Pac-10 Projections: #10 Stanford Cardinal

08/09 Record: 20-14

Head Coach: Johnny Dawkins

Top Returning Scorer: Landry Fields (12.6 PPG)

Top Returning Rebounder: Landry Fields (6.6)

Key Losses: Anthony Goods (16.2 PPG), Lawrence Hill (13.6 PPG), Mitch Johnson (6.6 PPG)

Season Outlook:

After losing three of the four top players from last year’s team, things are looking a little dim in Paolo Alto for 2009/2010. In Johnny Dawkins’ second year as Stanford head coach it figures to be a difficult season with anything above a seventh place finish likely being a tremendous success for this team.

Losing Anthony Goods, the leading scorer from last years team, would hurt any team. Goods was among the top scorers in the conference last season and a more than capable three ball shooter, making him one of the more dangerous players in the Pac-10.

Lawrence Hill’s departure meant that the Cardinal were losing their second leading rebounder and scorer. The talented forward could have been a serviceable player on any team, but his impact on Stanford was immense and replacing him will be difficult.

The fact that Mitch Johnson is gone means that Stanford is losing a tremendously effective guard that has the ability to control games. Johnson played big minutes for Dawkins in his final season as a Cardinal, averaging 30 minutes a game. While Johnson was never a big time scorer, he was dependable and a key loss.

Now while the departures of those players are not exactly the same as say North Carolina’s graduating class last season, the fact that those three players were arguably among the top four on the team hurts. The fact that Cardinal team with those players went 6-12 in Pac-10 play hurts even more. The fact that there are not any clear players to replace them hurts the most.

If Stanford wants to not be the laughingstock of the conference there is going to have to be a superhero effort from top returning player Landry Fields. Last season Fields was arguably Stanford’s best player, and losing him could have meant Stanford was headed towards a .000 win percentage in the Pac-10. But Fields returns to bring in his steady scoring and rebounding ability, making him a strong possibility for Pac-10 first team at the end of the season now that the Cardinal will be relying on his abilities even more.

If Stanford was going to build off of last season there would of had to been a recruiting class that was highly ranked. However a class of forward Andy Brown, guard Gabriel Harris, and JUCO forward Andy Zimmerman figures to be one of the weaker incoming classes in the conference. Out of the three recruits, Zimmerman is the only one who appears to have a chance to make an impact for the Cardinal.

The players around Fields are not ones to get too excited about, but there is some potential.

The front court will likely be led by Josh Owens, who started 28 games for the Cardinal last season. Now that Hill has left Paolo Alto, Owens will be the primary scoring option down in the post. He will likely be the #2 option for Stanford behind Fields and could make a nice inside-out combination.

Zimmerman will get playing time in his first season, and could be the “x-factor” for the Cardinal if they want to get out of #10 spot in the Pac-10. Zimmerman began his career at Santa Clara before transferring to a JUCO where he only practiced with the team. He stands at 6’8″ but is a feeble 215 pounds, probably making it difficult for him when matching up against players like Oregon’s Michael Dunigan, Washington’s Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Tyreese Breshers, and UCLA’s Drew Gordon.

The backcourt may be the biggest question for Stanford. Jeremy Green was supposed to be Fields’ sidekick for the season, but was just suspended indefinitely by Dawkins for violating team rules. Green was a selection to the All Pac-10 freshman team last season and was expected to improve on his 6.4 PPG to help lead the Cardinal out of the cellar. But it appears that Green will have to sit while Dawkins looks for someone on the bench to fill his role.

That role could have gone to the incoming Brown, but on the second day of practice the freshman suffered a season ending knee surgery that makes the Stanford bench and backcourt even weaker. This means that the other freshman, Harris, could see much bigger minutes this season than anyone would have guessed.

After Fields and Owens, the player who played the most minutes per game for Stanford (not counting the suspended Green) was Drew Shiller at 11.6 minutes per game. Because of the suspension to Green and injury to Brown, Shiller may now find himself as a starter despite only averaging 2.5 points and 1.5 assists per game last season.

The Bottom Line:

Stanford’s depth is probably the worst in the conference and has only suffered even more because of the recent developments to Green and Brown. Dawkins and Fields will have to put in legendary performances for anything higher than a seventh place finish, and Owens would have to raise his game to maybe an unreachable level.

As far as their schedule, they will likely come in to Pac-10 play with a winning record. Stanford has some tough games for themselves against Virginia, Oklahoma State, Portland State, Northwestern, and Texas Tech.

In Pac-10 play, the conference is weak enough to where is is safe that they will win a few games. Its safe to say that five wins is probably their ceiling in the conference.

However Dawkins is bringing in a highly rated class for 2010 that includes two local produces (John Gage and Aaron Bright) and two top-100 players (Dwight Lewis and Anthony Brown). Things may not be as bad for the Cardinals in 2010/2011, but prepare for a long season Paolo Alto.

Projections:

Top Scorer: Landry Fields (15.0-18.0 PPG)

Top Rebounder: Landry Fields (6.0-7.5 RPG)

X-Factor: Josh Owens

Award Worthy: Landry Fields

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