From 1995 to 2004 Stanford made 10 straight NCAA Tournaments, including a Sweet 16 in 97, the Final Four in 98, a No. 1 seed in 00 and 01, the Elite 8 in 01, and another No. 1 seed in 04. Not a bad decade. Throw in tournament appearances in 2005 and 2007, as well as a Sweet 16 appearance in 2008 and youre talking about one of the best programs in the country over a 15-year period. In April 2008, longtime Duke assistant Johnny Dawkins took over for the LSU-bound Trent Johnson. Dawkins inherited a program that lost three seniors to graduation, in addition to first-round NBA draft picks Brook and Robin Lopez. In his first year, Stanford won 20 games, making Dawkins the winningest first-year coach in school history.
Entering his second season, the Cardinal were picked to finish last in the Pac-10. They exceeded expectations by finishing seventh, and advanced to the Semifinals of the conference tournament. LAST SEASON
When a roster is comprised of zero seniors, five juniors, one sophomore, and nine freshmen, you can consistently count on inconsistence. That defined last years Stanford team. At times the Cardinal looked NCAA Tournament caliber (81-60 win over Virginia, 82-68 win over Cal, 58-56 win over No. 17 Washington, tied with No. 21 Arizona with 4 minutes left). And at other times, well, it was the opposite (83-50 loss at Butler, 22 percent FG in 65-42 loss at USC, 74-55 loss at Cal). At one point Stanford stood at 3-1 in conference (tied for first), was coming off an upset victory over the No. 17 Washington Huskies, and led Washington State by nine at the half. The Cardinal ultimately fell to the Cougars, and subsequently lost three in a row to drop to 3-5 in conference. They never recovered. Leading scorer Jeremy Green (16.7 ppg) elected to forego his senior year and enter the 2011 NBA Draft. He went undrafted. How will Stanford fare without him? 2011-2012 SEASON PREVIEW
Stanford is definitely going to miss Jeremy Greens ability to make contested 26-foot 3-pointers, as well as his ability to score in bunches. However, the Cardinal have several players who are ready to take the torch and lead Stanford back to the upper echelon of the Pac-12). PROJECTED STARTERSPG: Aaron Bright (sophomore) -- Started eight games as a freshman, went 5-for-5 from beyond the arc at Oregon State, and shot 89 percent from the free-throw line (32-36). His problems last year were decision-making, and on-ball defense. He did a great job at pressuring opposing point guards and maintaining a five-second count, but wasnt able to keep quicker guards in front of him. However, since practice started on Oct. 14, Bright has been a bright spot and has played his way into the starting lineup. PGSG: Chasson Randle (freshman) -- The highly touted Illinois product should start from Day 1. He has blazing speed and quickness, and can break his defender down off the dribble at will. Everyone around him immediately becomes a better player when he is on the court. Look for the ball to be in his hands at the end of the shot clock, and when Dawkins wants to go small, Randles ability to play off the ball affords Stanford the ability to play point guard Aaron Bright and Randle together. SF: Dwight Powell (sophomore) -- The 69 versatile forward is a matchup nightmare. He showed flashes last season, but that all-important word -- inconsistency -- specifically foul trouble, plagued him. He has worked very hard on his jump shot this offseason, but he will do most of his damage in transition and in the post. No small forward will be able to match up with him inside and if he plays strong and embraces contact, he should live at the free throw line. He will also see time at power forward when Stanford plays a smaller lineup. PF: Josh Owens (RS senior) -- He is a physical specimen who could give Dwight Howard a run for his money in a dunk contest. He should average 15 points and 8 rebounds per game, along with six to eight free throw attempts every night. You wont find a better teammate or more unselfish player, which explains why he hesitates to demand the ball in the post at times. He is the only player on the roster who was on Stanfords last NCAA Tournament team in 07-08. C: Andrew Zimmermann (RS senior) -- You may not recognize the undisputed vocal leader of the team because he will be sporting a Paul Bunyan-like beard. In practice, you want this guy on your team at all times. However, his practice success hasnt always translated to game success. The two-year captain does all of the dirty work, but cant shoot himself in the foot with unforced turnovers. If he plays within his capabilities, he will be on the floor down the stretch when it matters most. OTHER KEY RETURNEES
