Their names might have been unknown to the Kansas Jayhawks just two days ago. Their coach might have been considered a goner just two weeks ago. Their school’s women’s team is far more famous than they are.
None of that matters to the Stanford men. The Cardinal are in the Sweet 16 for the first time in six years. Finally, Johnny Dawkins’ team isn’t overshadowed by the other programs at Stanford.
“We’ve been working for this since the day we got to this school,” said senior forwardDwight Powell.
And Stanford’s growth – not just over four years but over four days – is another illustration that good things can come to college players who stay in school. Who grind through the difficult years and learn the system and figure out how to play together.
One of the subtexts of this year’s NCAA Tournament is programs that favor continuity versus the one-and-done rent-a-player programs. Josh Huestis, Stanford’s senior forward, shutting down Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins, a projected top pick in the NBA, was the perfect example of how perseverance can overcome hyped talent.
A year ago, Powell could have been drafted by the NBA. Dawkins had one of his assistants take Powell an NBA scouting report, so he could know what the league thought of him and make an informed decision. Powell refused to even look at the sheet.
“I’d already made my decision to stay,” Powell said. “I had two goals: to get my degree, and I wanted to make it to the tournament.”
Goals accomplished (Powell’s degree in science, technology and society will be coming in June).
Now the Stanford men will take on the Dayton Flyers in Memphis on Thursday. The game is arguably the most interesting of the next round: a matchup of a No. 10 and a No. 11 seed, meaning that a serious underdog will be heading to the Elite Eight no matter who wins.
Dayton is sure to have scouted Stanford well, something that Kansas didn’t seem to do. When asked in a Saturday news conference about Stanford’s leading scorer, Chasson Randle, Wiggins and Wayne Selden Jr. had no idea who he was and couldn’t even fake it. The Jayhawks appeared to be looking ahead to a spot in the Sweet 16.
“That could’ve been a possibility,” Randle said.
Stanford won’t make that mistake with the Flyers.
“We know who they are,” Randle said.
Dawkins certainly does. His son Aubrey, a senior at a prep school in New Hampshire, is being recruited by Dayton head coach Archie Miller. Aubrey Dawkins is considering other schools – like Utah State, Pepperdine and Montana – and will make his decision later in the spring. Dawkins said his son will be flying to Memphis to see his father coach against his potential future school.
No matter what happens, it will be a triumphant moment for Dawkins, whose job was considered at risk if Stanford hadn’t made the NCAA Tournament. The Cardinal had won as many tournament games over Dawkins’ tenure as Washington State and Oregon State: zero.
Stanford finished the regular season 21-12. After six seasons, Dawkins’ team hadn’t made the progress that is now routinely expected from the athletic programs at Stanford. But Dawkins hasn’t been listening to the rumors.
“I don’t follow it,” he said. “I’m just happy the program has an opportunity to be in this situation. You can talk about me all you want, but it’s really about them and their growth.”
–Ann Killion, San Francisco Chronicle
In the Giants’ press box late last season, as Pablo Sandoval stumbled to the end of a bad season, the guessing was that he’d get into shape for his final season before free agency so he could score a big contract.
So, Sandoval lost a considerable amount of weight in the offseason and reported to camp this spring in his best condition in years. Surprise No. 1. Now, his agent is reportedly seeking a contract extension modeled on what outfielder Hunter Pence got, five years for $90 million. Surprise No. 2.
The Giants aren’t biting, and good for them. They’ve given big contracts to Buster Posey and Matt Cain, but they’re both solid citizens who always give their best. Cain had his problems last season because he’d pitched so many high-stress innings in the 2012 postseason, as the Giants won the World Series for the second time in three years. Posey also tired late in the season because of the strain of the previous season. But I expect both to bounce back this year.
Pence played out the final year of his old contract last season because the Giants wanted to see what he would do. They saw a high-energy player who played in every game and gave his best effort every day.
That doesn’t describe Sandoval. He’s an extraordinary athlete, ambidextrous (when a hard-hit ball knocked his glove off one time in the minors, he threw the runner out left-handed) and with great power. Nobody will ever forget the towering home run he hit off Justin Verlander, the best pitcher in baseball that year, in the 2012 World Series.
He has also been a young man with little personal discipline. He was seriously overweight in the second half of last season, unable to move well in the field and inconsistent at the plate. Sandoval has always been a bad-ball hitter, often getting base hits, even home runs off pitches well out of the strike zone. But last season, he became a bad-ball swinger. By the second half of the season, he wasn’t hitting and was a distinct liability in the field.
