Welcome to the first ever Bootleg Hoops Roundtable
where we gather folks who love, live, and breathe hoops...and then some.
For our inaugural article, we have the following four folks joining us on our
Drew Shiller - Former Stanford basketball player turned color
commentator starting with the 2010-11 season. A multi-sport athlete, Drew
came to Stanford via USF and contributed well for the Cardinal in his two
seasons on the Farm.
John Platz - Former Stanford basketball player
turned color commentator over 20 years ago now has the lead microphone in his
hand, providing the play-by-play for all to hear. John certainly knows the
game inside and out and knows more about the game than this editor ever
will. John also is our sideline man for Stanford
"Roscoemaynard" - Former Stanford basketball player who has
provided years and years of wisdom, witty remarks, and butt coil to The
Bootleg through his time on the boards and through his weekly columns
during the basketball season.
Poly81 - Former Stanford basketball player who has
provided many years of his wisdom and witty remarks on The Bootleg
I posed five questions to the panel this
week, ranging from their feelings coming out of the non-conference slate to what they think Stanford will do this week versus the Los Angeles school schools and beyond. Here's what they had to say:
(1) Stanford ends the non-conference season
at 10-2 with their only losses versus Syracuse in the Pre-Season NIT
Championship and at home to Butler. What are your thoughts on how they
played and progressed through the non-league slate?
Platz - Not surprised by a lot during the
pre-conference portion of the schedule. Defense is more important with
this edition than maybe any other I've been associated with, in terms of
competing successfully against the better teams. Defense can be the
differentiating factor for us. Our defense can win a lot of Pac-12 games,
and can keep us in NCAA Tournament games if we succeed in getting there.
But defense is the "necessary but not sufficient" condition in such games, need
poise and ballhandling too. We lacked the latter, at critical moments, in
our two losses.
"roscoemaynard" - The team has played at
a much improved level over last season. Much better offensively, both from a
sense of purpose and from a shot selection perspective. Defensively we are good,
flat good, but maybe we came back from the break not quite as focused. The play
of Bright and Randle has been a revelation, both of them willing to take big
shots or create for teammates.
My disclaimer is that I haven't seen as many games as I'd hoped.
That said, it's tough not to be pleased with a 10-2 record. I figured they
would come out of the pre-season with an 8-4 record, so I'm optimistic.
Bright established himself as the point guard, and Randle shows signs of being
the next dominant guard at Stanford. Anthony Brown was a concern early on,
but he seems to be back on track. Owens has developed a much more
consistent inside game. He's initiating a little too much contact on his
jump hook, but so far, so good (who knows how the Pac-12 refs will call
it). In my world, the last starter slot should go to Huestis, but in order
to solidify it, he'll have to provide a more consistent all-around game.
Defense and rebounding - and scoring around the basket - are how he can make a
Shiller - If you would have
told Stanford fans before the season began that the team would be 10-2 heading
into conference play, I think most everybody would have been extremely excited.
However, losing to Butler was disappointing because of the timing of the loss -
last game before the team broke for Christmas break, national TV, opportunity to
be 11-1 and right on the cusp of top 25, etc. However, the non-conference slate
was undoubtedly a success, and I'm very optimistic this team will have a great
conference showing as well.
(2) Of those non-conference
games, which game impressed you the most and which one really left you
scratching your head?
Platz - Most impressive,
Syracuse. Head scratcher, Butler. Orange has the veteran
guards, 4s and 5s that are bigger and more athletic that virtually any other
team, and in Joseph a great leader. Unless they bump into UNC I'm not sure
they lose in Tournament play. And we were a conversion awor two away from
putting them away. Butler - see poise and ballhandling
"roscoemaynard" - No head scratchers for me. The
two disappointments are Syracuse and Butler, games we should have won. The
Butler game felt like one we lost early in the second half, we just came out
flat to start the second half. I thought NC State and Okie State were nice
"Poly81" - Syracuse and NC
State showed that not only can Stanford match up with competitive, athletic
teams, but that THEY are a competitive, athletic team. The comebacks
versus NC State should give them confidence as they enter the conference
season. The Butler game was somewhat of a head scratcher - it was a very
winnable game, but defensive breakdowns at key junctures were
disappointing. I admit to not following the thought process of Coach
Dawkins' substitutions, but in talking with some of the Stanford greats of the
'70s, the consensus opinion was that it's likely due to the quest for finding a
rotation that works.
Shiller - The win over North Carolina State was most impressive because of the fashion in which it was won. To come
back from a double-digit deficit in the 2nd half is not easy and it showed that
this team is both physically and mentally tough. The Butler loss was definitely
the toughest to handle because although Butler is known for playing great
defense, 17 turnovers (and it was really over 20 because I consider bad shots in
traffic that are blocked to be turnovers) is too many against a team that
doesn't necessarily play pressure defense. It was also strange to see Stanford
get outrebounded by a smaller Bulldogs squad.
