Obviously in the words below I’ll dive into these Cardinal but I’d like to begin with Maples Pavilion. I grew up watching the backboards sway and the floors bounce. We’d turn down the TV volume as Arthur Lee’s Cardinal became Jason Terry’s daddy. We’ve seen Tiger act-a-fan court side (hated it but appreciated it). It’s an intimate venue and an easy place to catch a game. It should be every bit of the 3.5 point home court advantage and then some. Currently, however, it is not. The team hasn’t won at Monty levels in awhile and hasn’t been subsequently supported. It’s a shame because – living in the Bay Area – I want to see some rowdy. Do I really have to head to USF for Gonzaga’s visit?
Why I love them: Dwight Powell, Josh Huestis, Anthony Brown, Stefan Nastic, John Gage, and Aaron Bright. That was Johnny Dawkins’ 2010 recruiting class and every single one of them is on this team. “There’s unfinished business,” Dwight Powell says. You’re darn right there is and that’s coming out of a senior who just may be feeling the urgency of his imminent graduation. But boy do I love seniors and boy do I love seniors that are supported by a junior, Chasson Randle. This team has talent at every position and has the quintessential PG to run a Stanford basketball team. Then there’s the whole do-it-for-Andy storyline where these guys have a teammate, Andy Brown, who will be sorely missed from this team. This off-season he suffered his fourth ACL tear, ending his Cardinal career. He’s no longer on the team but promises to be he’ll continue to be a part of the team. Powerful stuff.
Why I hate them: They ain’t done shit! As stated, this is one helluva crew and I love their makeup and the things they appear to be capable of. But that aforementioned senior class is just 26-28 in Pac-12 play with two NIT appearances (I will begrudge them a 2012 NIT championship but will also note they closed their season 5-8 to “earn” that un-invitational). College basketball is a dance recital and the Cards haven’t been dancing. Not since 2008 when there were two guys who looked alike who you might’ve heard of (Hi, Brook! Hi, Robin!). Maybe that’s why they signed Marcus and Malcolm Allen? No, shared DNA ain’t fixing this. And I’m not entirely sure I’m buying what Johnny Dawkins and Powell were telling us about what’s different for this team, “We’re thinking differently.” What does that even mean? The team did go through NAVY Seal training (see below) and have tested and pushed themselves in ways they supposedly have not before. I applaud that. I understand and appreciate culture shifts. I actually talked to a close friend who is a Red Sox fan about John Farrell’s work in Boston. He’s taken a dumpster fire and last place team with seven free agents to the World Series and baseball’s best record. Shifts are possible. But that also included a leadership change and that’s a path I never like to head down. I’m selling the “change of thinking” thing and buying – speculatively – the urgency of seniority.
Stat you need to know:
That is the usage percentage returning to Maples this season. Compare that to the next most in Pac-12: Colorado’s 69%. Frankly, I’ve already gone in on this whole what-will-they-do-with-all-that-returning-skill thing so I’ll just say remind you they’re returning a 9-9 team.
Marcus is the scorer and Malcolm the passer from what I recall. Marcus is certainly more highly touted but I’m not sure they’ll be the major factors. It’s really a do-or-die year for the Card. They’re going to be tested early with Bucknell, BYU, Northwestern, a trip to Denver and UCONN. They’ll take on Beilein’s Wolverines in Brooklyn and could draw Pitt there as well in the Legends Classic. They haven’t proven yet they can close a team out. I can’t count the number of ways these guys lost games last year: Powell missing a DUNK down two at USC; Powell not knowing the clock and making the game tying layup after the buzzer; Randle fouling beyond mid-court with less than a second left in a tie ball game. Do they haveit? I don’t know. But I want to see them in the Dance.
“”I just want to thank all of my teammates.”
– Andy Brown
Outlook: I want desperately to say I like this team’s prospects but they return that 9-9 team that underwhelmed me season long (except when I saw them demolish Oregon). Have I mentioned that? Everyone else across the conference is rolling out rosters that make the Cardinal an afterthought. I keep thinking about them and I can’t imagine three guys named Allen (Marcus, Malcolm, and Rosco) making a tournament changing impact. Which means that if we’re going to believe in these Cardinal, well we have to believe something different; the same approach Dawkins and team are taking. I’m all for mental fortitude I just don’t know if you can force it. I’ve seen my fair share of players asked to be leaders and get handed the How to Lead for Dummies book. That usually turns into a disingenuous, untrusted teammate. These aren’t bad guys. Just guys who are asked to be something they’re not (perhaps reference: Lyons, Mark). But I’ll tell you what, if any school was going to be clever enough to figure this stuff out…