It wasn’t necessarily the ideal first year for Jerod Haase as the head coach at Stanford, but it could have been much worse. The Cardinal’s win total only dropped one game from the year before, which is impressive considering that it was the program’s first new head coach in 8 years.
What was disappointing however, was Stanford’s conference record. While it was a middling team overall, Stanford finished 9th in the Pac-12 with a 6-12 record against conference opponents. Another glaring issue was the lack of wins away from home. A 10-5 home record is solid, but going 1-10 in true away games is unacceptable for a team to even have a chance to compete.
Despite these challenges, Stanford has a lot of reason to be optimistic going into 2018. Probably the biggest of these reasons is that star power forward Reid Travis elected to return. Travis has improved his numbers in each year of his career, and there’s no reason to think that should stop this season. Stanford fans are also happy that Travis was granted an extra year of eligibility after being injured for the majority of the 2015-16 season. Travis could potentially play one more year after this one, which is a real possibility if he likes the progress of the team.
Last year, Stanford did not really suffer from injuries. The team’s top 9 players all played in at least 27 games. There’s a lot of luck there, but it did not spare Stanford from a lack of depth. The Cardinal only had two double-digit scorers in Reid Travis and Dorian Pickens, and there wasn’t a single player who averaged more than 3.5 assists per game. Next year, Stanford will not have these problems, as the Cardinal finished with the 13th best recruiting class in the nation according to 247sports.
The 3rd best recruiting class in the Pac-12 includes two wings in Daejon Davis and Kezie Okpala who are top 50 overall recruits. Another rotation player will be Oscar Da Silva, who was rated as the 35th best power forward in the nation. Stanford will have plenty of freshmen who will be ready to take some of the load off of Travis and Pickens.
Stanford will have multiple opportunities to prove themselves as an improved team next season. First, the team will host the defending national champion North Carolina Tar Heels on November 20th in the first year of a home and home. North Carolina won’t be the team it was last year, making room for a potential upset, but that doesn’t mean it will be an easy match-up for the Cardinal. Shortly after, Stanford travels to Portland to compete the Phil Knight Invitational. PK80 is being regarded as maybe the biggest regular season tournament ever, so all eyes will be on Stanford no matter who it plays.
Stanford has the potential to be a surprise team in the Pac-12 next season. This isn’t to say that the team will be at the top of the Pac-12. There are three, maybe four teams that will finish ahead, but Stanford will make a run at the NCAA Tournament. Reid Travis has developed into one of the best players in the Pac-12 and now that he has a supporting cast, the Cardinal will be a tough opponent night in and night out. Haase is building something special, and he will have his group ready to make the tournament for the first time in four years.