over. Against Texas, he played 28 turnover-free minutes,\r\nand along with the use of Christian Sanders, it seems clear that\r\nthe coaching staff wants very much to slide Chasson Randle to his\r\nnatural wing position and bump Brown to the small forward. His\r\nstats are modest, but the fact that he played so cleanly while\r\nalso being a tenacious and willing defender will hopefully earn\r\nhim an increased role. It’s going to be necessary because Brown\r\nand Randle cannot continue to play as much as they have for the\r\nentire season. Hopefully as Cartwright and Rosco Allen round into\r\nshape, the minutes get a bit more evenly distributed and Randle\r\nand Brown can get the rest that they are going to need to have\r\ntheir legs at the end of the season.

\r\n

Defense The Cardinal defense continues to struggle, at least\r\nrelative to its offense. Certainly this was the case versus BYU.\r\nAgainst Texas, Stanford went into a zone defense and immediately\r\ngave up five points on two possessions. I still maintain that the\r\nteam is going to have to commit to one defense, and that it’s\r\nultimately going to be man. The arrival of Verhoeven should help\r\nthe defense as well as protect against foul trouble. He won’t\r\nimprove the lateral movement of the frontline, which is the number\r\none reason why the team is not destined to be an effective zone\r\nsquad. Against Texas, Stanford didn’t necessarily play well, but\r\nit played hard, and it didn’t give up on plays. The wings had\r\nactive hands, and they were able to turn Texas over on a number of\r\noccasions where it initially seemed a player had been beat. We’re\r\nat the point where the cement is about dry on what kind of team\r\nStanford’s going to be, so it’s unlikely we’re going to see\r\ndrastic defensive improvement. Nevertheless, the increased usage\r\nof Cartwright means Brown goes from a “big” guard to a “quick”\r\nsmall forward, so laterally the Cardinal may reasonably expect\r\nsome progress, especially if Pickens also receives more play\r\nmoving forward.

\r\n

I watched the BYU game and was increasingly frustrated at the\r\npoor rebounding and the lack of defense, and when the team went\r\ndown 13 with four minutes after a Marx Brothers routine led to a\r\nBYU layup, I’d say the trip reached its nadir. However, I have to\r\nsay I was really impressed with the heart and grit the team showed\r\nin not going away, and the fact that they had two legit shots to\r\nwin or tie the game at the end when they had every reason to lie\r\ndown and move on should serve them well. I’ve been as outspoken as\r\nanybody about the lack of quality coaching this team has received\r\nover the last seven years, but the game against BYU suggested that\r\nthis team does have some fight.

\r\n

\r\nAgainst Texas they overcame what could have been a crippling\r\nmeltdown in regulation and then a quick deficit in overtime to\r\nearn the biggest regular season win of Coach Dawkins’ career.\r\nThere is a long way to go, but as a fan I do enjoy watching this\r\nteam play, and that Texas win was exhilarating. They had numerous\r\nchances to let Texas’ momentum sweep them out of the game. They\r\nhad to stand up to a very physical team, on the road, and they did\r\nit. Anthony Brown and Randle rose up as the game wound down, and\r\nthey played with the confidence that seniors should. Yes, the\r\nturnover by Brown at the end of regulation was devastating, but\r\nthat was as much Rosco’s turnover as it was Anthony’s. Stanford\r\nheads into its final tune-up on Monday night, and then Pac-12 play\r\nis underway later that week against Washington State. It’s had\r\nsome bumps, but so far, I’m really enjoying the ride.

\r\n

Tweet\r\n\r\n
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Are you fully subscribed to The\r\nBootleg? If not, then you are missing out\r\non\r\nall the top Cardinal coverage we provide daily on our\r\naward-winning website. Sign up today for the biggest and best\r\nin\r\nStanford sports coverage with TheBootleg.com\r\n(sign-up)!

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After two ragged wins versus low-quality opponents, Stanford hit the road for a pair of legit tests. The Cardinal left town without a legit non-conference victory on its resume’, and a loss to DePaul that is looking worse as the season moves forward. After a Saturday night disappointment in Provo, the Cardinal stepped onto the Erwin Center floor in Austin and gutted out a very impressive win that stands as not just the Cardinal’s most impressive win of the season, but the best win of any Pac-12 team so far this year.

