STANFORD UPSETS KANSAS, ADVANCES TO SWEET 16

For a few hours on a sweet Sunday in March, Johnny Dawk was better than Rock Chalk

So who told it best? Shakespeare? Tolkien? Or Stanford basketball?

When the Trees come to get you, you're in deep.

Stanford bogged Kansas down in a methodical, heavy-footed game and came up a winner, using their length and a stingy zone defense to confuse the Jayhawks and advance to the Sweet 16 with a 60-57 victory.

It was chew-your-own-nails-off intense at times, especially when Kansas' Conner Frankamp nailed two late threes to make it tight, but it was truly a total team win for Johnny Dawkins' squad. Chasson Randle had 13, Dwight Powell had 15 (including a clutch late take to the basket that proved to be the necessary margin of victory), Stefan Nastic's 10 points came at critical moments, and - perhaps most importantly - Josh Huestis locked down Andrew Wiggins.

Kansas will get a lot of grief for this loss - Wiggins' 4 points on 1-6 shooting will draw a lot of ink from the national media - but it was apparent for the majority of the game that the Cardinal were dictating the pace and the rules. Stanford was indeed heavily responsible for Kansas shooting just 19-58 from the floor.

The only Jayhawk to attain any consistency was forward Tarik Black, but once he fouled out late in the 2nd half, the Cardinal had to just keep up their defensive pressure to win - and they did. Powell's critical drive and finish will show up on the highlight reels, but the 14 turnovers the Cardinal forced were exactly what they needed to be in that position in the first place.

It's Stanford's first trip to the Sweet 16 since since the Lopez twins in 2008 and it's immeasurable for Johnny Dawkins and company's confidence. Sure, many of the same things that plagued the Cardinal in the regular season showed up again in this game - an awful press break, an offense that scored nothing for almost 6 minutes, and some suspect shot choices - but strong defense and a mature, patient 17-5 run to begin the 2nd half were the factors that tipped the scale Stanford's way.

But on top of being a big victory over a brand name college basketball brand program, it's a liberating win for Stanford basketball. For six years, the program has been bogged down with far too much bad basketball intercut with brief brilliant flashes of good basketball, and Dawkins has taken a lot of grief for it.

A sweet 16 appearance is supposedly what this program had been building to - and they had been taking a frustrating road to doing it - but now it's finally complete. It seemed apparent that this team felt that pressure float away early in the second half, before all those heavy expectations fully evaporated as Chasson Randle flung the ball high toward the St. Louis rafters.

Next up, Stanford draws 11-seed Dayton for a shot to go to the Elite 8.

But for now... let's dance.

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