Stanford vs. Washington in NIT title game?


Stanford vs. Washington in NIT title game?

Well, your Stanford Cardinal are still in it and have now guaranteed themselves of a spot in basketballs top 72. Mind you, Im not diminishing the accomplishments of the Cardinal who are probably playing their best ball of the season, its just that the NIT has lost just a tad of its luster in fact you might say its just plain rusted out.

In fact its even possible that Stanford could play fellow Pac-12 competitor Washington in the final at Madison Square Garden. That should bring em in from Jersey in hordes dont you think?

There was a time when the NIT had more prestige than the NCAA tournament for instance when USF won it back in 1949. In recent years however what it represents is an opportunity for coaches to have as many as fifteen or so more practices than they otherwise would have. And with a young team like the Cardinal, that could mean a whole lot when it comes to a hoped for improvement in 2012-13.

For the Cardinal this has been a bookend season. It began with a trip to the pre-season NIT final at Madison Square Garden in which they lost a winnable game against Syracuse. And it will end in the final four of the post season NIT final four at least. Nice. Except theyd cash it all in for a better conference season and a trip to the real tournament which is currently composed of a grand total of zero teams from the left side of the country.

Which begs the question; will it be any better next year? Certainly its a tad early to start making predictions, but the simple answer is not so much.

Stanford should be better and be in the top half of the Pac 12 next year. They need consistency, but that comes with experience and thats what playing in the Brand X tournament this year will give them.

Cal loses toughness with Harper Kamp and Jorge Gutierrez graduating. Theyve got talent coming back and could be more athletic but its going to take another yeomans coaching job by Mike Montgomery for the Bears to be in the Pac 12 pack.

Washington will lose two players to the pros in Tony Wroten and Terrence Ross and I think will actually be better. Not enough basketballs for that team this year.

Arizona has the nations No. 1 recruiting class coming in and almost everyone back. They will be in the national championship hunt next season.

UCLA kept its coach and kept its recruiting commitments. Theyll be lots better especially if Joshua Smith loses about an entire Joshua Smith.

Kevin ONeil promised me USC would be good next year. OK K.O. Better lots better I believe. Not sure Im going as far as good.

Dana Altman has proven that he can win with a bunch of guys who have never even met each other. Oregon loses some good seniors but I still think will be in the hunt.

Oregon State gets everybody back. They should have been better this year with what they have. I dont get it.

Herb Sendek at ASU will at least have a point guard next year. When hes got his kind of guys he can really coach. I may be a minority of one but I think they could be OK.

And lets not forget that Washington State is still playing and in the finals of the Whatchamacallit Tournament that makes the NIT look like the NBA Finals. Ken Bone does more with less than any coach in the conference. You try recruiting to Pullman, Washington.

I say that with sincere apologies to our own Jayme Sire who knows every great restaurant in Pullman. Which is like knowing the best Jewish deli in Beijing.

College football roundup: Numbers tell it all at halfway mark


College football roundup: Numbers tell it all at halfway mark

Football is a game of numbers. Halfway through the 2016 season, there are some pretty startling and interesting numbers at play in college football.

Number of non-offensive touchdowns scored by No. 1 ranked Alabama so far this season. If you’re facing the Nick Saban-led juggernaut, your challenge is to keep both the Tide’s offense and defense out of the end zone. 

Number of teams in the Associated Press preseason top 13 that have lost at least two games already: No. 3 Oklahoma (2 losses), No. 4 Florida State (2), No. 5 LSU (2), No. 8 Stanford (2), No. 9 Tennessee (2), No. 10 Notre Dame (5), No. 11 Ole Miss (3), No. 12 Michigan State (4), and No. 13 TCU (2). So much for the accuracy of preseason polls.

Number of folks on the college playoff selection committee who are hoping that undefeated Baylor loses a few games. That’s the entire committee. No one in college football wants to see Baylor participating in the playoffs after the sexual assault epidemic that was revealed during the off-season. 

Retirement age of Utah’s Joe Williams. The senior running back retired from football after the second game of the season due to injuries. Fortunately for the Utes, Williams “un-retired” this week and returned to the team in time to rush for 179 yards in a win over Oregon State.

Length of a potential game-winning field goal by North Carolina State kicker Kyle Bambard at the end of regulation against No. 3 Clemson on Saturday. The kick, which missed wide right by a couple of feet, would’ve given the unranked Wolfpack a 20-17 win over the unbeaten Tigers. Instead, Clemson won 24-17 in overtime. The 33-yarder was one of three missed field goals by Bambard.