So what happened? In a sense, the games as a pair stand as a testament to idea that close games are pretty much toss-up affairs. One could have watched the final 30 seconds of each game and surmised that the difference was that in one game, Chasson Randle missed his final shot, and in the other, he made his final shot. True, but there were significant developments in both that had both short and potentially long term impacts on the Cardinal’s season and gave us a better idea of just what kind of team Stanford has moving forward.

 The first thing that sticks out from Stanford’s Saturday in Provo is the pace. Stanford has established itself as a team that doesn’t really want to play at an elevated pace. It’s not an accident that in both of Stanford’s true road defeats, the pace of the game was above 70 possessions. This is a function of Stanford running the triangle, its commitment to feeding the very deliberate Stefan Nastic in the paint, and the fact that the Cardinal does not pressure the ball or extend its defense if it doesn’t have to and so doesn’t really look to run very often. The biggest contrast in the two games Stanford just played was Stanford’s turnovers. The Cardinal did a phenomenal job taking care of the ball against the Longhorns, and not so much against the Cougars. Consequently, Stanford went -9 in a loss to BYU and +8 in its huge victory against Texas. Don’t underestimate the role pace played in what essentially amounted to arguably the deciding factor in both games.

The biggest difference for Stanford when they leave Maples so far is their ability to generate points from the foul line. Of course one would expect teams to get fewer calls on the road, but that’s not enough to account for the massive contrast the Cardinal experiences when it leaves the friendly confines of its one third-filled student section. Against BYU, the Cardinal couldn’t get to the line and suffered a -14 deficit as a result. In Austin, Stanford continued to struggle to earn free throws, but did a better job defensively. They still ended up -9 in this category, though. Moving forward, it’s going to be difficult to win road (and postseason) games without the ability to generate points from the free throw line.

Finally, the boards are going to continue to be a huge issue. Yes, Stanford allowed Texas the edge in OReb percentage, but the Cardinal ended up a +6 in this category. Furthermore, Texas gets to the offensive glass at a 42% clip on the season, so for Stanford to hold them down to 30.8% is a testament to the grit and aggression with which it played. This was a significant factor in Provo as well, where the Cardinal allowed BYU to 31.4% of the possible offensive rebounds, and even though the Cardinal themselves attacked the offensive glass at a 34% rate they ended up -12 on 2nd chance points. Turnovers and rebounding both stand as significant indicators for Stanford as conference play starts in a week. Now let’s look at the our points of emphasis for the past two games.

Brown and Randle, the Platinum Backcourt: : Both players were up and down in the two game homestand. Against BYU they were a combined 12-29, and the Cardinal fell. More relevant, Anthony Brown was not nearly as involved as he needs to be. Coming off a phenomenally efficient season last year, I advocated for more involvement for Anthony this year. On the year, he’s taking about 21% of his team’s shots. Against BYU, he took seven of Stanford’s 66 shots. For whatever reason, he just wasn’t involved in the offense. That all changed against Texas, and Christmas came early to Cardinal fans because of it. He took a far more active role on Tuesday night and had the game of his career. Combined, he and Randle poured in 47 points on 34 field goal attempts. They played 79 of a possible 90 minutes (more on that later), and looked every bit like one of the best wing tandems in the nation. Brown’s coast to coast three-point play and Randle’s step back jumper stand as enduring images from the Cardinal’s signature win, and more importantly indicated that when both play well, Stanford can play with elite teams (if the game is being played at a Cardinal-friendly pace.)

The Triangle Offense: Stanford continues to be a team led by its offense. Its efficiency (points per 100 possessions) now sits at 108.9, good for 30th in the nation. The team seemed to abandon the Triangle during both endgames, and got a bit stagnant and reliant on one-on-one or two-man actions. I’d argue that this is still the offense that Stanford wants to be playing, for no other reason that at a minimum it ensures spacing out on the floor. The inability to generate points at the foul line seems to be more of an indictment on shot selection, not necessarily the offense. Stanford assisted on 20 of its 32 buckets against BYU, but only 6 of its 29 field goals against Texas, more proof that the Triangle was abandoned against Texas. On nights when you have a guy go 4-4 from 3, you can get away with that. On poor shooting nights, however….

