Saturday, November 11, 2006

IF A TREE FALLS - STANFORD BASKETBALL

After today's football performance, we need a bit of a palate cleanser, and nothing cleans the palate like a hot, steaming dish of schadenfreude.

With that in mind let's turn to an analysis of Stanford basketball. Year three of the Trent Johnson era on The Farm will be his most challenging. Johnson, who has gone 18-13 and 16-14 in his first two seasons, will struggle to approach .500 this year.

Good News: Stanford welcomes the Lopez twins. Brook and Robin (left) - both standing 7 feet tall - are two of the most heralded recruits in school history and figure to contribute immediately. Brook - the more highly regarded of the two - is recovering from back surgery but should be ready by the start of conference play. And that's about it for the good news. Stanford will be much bigger, which should help them battle in an increasingly physical conference.

Bad News: There's not much else for Johnson to work with. Stanford graduated virtually their entire offense in PG Chris Hernandez, PF Matt Haryasz and SG Dan Grunfeld. They return a bunch of role players who will need to step up and developing a scoring presence. Both C Peter Prowitt and PF Taj Finger have been slowed by injuries during their careers. Forward Lawrence Hill could provide some scoring, but he's hardly what you'd call a major threat. Mitch Johnson will start at PG and is the only returning starter in what should be a very thin backcourt. He hasn't shown the ability to create his own offense, averaging fewer than 5 points per game last year.

New Faces: In addition to the twins, Stanford welcomes Landry Fields, a 6'5" wing who is unlikely to see much time, and Da'Veed Dildy, who will back up Johnson at the point and compete for a spot on the All-Pac 10 name team.

Prediction: 8th place. It's hard for me to see how the Cardinal can generate enough scoring to climb much higher than 7th. Even if the Lopez twins are as advertised, the rest of this team is unathletic and teams will exploit their weaknesses on both ends of the court. Johnson has enough credit in the bank with Stanford alums for one more tough year, and this would appear to be it.

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