Can next season just start now, please?
Stanford basketball’s NIT title, courtesy of a 75-51 drubbing over Minnesota,
didn’t bring that exhilarating championship buzz with it. It didn’t bring the
sense of closure expected from winning a season-ending tournament,
It did, however, infuse happiness and optimism into Maples
Pavilion moving forward. That’s what happens when a team kicks open a door to a
Bright future (pun intended). For a program mired in mediocrity for a handful of
seasons, that much alone means the world. The Cardinal handled the NIT with
class, and they were rewarded for their diligence.
postseason, the program had seen rosier times, but Johnny Dawkins’ squad didn’t
big-time the tournament. Quite frankly, they had no right to do so given recent
struggles. But, they could have followed the poor example Arizona set: the
Wildcats lost to Bucknell by double digits in the first round.
Cardinal could have taken that bitter path through a bracket known for
consolation prizes and half-empty arenas. Instead, they earned a
program-defining springboard into next season. They solved the softness and
inconsistency issues that had dogged them throughout the conference schedule.
They finally developed an identity - it turns Ray Lewis’ killer instinct does
rub off on others. They fortified their freshman and sophomore core for the
arrivals of prized recruits Grant Verhoeven and Roscoe Allen.
outworked Cleveland State, outlasted high-octane Illinois State, thrashed
Nevada, clenched their teeth by UMass, and took a bow after absolutely
As a result, there’s a lingering thirst for more.
Alas, Stanford basketball will have to wait until Fall to
play an actual game again, but at least that will give the roster time to make
the next quantum leap forward. That involves adding muscle to the still skeletal
frames of Dwight Powell and Anthony Brown. Given how well those two swing
players performed in the NIT, imagine how dominant they will be with at least 15
more pounds of beef entering next season.
Increased physical strength
across the lineup should be Stanford’s primary focus over the offseason, and
it’s expected that much of that growth should happen naturally with the core of
the lineup transitioning into its upperclassmen years.
foundations, though, are now strong. Dawkins’ defense suffocated the Golden
Gophers Thursday night and created 22 turnovers (12 off steals). The Cardinal
blistered Minnesota in its crisp transition game. Their half-court inside-out
attack was precise and balanced, as Aaron Bright, Chasson Randle, and Brown
plowed ahead with double digits. Again, Stanford battered its opposition on the
boards, this time to a 36-29 advantage. Oh, and they shot free throws at a 73
percent clip, too.
It was an impressive win at Madison Square Garden, but
it was not the end. Sure, it’s good that the Cardinal gave their seniors
(particularly Josh Owens) a grand exit, but for all intents and purposes, the
maturation on full display in New York City was only the beginning of a fun ride
for Stanford basketball.
With the NIT out of the way, the only acceptable
goal for the 2012-2013 squad will be comfortable entry into the NCAA Tournament.
And if that happens, all of the Cardinal’s major revenue sports will be playing
at an elite level. Between both men’s and women’s basketball, football, and
baseball, a heyday in Stanford sports may be on the horizon. Stay tuned.
Are you fully subscribed to The Bootleg?
If not, then you are missing out on all the top Cardinal coverage we provide
daily on our award-winning website. Sign up today for the biggest and best in Stanford sports coverage
with TheBootleg.com (sign-up)!