The 2008-2009 campaign begins tomorrow night with the Cardinal visiting the Bulldogs of Yale.
To say the least, this year's squad will be like nothing we have seen in recent history. This is due largely to the "run and gun" system implemented by the new Anna and Tony Joseph Director of Men's Basketball, Coach Johnny Dawkins. Under the new system, the Cardinal will move away from their traditional post-dominated game to a quicker and more open offense.
The timing of this new system could not be better as the 2008-2009 Cardinal are expected to be severely limited in the frontcourt. This is not to say that players like Josh Owens, Will Paul, Elliott Bullock, and Jack Trotter will not contribute. In fact, Josh Owens is expected by many to have one of the better "break-out" seasons in the conference.
Where the Cardinal will excel is in their guard play. Stanford brings back senior starters Mitch Johnson, Lawrence Hill, and Anthony Goods, along with key contributors Landry Fields, Drew Schiller and "Downtown" Kenny Brown. They, along with newcomers Jeremy Green and Jarrett Mann, will provide much of the firepower for the new Stanford offense. The system is likely to be so physically demanding that Da'Veed Dildy and junior walk-on Emmanuel Igbinosa could see meaningful minutes.
Tomorrow night's game will mark the first time since 2001 that the Cardinal have taken to the road to open up their season. Last year, Stanford played host to Yale in a game that ended much closer than expected with the "Good Guys" winning 72-61.
Yale loses four players from last year's squad who, over their careers, combined to start 256 games and score nearly 3,000 points. They do however return two players who could give the Cardinal some problems: second team All-Ivy League selections Ross Morin and Travis Pinick. Combined, the two averaged over 20 points and 10 rebounds per contest last season. Stanford should expect both to see increased roles in the Bulldogs' offense. Keeping them under control will be crucial in coming out of New Haven with a victory.
Tomorrow night will not only be the beginning of a new season but a new era for Stanford. As such, some jitters and missteps are to be expected. It will be up to Coach Dawkins to manage his players and keep the hot shooters in the game.
Stanford's starting lineup for this game should reflect what was seen during the exhibition games with Mitch Johnson, Landry Fields, Anthony Goods, Lawrence Hill, and Josh Owens taking the floor to begin the contest. Brown and Dildy should be the first players off the bench, followed by Shiller and the freshmen guard duo of Green and Mann. Look for the Cardinal to play feisty defense and get out on as many fast breaks as possible.
Due to Yale's limited talent, it is entirely possible Stanford wins this game merely by its superior guard play. Fans should keep a watchful eye on the play of Josh Owens. His ability (or inability) to defend the post and stay out of foul trouble will, perhaps, be the single greatest factor in determining how well the Cardinal do not only tomorrow night, but over the entire season.
Go Cardinal! Start this season off right!
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