In the Greatest Spotlight, the Greatest Collapse

Many signs pointed to a hopeful game for Stanford in the NCAA second round against Kansas, but those dreams were shattered in a St. Louis minute as the Jayhawks rock chalk stomped the Card early and often. Some two agonizing hours later, the final tally stood at 86-63. Stanford's 2001-02 season has ended in carnage, encapsulating much of the tribulations prevalent throughout the year.

Anyone east of the Rockies who has ever witnessed Stanford play on television, must think Stanford's high rankings are a joke.  Every time the Cardinal play a crucial game which is being broadcast to most or all of the United States, they fail to impress.

And when Stanford played #1 seed Kansas in the second round of the NCAA tournament Saturday, it was no different.  Most Cardinalmaniacs™ believed that if a third player stepped up and Stanford found some more St. Louis magic, then perhaps they could pull off the upset.

Instead, Stanford got thoroughly trounced 86-63, and it wasn't even that close.  As soon as CBS had switched games, Kansas had jumped out to a 15-0 lead without starting guard Kirk Hinrich, who was sitting out with an ankle injury.  The reasons for the stumbling start?  Turnovers for one.  Secondly, it can be argued that Coach Mike Montgomery's unwillingness to call a time out adversely affected the team.  Stanford had spotted fifteen points to the number one seed before five minutes had elapsed.

It couldn't get much worse, right?  Wrong. Hinrich came into the game off the bench with 13:05 left in the first half, much to the surprise of the basketball world.  By then, Kansas led by a huge margin early and received a boost with the return of a key player.

From then on, it became a disaster.  With Tony Giovacchini failing to get penetration, Julius Barnes hobbling on a bad ankle, Justin Davis in foul trouble, and Curtis Borchardt being shut out on offense, there was little Stanford could do.  Kansas led comfortably 48-26 at the half and seemed en route to the sweet sixteen.

By the break, it was painfully obvious that there would be no magic left over from the 1998 miracle in St. Louis.  Kansas kept their starters in the game and stretched their lead to as much as 28 at 65-37 before finally showing the maligned Cardinal mercy.  Stanford would then actually outscore their opponent the rest of the way, as the Jayhawks led Stanford in second half scoring by only one point (38-37).

The game showed all of Stanford's weaknesses: lack of leadership, lack of a third scorer, too many turnovers, mediocre point guard play, and questionable game day coaching.  However, I will not go into further detail as all of these have been discussed and debated endlessly on the HoopsBoard.

The biggest question now is regarding the possible departures of Casey Jacobsen (24 points, 1 assist, 6 rebounds) and Curtis Borchardt (13 points, 1 assist, 11 rebounds).  If either or both decide to see what the NBA has in store for them, it could be a very long rebuilding season next year.  Hopefully, the two will stay and improve on this season's 20-10 record

One more year!

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