Stanford basketball was finally getting over the hump. Then they failed. Again, finally looking good but failure was nearby. Then the rain looked like it was ending and the sun was appearing. It finally looked like the humps were gone and Stanford basketball was back. They had a coach who bought into the program. They had players who had experience. They had young talent. Even the fans and students were starting to drift back in.
Stanford has not had a consistent winner since the early part of the 21st century. From 1994-2003, Stanford basketball had finished no worse than third in the conference and won the conference four times in that time span. Winning games happened on a regular basis as 20 wins was the bare minimum. They had also been 10 games or more over the .500 mark past Feb 1st every year with help from players like Mark Madsen, Brevin Knight, Casey Jacobsen, and Josh Childress who helped make Stanford a national name and were awarded as All-Americans.
Since 2004, the hoops program on the farm had really become irrelevant to the national media except for the 2008 year. The fans dwindled out, Maples Pavilion lost its "bounce" both on the floor and in the student section "The 6th Man". Basketball at Stanford became another sport and when football became a national presence, it was buried... At least until last year. Stanford had finally made a dent on the national scene. Over 20 wins, tied for 3rd in the conference, 10 games over the .500 mark, and finally accomplished what Dawkins was looking for; a berth in the NCAA tourney.
Stanford fans were just happy to be in the tournament but the players had other ideas. They went on to upset New Mexico and 2nd-seeded Kansas before a tough sweet 16 loss to Dayton. That loss stung but it looked like the basketball team was on its way back. The upcoming season was looking good. There was more hope coming into this season than the 2012 season the year Stanford won the NIT title. Stanford was not ranked in the preseason but was on every major poll's "receiving votes" and finally had a National Player of the Year candidate in Chasson Randle. A few tough losses here and there were ok. Those losses were learning moments for the Cardinal and those tough losses led to upset wins against Texas and at the time, a very good Washington team.
Fast forward to last Saturday. Stanford was 15-5, was on the verge of being ranked. They were a game out of first place in the PAC 12. A win against lowly Washington State would have accomplished another feat of being 10 games over .500 back to back years for the first time since 02-03. Stanford basketball was back..... Only it wasn't. The Cardinal failed to beat one of the worst teams in America. I don't care that it was a road game. They could have played upside down and Stanford should have won. Stanford will still make the tournament but the hope of being relevant in the tournament is up in the air. That was an embarrassing loss and although Randle played well, the rest of the team was pathetic. The road games against Utah and Arizona look like given losses and the way they played, the Cardinal might lose a few more as well.
I am hoping it was a bad loss that leads to a string of wins that ends in a National Championship but I'm a realist. If the team that showed up last Saturday against Washington State is the real Stanford team, I'm scared to see how they play against a bad team or even a decent team nonetheless a Kentucky team in March. Maybe the ghost of Hank Luisetti will help out.