It would be sheer stupidity for the Giants to give Sandoval a Pence-type contract at this point. They haven’t done anything that stupid since they signed Barry Zito to that $126 million contract.
They can afford to wait because there’s a clause in the free agency procedure which gives them partial protection: If they make a qualifying offer to Sandoval as he enters free agency, a team signing him would lose its first-round pick in the draft. In recent years, the draft has become an important part of building big-league teams. Posey, Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Tim Lincecum were all first-round picks by the Giants.
–Glenn Dickey, San Francisco Examiner
Reggie McKenzie and Mark Davis weren’t selling a Raiders miracle quick-fix two years ago at the start of this, and they sure aren’t doing it now, either.
This is still about slow and at times painful progress, even though the Raiders general manager and owner entered this offseason with almost $60 million of salary-cap room.
Yes, the “reconstruction” of the Raiders was scheduled to start a little while ago, and it was theoretically going to be amazing to behold.
But the massive rebuilding project has hit a few bumps and — surprise — there still might be even more “deconstruction” to go.
Monday, despite their hit-and-miss early free agent period, McKenzie and Davis sounded optimistic about the work they’ve done, but they also were buckled down for a lot more grueling days — or years — to come.
“It didn’t go 100 percent, but I got some things answered, put it that way,” McKenzie said, referring to the Raiders’ losing Jared Veldheer and Lamarr Houston and signing several established veterans in free agency this month.
“Getting the addition of some key position players, depth, leadership … some of those things went well.
“I don’t like losing my own players, but it happened. So I moved on.”
During an earlier break at the NFL annual meetings here, Davis redirected most football questions to his G.M. and generally said things were going “pretty well.”
But when I asked Davis which players he can count as long-term foundation pieces for the Raiders’ rebuild, Davis conceded that he couldn’t immediately think of many.
“That’s a good question,” Davis said. “I’d have to think about that …
“Foundation guys — guys that are what people would look at and say, ‘That’s a Raider.’ I don’t know. It would be hard to say.
“(Fullback) Marcel Reece is a leader of this team; he’s a captain of this team. But we’ll see. I’ll have to answer that later for you.”
Here are some other topics McKenzie and Davis addressed Monday, all of which hit on a theme of realistic goals and moderate expectations:
- Asked about Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson, whose time in Philadelphia seems to be nearing an end, McKenzie declined to comment but didn’t seem to rule out interest.”I’m not going to tell you,” McKenzie said with a grin.Does a player who makes as much money as Jackson — and with his occasionally cantankerous personality — fit with McKenzie’s model for the Raiders?
“As long as he’s a really good player that we think is really going to elevate our team,” McKenzie said.
McKenzie has stressed team chemistry during his tenure but suggested that Jackson’s reputation as a malcontent isn’t a deal-killer all by itself.
- Davis denied a report that he made the final decision on voiding the free-agent contract for offensive lineman Rodger Saffold after medical concerns were raised but said he had a thought about the situation.”My opinion was that he was an injured player, and I didn’t know whether that was the best thing for us to do at that time,” Davis said.
- McKenzie said the Raiders didn’t use the franchise tag to keep either Veldheer or Houston because he believed he could sign both to long-term deals.”Guys, I didn’t let Veldheer go — I really wanted to keep him,” McKenzie said. “But it was his decision to go …”He indicated to us he wanted to be here. So we would pay whatever the market was, that’s what we told him.”
Instead, Veldheer signed with Arizona.
McKenzie indicated a similar process happened with Houston, who signed with Chicago.
- The Raiders signed short-term deals with pass rushers Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley, defensive lineman Antonio Smith, cornerback Tarell Brown and tackle Austin Howard — all in their late-20s or early 30s.”You look at the tape, when you mention age, if they looked like they should be retiring soon, I wouldn’t have brought them in,” McKenzie said.Is the idea to use these players as a multiseason bridge as the Raiders’ draft picks develop?
“That’s the plan,” McKenzie said.
- When I asked McKenzie the same question about the Raiders’ foundation players, he also didn’t name many beyond Reece.”We’re growing into that; some of these receivers are starting to grow, we’ve got a young receiving corps,” McKenzie said. “We’ve got a very young tight end corps …”I think some of the offensive linemen, like (Stefen) Wisniewski is one of those foundation pieces.”
–Tim Kawakami, San Jose Mercury News