The 2013 Legends Classic had four teams play in its championship rounds; they were the Pittsburgh Panthers, the Stanford Cardinal, the Houston Cougars and the Texas Tech Red Raiders. Stanford won its first game against Houston 86-76 and lost its second game to Pittsburgh 88-67, giving Stanford a second place finish for the tournament. From this performance, it’s clear Stanford needs to improve the team’s overall level of play.
Stanford’s loss to Pittsburgh was disappointing and really showed what the Cardinal needs to work on if it wants to find itself in The Big Dance and have Johnny Dawkins be its coach next year. The loss wasn’t necessarily a disappointment because it was a loss, it was a disappointment because it wasn’t a close game. If Stanford wants to be considered by the NCAA tournament selection committee, they need to show they can compete with and beat top teams. Pittsburgh will likely be ranked in the top 25 when the new rankings come out and will likely be 13-0 by the time ACC play begins. They are exactly the type of team Stanford needs to be able to beat on any given night.
There were a couple of problems that reared their ugly heads for Stanford during the Legends Classic. The first was the amount of points they gave up. In their loss to Pittsburgh, Stanford gave up 88 points. In their other loss on the season, to BYU, Stanford gave up 112 points, which is how many points any given NBA team will give up over an extra eight minutes of play and a 24-second shot clock. The loss to Pittsburgh showed the result against BYU was not a fluke and if Stanford wants to show it can compete with and beat a team like Pittsburgh or BYU, it must be able to hold them to fewer points.
Where to should Stanford start in looking to keep teams from scoring so much? I’d start with turning the ball over less. Dwight Powell, I’m looking right at you. You turned the ball over five times against Pittsburgh, which is exactly how many turnovers the Panthers had as a team. Ouch. Even against Houston, the Cardinal turned the ball over 12 times. Luckily for them, the Cougars also had 10 turnovers, but if they didn’t, the overall result may not have been the same.
The good news for Stanford is that it’s early in the season, but that’s about where the good news ends. The Cardinal needs to hold teams to fewer points and not turn the ball over if it wants to compete with the best teams. It won’t happen overnight, but the team can improve in these areas. If they do, Stanford will find itself in the hunt for a birth in the NCAA tournament. If it doesn’t, the Cardinal will find itself in the NIT and looking for a new coach at the end of the season.