5 Reasons Stanford Basketball Could Surprise in the Pac-12

Richard LivingstonContributor IDecember 4, 2013

5 Reasons Stanford Basketball Could Surprise in the Pac-12

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    Dwight Powell (33) and Chasson Randle (5)
    Dwight Powell (33) and Chasson Randle (5)csnbayarea.com

    Stanford basketball, once an annual powerhouse in the Pac-12, is going through a rough patch.

    Five straight missed tournament appearances and a series of mediocre Pac-12 finishes have Stanford fans disillusioned and disinterested. This is a critical year for the Cardinal; however, this might be Johnny Dawkins' best team at Stanford.

    Here are five reasons to think that Stanford will return to March Madness. 

    All statistics courtesy of ESPN.

Johnny Dawkins Is Coaching for His Job

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    Johnny Dawkins knows his job is on the line.
    Johnny Dawkins knows his job is on the line.sportsillustrated.com

    This is Dawkins’ last chance to take Stanford to the tournament.

    After five consecutive seasons missing out on March Madness, Stanford fans are rapidly losing confidence in the former Duke assistant. Another season of disappointment would surely signal the end of the Dawkins era. Dawkins is on his last strike, and he knows he must deliver. His extra motivation might be exactly what the team needs.

Dwight Powell Is One of the Most Underrated Players in the Pac-12

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    Dwight Powell (33)
    Dwight Powell (33)draftexpress.com

    Currently averaging 15.1 points, seven boards and four dimes per game, Powell is one of the top forwards in the Pac-12.

    Frequently deployed as a 3, the 6'10" Powell creates matchup problems for smaller guards and slower forwards. A true triple threat, Powell can shoot the three, take players off the dribble or kick the ball out to one of Stanford’s shooters.

    Last year, Powell led Stanford with 14.9 points per game, and his all-around ability is improving visibly every game.

    Powell's diverse skill set needs to be properly utilized if the Cardinal want to have a successful year.

Balanced Scoring Attack

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    Chasson Randle (5)
    Chasson Randle (5)rantsports.com

    Four Stanford starters are averaging more than 11 PPG, led by guard Chasson (pronounced ”chay-sin”) Randle with 18.5. Anthony Brown, Powell and Josh Huestis round out the top four. Each is shooting above 46 percent from the floor, leading a balanced attack that also features scoring potential from the bench in the form of Aaron Bright and John Gage.

    Stanford shoots 40 percent from three-point range and has a strong inside game to match. 

The Return of Anthony Brown

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    Anthony Brown (3)
    Anthony Brown (3)ruleoftree.com

    Guard/forward Anthony Brown played in only four games last season before injuring his hip and missing the rest of the season. The Cardinal sorely missed his scoring ability, as they averaged only 71 PPG.

    This year, the Cardinal have improved to 82 PPG against a tough preseason schedule. Brown has led the charge, averaging 16.5 points and seven rebounds while shooting 59 percent from beyond the arc.

    Easily Stanford’s best shooter, Brown needs to be on his game to open up the interior for Stanford’s powerful inside attack.

Strong Interior Play

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    Nastic (right) and Powell (left) shut down a Pittsburgh attack
    Nastic (right) and Powell (left) shut down a Pittsburgh attackbigstory.ap.org

    With 6’11’’ Stefan Nastic, 6’7” shot-blocker Josh Huestis and 6’10” Dwight Powell controlling the paint, Stanford won’t be getting pushed around on the low block.

    Johnny Dawkins likes to start all three, creating serious matchup problems for smaller defensives—especially since Powell and Huestis can shoot the three. Huestis is especially dominant on the defensive end, averaging 2.4 blocks to go along with his 11.4 points and eight rebounds.

    Despite Stanford’s ability to shoot the long ball, it will be the success of the inside game that determines whether Stanford finally ends its tourney drought.