CardinalSportsReport – What can Stanford MBB learn from the 2014 tournament

Stanford men’s basketball is looking to get back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2014. Right now, the Cardinal are 2-2 and will play in a three-game tournament in Orlando, Florida over Thanksgiving weekend. After a disappointing 74-62 home loss to San Diego State, they bounced back with a decisive 80-43 victory over Cal Poly at home before heading to the Sunshine State. In this article, I would like to address what this current Stanford team can learn from the 2013-14 team and what similarities/differences there are between the two teams.

When looking back on the 2013-14 team, the biggest thing they had going for them was sound guard play. Junior guard Chasson Randle was an excellent floor general, averaging 18.8 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 1.0 steals per game. He was a terrific leader and really provided a calming presence in the back court. His scoring was terrific and he was a guy who Stanford knew they could count on if they needed a bucket, shooting 47.4% from the field, 38.9% from 3-point range, and 76.7% from the foul line.

In addition to having good guard play, that team also had a good post-presence in senior forward Dwight Powell, who averaged 14.0 points and 6.9 rebounds. That combination of having a go-to player in the back court and a go-to player in the post was really nice. Like Randle, Powell was a guy who Stanford could trust to make plays inside. He was a smart player and had a really high IQ, leading the team with 3.1 assists per game.

On top of that, Stanford had two other players scoring in double figures in redshirt junior guard/forward Anthony Brown (12.3 points & 5.0 rebounds on 45.3% shooting from 3-point range) and senior forward Josh Huestis (11.2 points & 8.2 rebounds). There was a nice blend of scoring balance with Randle leading the way and three other guys who were all comfortably in double figures. That made them a difficult team to guard.

The 2013-14 squad never was ranked at any point of the season, but they did win over 20 games, going 23-13 if you include the Pac-12 and NCAA tournaments. If you take out post-season play, they went 19-11 overall and 10-8 in the Pac-12. This was good enough for a #10 seed in the NCAA tournament. In the tournament, they knocked off #7 seed New Mexico 58-53 in the Round of 64 and #2 seed Kansas 60-57 in the Round of 32. In the Sweet Sixteen, they fell to #11 Dayton 82-72. Considering they were a #10 seed, that’s a pretty good run.

As far as signature wins are concerned, Stanford defeated three ranked teams: #10 Connecticut 53-51 on the road in December, #17 Oregon 82-80 on the road in January, and #23 UCLA 83-74 at home in February. They also had a close 60-57 home loss to #1 Arizona.

Fun fact (at least for me): #1 Arizona fell to Cal in their next game and I was actually there as a Cal student at the time. Justin Cobbs hit the game-winning shot. It was pretty wild. And as an added detail, Cal did not make the tournament that season, which just goes to show that even if you beat the number one team in the nation, that doesn’t guarantee a trip to the NCAA tournament. Overall body of work is what matters. That’s something I learned from that Cal season and something that this current Stanford team can learn as well.

Anyways, while they weren’t the ones to knock off #1 Arizona, it did help Stanford to play them as well as they did. And having three wins over teams that were ranked helped to soften the blow from not being the ones to knock off the Wildcats. That was a game that definitely let the NCAA tournament committee know that they can hang with elite teams.

Stanford also did well in the Pac-12 tournament. They got a #6 seed and won their opening game against #11 Washington State 74-63. They followed that win up with a dominating 79-58 victory over Arizona State in the quarterfinals before falling to #2 UCLA 84-59 in the semifinals. By having a strong performance in the Pac-12 tournament, that enabled them to heat up in the NCAA tournament.

Before the Pac-12 tournament, Stanford did have a three game losing streak, getting swept at the Arizona schools and losing at home to Colorado before bouncing back at home against Utah on Senior Day. And then if you go all the way back to the beginning of the season, they had a difficult 112-103 home loss to BYU in their second game.

Elliott Bullock, a member of the 2013-14 team, felt that the real key to their success was their ability to navigate those peaks and valleys…

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