Stanford Cardinal Basketball Preview: Chasson Margins

I put a lot of credence in what Dan Hanner writes at RealGM. In his Pac-12 preview, he told us that Johnny Dawkins might have accumulated his best lineup yet (I kinda disagree) and that:

Dawkins actually has the worst track record of developing players on offense.

So if I’m piecing this together, then I’m noting that the Card lose two starters who were NBA draft picks including an All-Defense performer from the second best defensive team Dawkins has ever coached as well as their second leading scorer and is replacing them with two freshmen whom Dawkins will presumably struggle to teach offense? I like the roster, I’m just expecting a lot of…variance. Maybe that’s why Hanner notes that Dawkins has never finished better than 36th in scoring margin. F*cking math.

Why I Love Them:

I love the makeup of their roster. They’ve got a little bit of everything and Anthony Brown might wind up being your favorite player in the conference by season’s end. A lot of CJ Wilcox in that kid. Furthermore, I love senior guards and what’s Chasson Randle? A SENIOR GUARD! And I’m going to toss this in there: I love that they made the Sweet 16 and then lost some core players. No longer do we have Dwight Powell answering that the team will be thinking about things differently. I appreciated his articulation of the team’s mental state, but actions speak louder than words and banners speak the loudest. There is now a banner with “2014 Sweet 16” in Maples. Maybe everyone on The Farm just needed to see that they could do it? Plus, some people are really high on Reid Travis. Or is it Travis Reid? Whatever, I’m going to struggle with that all season.

Why I Hate Them:

I’m a pessimist when it comes to the Card. I’m sorry. I’m sorry I’m not sorry. A semblance of continuity would help to change my tone. But honestly, there’s not a ton to tangibly hate here. Hanner and my man James are right: this is a great lineup. Perhaps the most talented Johnny D has ever acquired. Nastic is big and can play big. Randle is the POY front-runner. It’s hard to hate. But it’s also hard to ignore the fact that they’ve rarely lived up to expectations. I’ve previously used the word ‘variance.’ It’s right about fitting. We don’t know what to expect and this team is youthful.

The Stat You Must Know:

Scoring Margin

I’d mentioned this previously when noting that Stanford, under Johnny Dawkins, has never ranked better than 36th in this arena. What does it mean? Let’s take last season, for example. Arguably Dawkins’ best team, finished 75th in scoring margin. That ranks approximately in the top-quarter of NCAA teams. Whatever. Basically, a close win and a close loss mean about the same thing. Luck is certainly involved in sport and the right bounce here or there (see: Utah @ Stanford, 3/8 when the Utes drew up a play for Delon Wright to dribble the ball off himself with seconds remaining and down a point). That game easily could have resulted in a Cardinal loss. So too could their overtime win at USC or their two-point wins in Eugene and at UConn (the eventually national f*cking champion). That’s another three losses and 18-15 heading into Selection Sunday sounds a lot different than 21-12 (which they were). Of course the converse holds true: close losses could’ve been wins. Hopefully, however, you’re getting my point. Because when it comes to predicting outcomes, margin of victory is closely considered. It suggests a team most certainly did defeat their opponent. That luck played perhaps only a minor factor. In Johnny Dawkins’ historical case, it seems that more often than not, the Cardinal are allowing teams that probably shouldn’t hang around, to hang around. This lends itself to bad luck, to losing. Dawkins hasn’t lost much, but he’s lost enough that just a season ago he was on the hot seat. Statistically speaking,  we don’t really have a good grasp of what to expect.

Top 5 Most Frustrating Things in Sports

  1. Double fault
  2. Gutter ball
  3. Four pitch walk
  4. Slice into the desert/forest/water
  5. Your team

Mountain High (best possible season):

This schedule has the look of “We know we’re going to be good in 2014-15 so let’s load up a little.” The Cardinal get a chance to swing at Duke in Brooklyn. Maybe they don’t win but we see some fight. They avenge that BYU thing that happened in Maples last year (103-112?) and then they just Chasson (yes, it’ll be a verb by March) all over Ricky Barnes’ once again overrated Longhorns (Aside: even if you don’t think they’re overrated, by season’s end, you’ll agree). They handle their business in the Pac-12, winning when they should and not doing things like losing to Oregon State or at home to Colorado. They act like – I dunno – they’ve been to a Sweet 16 and that’s the sort of program they’re going to be. They wind up back in the dance. And short of the Sweet 16.

Rock Bottom (worst possible season):

My senior sweetheart, Chasson, becomes more of a blackhole than leading scorer. He takes some exorbitant amount of the shots that we can’t even call the Lion’s share. It’s Stanford so we’ll call it the Snapchat Valuation share of shots (translation: absurd amount). And then the Cardinal just sort of disappears, like a Snapchat. A vague memory of something that was good for a hot second and then gone. But Johnny Dawkins got an extension so he sticks around.

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