There was widespread consensus that the Stanford Cardinal basketball team could be a dark horse to get into the mix for a potential tournament bid. No one expected them to be one of the co-favorites to win the conference, but after some solid victories against Oklahoma State and NC State (plus a close loss to one of the top teams in the country in Syracuse), the Cardinal might have the best OOC resume against them all.
That resume statement should tell you a lot about how awesome the Pac-12 is this season (well, it's not awesome at all).
I talked with Scott Allen of Rule of Tree about his team in a cogent, professional, and interesting fashion.
Your team looks good. They look gooood.
Scott: Haha, they do, and the Pac-12 looks terrible. I think Stanford looked the best against Syracuse. I've seen 5 or 6 games online and 1 in person. The offense has a tendency to go ice cold during stretches, but at least this year they have a PG who can take over when that happens.
It looks like Aaron Bright has made some major improvements. What's he gotten better at and what does he still need to fix up?
Scott: He must've shot a ton of 3s in the offseason, but he's been much more accurate from outside. He might've lost confidence last year after getting off to such a horrible start in conference play. He's been fairly consistent but he's still susceptible to having a cold night. He's one of the few good FT shooters on the team, so I'd like to see him penetrate more than he does.
Does Johnny Dawkins like to go small a lot? It seems he likes to play Bright and Chasson Randle together.
Scott: Yeah, I haven't gotten a great read on the rotation yet, but he isn't afraid to go guard heavy. He's played a lot of guys in the nonconference portion of the season, but I suspect the rotation might thin out once Pac-12 play starts.
Powell has struggled a lot more than I thought he would. It looks like Dawkins is relying on Josh Heustis to try and be the big banger down low.
Scott: Yeah, outside of Bright, I think Huestis has made the most strides since last year. He showed flashes in limited action last season and we've long heard about how athletic he is, but Powell had all the hype coming in. Huestis has tripled his rebounding totals in double the minutes from last year to this year. The offense may come, but right now he's doing exactly what Dawkins is asking of him.
I admit, when I took a look at the conference this offseason, I didn't think Chasson Randle would factor much into any equations, but he might be a big X-factor in conference play. Describe his game.
Scott: Yeah, Randle really hit the ground running and has been a solid contributor for the start. After watching the team struggle mightily to score last season when Jeremy Green wasn't going off, I was looking forward to watching Randle throw alley-oops to Powell and Owens this season. I expected him to be more of a distributor than a scorer, but that hasn't been the case thus far. He's quick, strong, and fearless, which makes him the best penetrator on the team. His outside shot is improving, but he's at his best when he's knifing into the lane and getting to the free throw line.
His decision-making needs to improve -- he's currently averaging more turnovers than assists -- but I expect it will. Sometimes he plays too fast for his own good.
Josh Owens appears to be your main go-to guy, although Anthony Brown also takes a fair amount of shots. How confident are you in their one-on-one games?
Scott: Owens' one-on-one game isn't flashy, but he's as steady as they come when he can stay out of foul trouble. He gets in great position for high percentage shots and remains one of the most efficient scorers in the conference. If only he was a better free throw shooter...On the surface, Brown has been a bit of a disappointment as a sophomore, but Dawkins revealed that he was battling a knee injury in the early part of the season and he's played better in recent weeks. Brown has one of the better one-on-one games on the team, something he showed on occasion last year. With Green gone, I expected Brown to be one of the main guys who helped pick up the scoring slack. If he's fully healthy, I expect he's the guy who could be poised to make the biggest jump offensively once Pac-12 play begins.