Now that Pac-12 play is set to begin, we at Reign of Troy will give an inside look at each of the teams on USCs conference schedule. First on the list, the Stanford Cardinal, the team that USC will face on Thursday.
The 9-4 Stanford Cardinal were seeded 4th in the preseason Pac-12 poll, behind rival Cal, UCLA and #3 ranked Arizona. This team has played two road games such far this season against Northwestern and North Carolina State.
With a tough non-conference schedule the Stanford Cardinal have been equally challenged to the likes of USC. Here is a brief history on what Stanford accomplished last season.
Stanford finished the season 21-11 (10-8), missing the NCAA Tournament after falling in the second round of the Pac-12 tournament. The Cardinal qualified for the NIT and went on a magical run all the way to the championship in Madison Square Garden.
Stanford defeated Cleveland State, Illinois State, Nevada, UMass, and finally Minnesota 75-51 to clinch the title. Chasson Randle led the Cardinal with 13.5 points per game last season, as a returning starter in 2013.
USC and Stanford squared twice last season, with Stanford winning both contests in similar fashion. In the first meeting December 31st at Palo Alto, Stanford played scrappy defense to fight off a late Trojan rally. USC lost 51-43 after shooting 34 percent from the field.
In the second meeting at the Galen Center on February 12th, Stanford shot 40 percent from behind the arc sparking a 59-47 victory. After scoring only 20 points in the first half, Stanford came alive from downtown, led by Chasson Randle who hit four three-pointers.
This capped the first Stanford sweep over USC since 2005. With a 2013 matchup only one day away, let’s take a look at what the Cardinal have to offer this season.
Stanford November Slate
Pundits have traditionally punished the Pac-12 for having a weak non-conference schedule, something Stanford did not encounter. The Cardinal have been tested with games against Belmont, Missouri, Minnesota, North Carolina State and Northwestern.
Early in the season, the Cardinal rolled over weaker opponents USF, CSF, and Alcorn State. Against San Francisco, Dwight Powell’s 27 points sparked a second half rally fueling a 74-62 victory over the WCC-foe. The Cardinal shot 42 percent from behind the arc, but got out-rebounded 45-29 on the glass.
Against Cal State Fullerton, NIT-star Chasson Randle stole the show scoring 24 points to break a half-time tie. Aaron Bright and Dwight Powell combined for 30 points on 10 of 16 shooting. In the end turnovers were the difference with Stanford forcing 25 CSF turnovers.
During the tougher part of their schedule, featuring Ohio Valley Conference favorite Belmont and SEC-power Missouri, Stanford was quite competitive but came up short in the win department.
Stanford lost to Belmont 70-62, after shooting 31 percent from the field and 10 percent from downtown. The bench kept the Cardinal in the game with seven players logging at least five minutes adding 31 points to the cause.
Stanford began action against No. 13 ranked Missouri. What ultimately plagued the Cardinal was Missouri’s fast break and second half scoring. Dwight Powell came to play, scoring 18 points while racking in 10 rebounds and three blocks.
In their second matchup, Stanford rolled Northern Iowa out of the Missouri Valley Conference, 66-50. Although shots were not falling early, Randle finished 4 of 6 on Friday from downtown detouring Northern Iowa after closing the game to 49-45 with 8:12 to play. That started an 11-2 run that put the game away. Stanford was 8 for 19 from beyond the arc, something that has been key for them all season.
In the final matchup, Stanford faced a USC opponent from this season, Tubby Smith’s Minnesota Golden Gophers. Minnesota ran over USC by 14 points, with much larger leads throughout the contest, giving coach Smith his 500th victory.
Against Stanford however, Minnesota could never pull away, needing three free throws from Andre Hollins with 0.4 seconds to play to seal the victory. Stanford actually outplayed Minnesota for most of the game but could not capitalize on key possessions down the stretch with three late turnovers.
The month of December was successful for two specific reasons. First, the Cardinal recorded their first road win of the season against Northwestern. Second, the Cardinal went 4-1 scoring at least 65 points in each of those contests.
To start the month, Stanford defeated a scrappy Denver program 71-58. Then on December 15th, Stanford clobbered nor-cal rival UC Davis 75-52.
At that point, the 7-3 Cardinal traveled No. 25 ranked NC State and lost a thriller 88-79. In a balanced scoring effort, Stanford received double digit performances from four players. They also distributed the basketball with 19 assists on 34 made baskets.
In their most impressive victory of the season, junior forward Josh Huestis had a coming out party with 18 points and 12 rebounds on 50 percent shooting from the field. This huge contest propelled the Cardinal towards a victory over Lafayette to end non-conference play.
Stanford Biggest Weapons
Chasson Randle, Dwight Powell, and Josh Huestis are the three difference-maker players who can make tremendous plays. These three stars combine for 36 points per game, close to half of Stanford’s scoring.
Randle has come up clutch in the biggest moments, during last seasons NIT and against Missouri. What Randle presents is incredible quickness and a three point shooting touch. The sophomore guard is averaging 3.5 assists per game, alongside a great 3-1 turnover ratio.
Dwight Powell, the 6’10″ highly athletic forward out of Torono is scoring 14.5 points per game and averages 7.2 rebounds per game. The man is also averaging a block per game, developing as an elite post presence in his third year. Powell, was ranked as the No. 4 forward ready to break out in the second half on ESPN.
Stanford dominates the glass and can score points at a much more prolific pace than the Trojans, averaging eight more points per contest.
Stanford will look to pound the ball in the post against the Twin-Towers, Oraby and Dedmon. USC may have the size advantage but Stanford is far-more athletic, especially at the wing positions.
If USC wants to win this game, they must slow down the tempo by feeding their forwards the basketball.
This game will be very entertaining and should be just as competitive as last year’s contest.That being said, both teams have improved slightly, but right now Stanford has the experienced shooters to score enough to defeat the Men of Troy.