Well, they punched their ticket back to Madison
Square Garden the old fashioned way.
Stanford basketball took Nevada to
the woodshed and gave the Wolf Pack an old-fashioned 84-56 beatdown.
Offensively, defensively, on the glass - you name the phase of the game, the
Cardinal nailed it en route to their most complete performance of the
And so, the final verdict is in: the 2011-2012 Stanford
basketball season has been a success, regardless of what happens next week in
New York City, and regardless of what the thousands of empty seats at Maples
Pavilion Wednesday night thought of the issue. Roughly 40 percent of the only
3020 fans that populated the Cardinal’s home arena were Nevada
It’s really a shame because last night’s performance marked
Stanford basketball’s renaissance. Many of those who have derided the NIT didn’t
care to show up for it, but they will certainly be along for the ride if this
Stanford team qualifies for the NCAA Tournament next year. They’ll be singing a
completely different tune if the Cardinal make a deep run in it two years from
Mark it down: there’s an excellent chance that it’ll
It’s just too bad that the school’s entire fan base will not have
been aboard since the beginning of the process. Great times are coming with the
maturation of a young crop of guards and swing players and the arrival of
high-motor, NBA pedigree big man Grant Verhoeven. But the great times started in
a half-empty Maples Pavilion. Josh Owens, Andrew Zimmerman, Jarrett Mann, and
Jack Trotter - the seniors who have laid foundation over four difficult years -
deserved more their last time out at home.
Along with their rapidly
improving underclassmen teammates, the departing four delivered a virtuoso
performance. Nevada, who many considered to be an NCAA tournament snub, came
into the game with intimidating length, athleticism, and
Stanford, however, was not impressed. The Cardinal wiped the
floor with the Wolf Pack in all phases of the game. They shot 53.4 percent from
the field, 57.1 percent from downtown, out-rebounded Nevada, and dished out 17
assists in a crisp effort. The softness that had occasionally tormented Stanford
was gone; the Cardinal’s putrid shooting performances were relics of
Pivotal players like Anthony Brown, Aaron Bright, Josh Huestis, and Dwight Powell all wrapped up the three-game NIT home stretch in
style, proving that they had been serious about using the tournament as a
springboard to improvement for next season.
Even more importantly, the
Cardinal’s run back to New York has certified that this team is on an upward
trend under fourth-year coach Johnny Dawkins. A poorly-handled transition from
the Trent Johnson era got Dawkins’ tenure off to a sluggish start, but last
night’s win validated Stanford’s recovery. The team set a school record for home
wins in a single season and made a 25-win campaign likely.
The season has
been a success, but it’s not over yet. The Cardinal meet UMass at Madison Square
Garden next Tuesday with a trip to the championship game on the
line. There will be at least one more chance for fans to rally behind a
program that has come a long way to set up an act that is only now
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