Number of field goals usually-reliable Stanford kicker Conrad Ukropina has clanked off the left goal post upright in the past two weeks. Hitting the same upright three straight times would be hard to do from point blank range. Ukropina has done it from 49, 44 and 45 yards.

Washington quarterback Jake Browning’s astronomical pass efficiency rating through six games. That number would easily break the all-time NCAA record of 191.78 set by Wisconsin’s Russell Wilson (yes, that Russell Wilson) in 2011. 

Number of surprise co-leaders in the Pac-12 Conference. As noted last week, Washington and Washington State have emerged as the best teams in the Pac-12 North and lead the division with 3-0 records in conference play. The balance of power has also shifted in the South, a division traditionally dominated by the LA or Arizona schools. The co-leaders after seven weeks are Utah and Colorado, both at 3-1 in league action. Former San Jose State coach Mike MacIntyre has done a fabulous job in Boulder. His Buffaloes take on Stanford in Palo Alto this weekend in a critical matchup for both teams.

Stanford’s highest scoring total in a game so far this year. The Cardinal beat USC 27-9 back on Sept. 17. Last year Stanford averaged just under 38 points per game. Inconsistent offensive line and quarterback play have been the culprits.

Number of points Michigan rolled up against Rutgers last week. After a bye week, the Wolverines figure to hit the half-century mark in their homecoming game vs. Illinois this Saturday. Coach Jim Harbaugh spent his off weekend scouting recruits and checked out Antioch High School star Najee Harris on Friday night.

Realistic candidates for the Heisman Trophy at the halfway point of the season. In order, my Heisman list looks like this: 1. Lamar Jackson, Louisville QB; 2. J.T. Barrett, Ohio State QB; 3. Jake Browning, Washington QB; 4. Jabrill Peppers, Michigan DB/LB/RB/ WR/KR; 5. Deshaun Watson, Clemson QB. 

Jackson appeared a little more mortal this week against Duke, throwing for “only” 181 yards and rushing for 144, but he is still the clear favorite with 30 touchdowns (15 each passing and running) in six games. Barrett led Ohio State to a thrilling win over No. 8 Wisconsin in overtime, while Browning and Peppers had byes. Some experts have downgraded Watson because Clemson has struggled against a few unranked opponents, but Watson has been stellar. Saturday he completed 39 of 52 passes for 378 yards and two touchdowns; he also rushed for a score. 

San Diego State running back Donnel Pumphrey ran for over 200 yards again Saturday against Fresno State and is on track to rush for over 2,000 yards this year, but his level of competition in the Mt. West Conference will prevent him from grabbing the trophy.

New AP Top 25: 1. Alabama, 2. Ohio State, 3. Michigan, 4. Clemson, 5. Washington, 6. Texas A&M, 7. Louisville, 8. Nebraska, 9. Baylor, 10. Wisconsin, 11. Houston, 12. West Virginia, 13. Florida State, 14. Boise State, 15. Florida, 16. Oklahoma, 17. Arkansas, 18. Tennessee, 19. Utah, 20. Western Michigan, 21. Auburn, 22, North Carolina, 23. Ole Miss, 24. Navy, 25. LSU. Still only two teams in the top 25 from the Pac-12, compared with eight from the SEC, but the Big Ten is the strongest conference so far this year with four teams in the top 10.

Gary Cavalli is a 40-year veteran of the Bay Area sports scene and was Executive Director of the Foster Farms Bowl and Sports Information Director/Associate Athletic Director at Stanford

Ex-Stanford star suffers facial fracture during Knicks practice


Ex-Stanford star suffers facial fracture during Knicks practice

After spending a year overseas, Chasson Randle is back home trying to make the Knicks' roster.

But his effort took a serious hit during practice on Friday.

Following an incident Friday, the team disagnosed the former Stanford star with a facial contusion.

But the news was far grimmer on Sunday. A CT scan confirmed a left orbital fracture, the team announced. Randle will be re-evaluated Monday.

Randle signed with the Knicks on August 4 after spending last season with CEZ Nymburk in the Czech Republic.

The 23-year-old appeared in three games for New York's entry in the Orlando summer league, averaging 18.3 points, 5.0 assists, 4.3 rebounds, 3.0 steals and 29.7 minutes.

At Stanford, Randle scored a school-record 2,375 points, averaging 16.5 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists. He was the most valuable player in the 2015 National Invitation Tournament after leading the Cardinal to the championship at Madison Square Garden.

During his senior season in Palo Alto, Randle was named All-Pac-12 First Team and was an AP Honorable Mention All-America.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.