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Walking Wounded: The 2015-16 Stanford Men's Hoops Season Preview

Can The Banged-Up Cardinal Ditch The NIT For The Big Dance?

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

And so... the prospects for your 2015-16 Stanford Cardinal are looking bleak before the season even tips off. Stanford's projected Vegas odds at winning the NCAA title this year range from 250-to-1 to 500-to-1, depending on whom you talk to. So... temper your expectations. In taking the temperature of the big pre-season college ball rankings, it becomes clear that Johnny Dawkins's new squad doesn't exactly stir up a lot of confidence from the big national spots. The Cardinal cracked exactly zero of those top 25's. We can only hope that Maples Pavilion's attendance will not be as lackluster as it was last season, although that team was markedly better than this one looks to be.

Why, you ask? Well, because Dawkins graduated three starters last season. Those would be all-time scoring leader Chasson Randle at the point, now playing in the Czech National Basketball League; current Lakers wing Anthony Brown; and center Stefan Nastic, now playing in the Basketball League of Serbia (he wasn't exactly a standout during his NBA Summer League stints).

Oh, right. ALSO BECAUSE THEIR SCHEDULED BACK COURT STARTERS ARE OUT. 6'2" sophomore point guard Robert Cartwright (handily the team's flashiest passer) is out for the year after suffering a compound stress fracture to his right forearm during the team's November 2nd practice session. By the time Cartwright bit it, his running mate in the back court, 6'3" junior shooting guard Marcus Allen had already been ruled out "indefinitely" a stress fracture of his own, suffered in his right foot in mid-October. Allen was an integral starter in last season's run to the NIT title, averaging 11.4 points and 5.4 rebounds over the five-game tournament. As one of the that core's key holdovers, he had been expected to take on a bigger scoring role. Dawkins indicated that Allen could return later this month. Allen's 6'1" (fraternal) twin brother, Malcolm, could be next in line to assume starting PG duties, although at present he is still recovering from a broken wrist that caused him to red-shirt last season. His exact return date has yet to be penciled in as of this writing, but Dawkins is expecting it to happen later this month. For now, as that linked article says, 6'4" senior Christian Sanders, nominally an off-guard (who only averaged 0.7 points last season), will be quarterbacking the Cardinal's offense. 6'9" senior back-up center Grant Verhoeven (no relation to Paul) is also out for a while.

Stanford's best hopes of a successful season stem from its front court taking a developmental leap (and Marcus Allen coming back before the end of the calendar year). Michael Humphrey, Reid Travis and Rosco Allen are all still somewhat raw, but they've shown enticing flashes to this point (Travis is especially intriguing). Here's hoping the faithful are rewarded and the big guys get something going. The Cardinal will struggle to avoid having to dig their way out of an early hole, with some tough match-ups against SMU (the 19th), Villanova (the 26th) and UT-Austin (December 19th). I'd be happy with an 8-10 record, honestly. Barring a surprise freshman break-out, this will not be the year Stanford returns to March Madness.

Projected Starting Line-up

PG Christian Sanders, 6'4", senior

SG Marcus Allen, 6'3", junior

F Michael Humphrey, 6'8", sophomore

F Rosco Allen, 6'9", senior (highest returning scorer at 7.3 ppg)

F Reid Travis, 6'8, sophomore (the team's only McDonald's All-American)

Key bench reserves: C Josh Sharma (3-star freshman recruit), G Marcus Sheffield (4-star freshman recruit), F Malcolm Allen (junior), F Cameron Walker (4-star freshman recruit)