Stanford's expected pair of banner non-conference opponents in the 2005-06 season were Gonzaga and Alabama. Both games hit speed bumps, with the game against the Zags nearly derailed before a recent save in cooperation with Cal. The Alabama game could not be revived after the SEC school pulled out of the November 26 Colorado Classic in Denver, leaving the Cardinal with one more non-conference game to schedule. Stanford talked to a wide range of schools under the difficult constraints of 1) late timing and 2) very narrow schedule windows. Keep in mind that the Cardinal do not play basketball for a two-week period in December while the student-athletes endure dead week and final exams. Also understand that the Pac-10 schedule nowadays tips off in December, pushed one week earlier by the Pac-10 Tournament. Other high-major conferences do not play 18 league games in addition to their conference tournament; the SEC, ACC, Big 10, Big 12 and Big East all play 16.
We expected, to be frank, that Stanford's final game would likely come against a weak opponent from a lower tier conference. Scheduling anything higher than that looked unrealistic with all the constraints and circumstances. However, the Cardinal coaches managed to work their way into the Las Vegas Showdown on December 17, with Stanford playing Virginia Tech from the ACC. The Hokies finished .500 in conference last year in their debut season in the ACC, notching wins against the likes of Duke and Georgia Tech. Virginia Tech's 8-8 ACC record matched that of Georgia Tech, and outpaced those of Maryland and North Carolina State.
The Virginia Tech game in Las Vegas will be broadcast on ESPN, as will the February 11 game at Gonzaga.
Some fans have already begun bemoaning the Cardinal's non-conference slate for the upcoming season, but they might want to remember some facts. One of the bigger determinants in the strength and sex appeal of a given year's schedule for Stanford is whether they play in one of the hallowed exemption tournaments. The Cardinal found several of their most interesting opponents last year in the Maui Invitational, but they are not allowed to play in such an event this year. NCAA rules only allow a school to play in an exemption event two out of every four years. The Cardinal played in Maui last year and the preseason NIT two years before that; thus, they must wait until the 2006-07 season for their next exemption event. Unless and until the NCAA legislates a change of that rule, it will continue that the strength of Stanford's non-conference schedule will regularly oscillate with the presence or absence of exemption tournaments.
Another marquee game on the Stanford schedule in many years is the Pete Newell Challenge, though the organizers for that event largely control who comes to play. The Cardinal have been fortunate to play Duke, Michigan State and Gonzaga in some years. This is a year where Princeton comes to Oakland, and the Tigers are several years removed from their banner days.
Many of the remaining games on this year's schedule were inflexible, fulfilling the back half of home-and-home contracts started last year. And last year's schedule was a difficult one to construct, given the unusual constraints of the Maples Pavilion renovation. This year's games against USF, Montana, UC-Davis and Denver were all rigid as a result. The game against UC-Irvine had to be played to finish a two-for-one contract with the Anteaters, after playing there in 2003-04 and at Stanford in 2002-03.
For those fans hungry for meatier non-conference opponents, you should be heartened by what we can already see that Trent Johnson is willing to do. Mike Montgomery by and large scheduled "name" opponents in neutral site events, which can be sporadic. The former Cardinal coach would not have played a home-and-home against Gonzaga, as Johnson has scheduled. Montgomery would not have played a two-year contract with Texas Tech, like Johnson has arranged for the 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons in Oakland and Dallas, respectively. Montgomery would not have called some of the high-major programs that the current staff called in recent weeks to fill the last game on the schedule. There is today reason for real optimism that Trent Johnson will give Stanford stronger schedules going forward than the program has played in the past.
All dates are subject to change; times are Pacific
(Changes since last schedule update)
|Nov. 5||Sonoma State||Stanford, Calif.||Exhibition|
|Nov. 12||Cal Poly Pomona||Stanford, Calif.||Exhibition; 1:00 pm|
|Nov. 19||UC-Irvine||Stanford, Calif.||Noon tip-off|
|Nov. 23||USF||Stanford, Calif.||5:00 pm|
|Nov. 28||Cal Poly S.L.O.||Stanford, Calif.|
|Dec. 2||@ Montana||Missoula, Mont.|
|Dec. 4||@ UC-Davis||Davis, Calif.||Last game before dead week/finals break|
|Dec. 17||Virginia Tech||Las Vegas, Nev.||Las Vegas Showdown; ESPN broadcast|
|Dec. 19||Denver||Stanford, Calif.||Moved from Dec. 18|
|Dec. 21||Princeton||Oakland, Calif.||9th annual Pete Newell Challenge|
|Dec. 29||@ UCLA||Los Angeles, Calif.||Pac-10 opener, UCLA on winter break|
|Dec. 31||@ USC||Los Angeles, Calif.|
|Jan. 5||Oregon State||Stanford, Calif.||Pac-10 home opener, students on campus|
|Jan. 7||Oregon||Stanford, Calif.|
|Jan. 13||Cal||Stanford, Calif.||Moved from Berkeley on Jan. 14|
|Jan. 19||@ Arizona||Tucson, Ariz.|
|Jan. 21||@ Arizona State||Tempe, Ariz.|
|Jan. 26||Washington State||Stanford, Calif.|
|Jan. 28||Washington||Stanford, Calif.|
|Feb. 2||@ Oregon||Eugene, Ore.|
|Feb. 4||@ Oregon State||Corvallis, Ore.|
|Feb. 9||@ Cal||Berkeley, Calif.||Moved from Maples to Haas|
|Feb. 11||@ Gonzaga||Spokane, Wash.||ESPN telecast plus College Gameday|
|Feb. 16||Arizona State||Stanford, Calif.|
|Feb. 18||Arizona||Stanford, Calif.|
|Feb. 23||@ Washington||Seattle, Wash.|
|Feb. 25||@ Washington State||Pullman, Wash.|
|Mar. 2||USC||Stanford, Calif.|
|Mar. 4||UCLA||Stanford, Calif.||Senior Day at Maples Pavilion|
|Mar. 9||Pac-10 Tournament||Los Angeles, Calif.|
|Mar. 16||NCAA Tournament||TBD||Card shoot for 12th straight Big Dance|
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