(3) Name the the top two/three things you'd like to see
Stanford improve upon as they head into league play?
Platz - (1)
Poise with the ball, making good decisions with the pass, being able to get
"your shot" with your own dribble. (2) Perimeter defense, increasing
overall defensive concentration, making it a 40-minute deal. (3)
Free throw shooting - can always be improved, and against the upper half of the
Pac-12 free throw shooting can mean a delta of 3-4 wins.
"roscoemaynard" - We need to get
Dwight Powell, John Gage, and Josh Huestis more involved offensively. We need to
consistently get Owens the ball. we need to push the fastbreak after some made
baskets because we are pretty good offensively in the secondary phase of the
break. That is where we can really spread the floor with Gage and locate Owens
on the block.
"Poly81" - Besides free throw
shooting?! Defense and rebounding. I find it hard to separate the
two since a good defense leads to missed shots. The big guys need to get
more rebounds. Admittedly, three point shots result in longer rebounds
than in the good old days (ahem...), but better rebounding then leads to more
fast break opportunities - which should be something this team does
better. I'd like to see Coach Dawkins shorten his bench, too. After
the starting lineup I mentioned before, I'd go with Gage then Powell off the
bench for the big guys, and Harris - then Mann - at guard. That said, if
he continues to go with a 10 deep rotation, I wouldn't be averse to more full
court pressure in order to take advantage of his bench (and fouls).
Shiller - I'd like to see Stanford
improve on their assist/turnover ratio: 176 turnovers to 160 assists. Secondly,
Stanford has steadily improved at the free throw line but they need to continue
this trend, and not take any steps backward.
Stanford opens up with UCLA and USC at home to start Pac-12 play. How do
you think the team matches up with each and what do you believe will happen
versus the Tinseltown Twosome?
Platz - Given
the Butler disappointment, I think Stanford will have a bit of "extra" focus
against the Bruins. Giving a high effort/energy performance is key for
Stanford vs. UCLA. USC is rebuilding and once again does not have a deep
rotation - that factor, plus the unfamiliarity of Maples to the majority of
USC's rotation guys, could weigh heavily toward Stanford's advantage in that
"roscoemaynard" - They both suck. We
will kick their ass if we defend like we have been against similar level
"Poly81" - We match up well against USC and I'm
not sure what to expect from UCLA. On paper, UCLA should be much better
than they are - Howland hasn't forgotten how to coach. In fact, playing
them now might work in Stanford's favor. Nelson is/was a train wreck, so
it's addition by subtraction for the Bruins. Running against them should
neutralize their size - and I don't think Smith can keep up.
Statistically, SC looks horrible, but they've played tough in some games
(SDSU). That said, a 42-36 loss to Cal Poly-SLO does raise some
questions...(no offense to my Cal Poly friends). While I wouldn't
be excited with a split this weekend, I wouldn't be surprised (beat SC, lose to
Shiller - Stanford should
take care of business and beat both UCLA and USC at home. The Bruins are
definitely playing better since Reeves Nelson was dismissed, but it's been
against less than stellar competition (Penn, Eastern Washington, Davis, Irvine,
Richmond). USC is bad - simple as that.
(5) Finally, what are your
thoughts/expectations/feelings/predictions on how Stanford will do in Pac-12
Platz - The media poll had Stanford sixth. Too low, imo. The
league is down - anyone want to hazard a POY at this point? - and that means a
wider subgroup of teams could win this thing. We're in that subgroup.
"roscoemaynard" - I feel like we could win the
conference championship, particularly if Owens plays to the level he is capable
of. 13-5 wouldn't surprise me at all. Probably 12-6 or 11-7. It is just
that no one scares me any more and no one scoring at an elite
"Poly81" - I think the Cardinal has the potential
to do well (anywhere from 1st to 5th in conference) but that happens only with
improvement. The conference isn't strong this year which might get them a
win or two beyond current expectations. If Coach Dawkins goes with my
lineup (!), it will be a young team that makes mistakes early, but they could be
a force as the conference tournament rolls around.
- There is no doubt that Stanford is a better team than they were last
year, and definitely shouldn't finish 6th, where they were predicted to in the
preseason media poll (I picked them 4th). Having said that, just because the
Cardinal have raised expectations, people should not be thinking "Either we win
the league or it's a disappointing year." I am going to be cautiously optimistic and
say Stanford finishes in the top four, with a good
shot of finishing in the top two and securing
an NCAA Tournament birth. I know it's cliche, but this team's approach needs
to be "one game at a time," and focus on getting to 1-0
and beating UCLA tonight.
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