Reid Travis: This was a big week for the freshman. Against BYU, he had a great offensive game, going 7-11 from the field and looking very comfortable on a variety of shots. More crucially, though, he was the physical presence Stanford desperately needed against Texas. He grabbed 14 rebounds while only committing two fouls in 32 minutes. He grabbed one impressive offensive rebound and fought off four Longhorns, then dished to Anthony Brown for a huge three pointer. He held up against a very physical Texas front line, and looked like he’s ready to be the physical foundation Stanford will need during Pac-12 play. That his offense didn’t carry over from Provo doesn’t bother me too much at this point. If he hits the boards for double digits night in and night out, he’s doing his primary job for this year.

Depth We got into some more Rotation Roulette on this road trip, but at this point I can live with it because of how many new players Stanford is attempting to integrate into the rotation. Dorian Pickens impressed against Loyola Marymount, then played only 14 total minutes on the road. I’d like to see more of him, but his fellow freshman Robert Cartwright continues his ascent to what I believe will be the starting point guard role before this season is over. Against Texas, he played 28 turnover-free minutes, and along with the use of Christian Sanders, it seems clear that the coaching staff wants very much to slide Chasson Randle to his natural wing position and bump Brown to the small forward. His stats are modest, but the fact that he played so cleanly while also being a tenacious and willing defender will hopefully earn him an increased role. It’s going to be necessary because Brown and Randle cannot continue to play as much as they have for the entire season. Hopefully as Cartwright and Rosco Allen round into shape, the minutes get a bit more evenly distributed and Randle and Brown can get the rest that they are going to need to have their legs at the end of the season.

Defense The Cardinal defense continues to struggle, at least relative to its offense. Certainly this was the case versus BYU. Against Texas, Stanford went into a zone defense and immediately gave up five points on two possessions. I still maintain that the team is going to have to commit to one defense, and that it’s ultimately going to be man. The arrival of Verhoeven should help the defense as well as protect against foul trouble. He won’t improve the lateral movement of the frontline, which is the number one reason why the team is not destined to be an effective zone squad. Against Texas, Stanford didn’t necessarily play well, but it played hard, and it didn’t give up on plays. The wings had active hands, and they were able to turn Texas over on a number of occasions where it initially seemed a player had been beat. We’re at the point where the cement is about dry on what kind of team Stanford’s going to be, so it’s unlikely we’re going to see drastic defensive improvement. Nevertheless, the increased usage of Cartwright means Brown goes from a “big” guard to a “quick” small forward, so laterally the Cardinal may reasonably expect some progress, especially if Pickens also receives more play moving forward.

I watched the BYU game and was increasingly frustrated at the poor rebounding and the lack of defense, and when the team went down 13 with four minutes after a Marx Brothers routine led to a BYU layup, I’d say the trip reached its nadir. However, I have to say I was really impressed with the heart and grit the team showed in not going away, and the fact that they had two legit shots to win or tie the game at the end when they had every reason to lie down and move on should serve them well. I’ve been as outspoken as anybody about the lack of quality coaching this team has received over the last seven years, but the game against BYU suggested that this team does have some fight.

Against Texas they overcame what could have been a crippling meltdown in regulation and then a quick deficit in overtime to earn the biggest regular season win of Coach Dawkins’ career. There is a long way to go, but as a fan I do enjoy watching this team play, and that Texas win was exhilarating. They had numerous chances to let Texas’ momentum sweep them out of the game. They had to stand up to a very physical team, on the road, and they did it. Anthony Brown and Randle rose up as the game wound down, and they played with the confidence that seniors should. Yes, the turnover by Brown at the end of regulation was devastating, but that was as much Rosco’s turnover as it was Anthony’s. Stanford heads into its final tune-up on Monday night, and then Pac-12 play is underway later that week against Washington State. It’s had some bumps, but so far, I’m really enjoying the ride.

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