SG: Anthony Brown (sophomore) -- Like the team as a whole, he was inconsistent last season. He made his first career start in the teams 9th conference game against Oregon State and responded with 21 points, 8 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 3 steals. The next game 3 points and 3 rebounds, followed by 12, 15, 15, and then 4 points respectively. You get the idea. Theres no reason why he shouldnt be a starter and one the Cardinals best players in 11-12. The physical tools and ability are there, but he needs to play tougher and adopt a killer instinct (think Landry Fields). SF: Jarrett Mann (senior) -- He too could end up in the starting lineup as he provides the Cardinal with outstanding perimeter defense and the ability to get to the rim. However, his biggest question mark is well chronicled can he make his free throws? Through the first 12 games last year he shot 37, then seemed to figure it out by going 72 the next 11 games, but finished at 29 the final 8 games (49, 60-122 on the season). In practice he has been much more vocal than in years past and his teammates are listening. SFPF: Josh Huestis (sophomore) -- A power forward in high school who transitioned to the wing as a freshman, he is shooting the ball very well in practice and is a rebounding machine. Made key contributions in a handful of games last season, but will be a significant contributor throughout the entire 2011-2012 season. Although he is 67, he can match up with smaller guards and will frustrate opposing players with his size and length. PF: John Gage (sophomore) -- If he has time and space, you might as well add three points to the scoreboard immediately. At 69 he stretches the defense and is instant offense off the bench. He has become more comfortable in the post, developing a nice fadeaway jumper, but his calling card is from three-point territory. Can he guard stronger, more physical guys in the post? We shall seePFC: Stefan Nastic (redshirt freshman) -- A legit 7-footer, he redshirted last season with a foot injury. Nobody has a better work ethic or eats, breathes, and sleeps basketball like Nastic does. The big concern can he stay healthy? PF: Jack Trotter (senior) -- After walking-on his freshman year, Trotter has been on scholarship ever since. He averaged 7 points and 5 rebounds as a sophomore in 09-10, and he and Landry Fields were the only two Cardinal players to start all 32 games. He started 12 games last season, and will now see his minutes coming off the bench. SG: Gabe Harris (junior) -- Has played primarily point guard his first two seasons on The Farm but moved off the ball at the end of last season. During spring and summer workouts, he was one of Stanfords best players. However, a minor knee surgery in August prevented him from accompanying the team on its trip to Spain, halting his off-season momentum. SF: Andy Brown (RS ?) -- The question mark is not a typo. Brown is in his third year in the program, but has red-shirted the past two seasons. He initially tore his right ACL in February of his senior year in high school. He tore it again in November, 2009, and for a third time in August, 2010. After deciding to rehab and give it one more shot, the training staff is being overly cautious this time around. There is no definitive time table for his return. SG: Robbie Lemons (sophomore) -- The recruited walk-on will see limited time as a 3-point specialist. He most likely will not appear on opposing teams scouting reports (unless they read this) which could enable him to see some open looks. SCHEDULEStanford, Syracuse, Oklahoma State, and Virginia Tech are scheduled to meet at Madison Square Garden over Thanksgiving in the Preseason NIT. However, the Cardinal will need to win back-to-back home games against Fresno State, followed by the winner of Colorado StateSMU if they want to visit the Big Apple. The North Carolina State Wolfpack travel to Maples Pavilion on Dec. 4, followed by the reigning two-time National Runner-Up Butler Bulldogs on December 22. PREDICTIONThe pieces are in place for Stanford to enjoy its best season under Dawkins. After losing Green, the national media has Stanford slated to finish 6th in the inaugural Pac-12.While that is a fair assessment, the Cardinal will instead finish the regular season 21-9 overall, 11-7 conference (4th), NCAA TournamentDrew Shiller is a Web Producer for CSNBayArea.com. You can follow him on Twitter @DrewShiller