The Stanford Men’s Basketball Team announced on Monday their thirteen game non-conference schedule. Among those on the calendar is the defending national champion, two other highly ranked squads, and potential matchups with other difficult foes.
The Cardinal will have only one true road game before PAC-12 play, with eight games in Maples Pavilion and four games at neutral sites. Over Thanksgiving break they will take part in the PK80 Invitational, a tournament held in honor of Stanford GSB alumnus and Nike mogul Phil Knight.
Cal Poly (11/10)
I’m not trying to jinx anything, but I don’t anticipate this being the most challenging season opener. The Mustangs of Cal Poly are fresh off an 11-20 season that saw them finish outside of the Kenpom top 300. They had a 7+ week stretch where they didn’t win a single game.
Cal Poly returns their top two scorers, a pair of diminutive former JUCO guards, Victor Joseph and Donovan Fields. They do have players who used to play for schools like Gonzaga and Minnesota, but let’s face it, they probably wouldn’t be playing for Cal Poly if their basketball careers had panned out at their original schools.
The WCC’s University of the Pacific basketball program is primarily known for Michael “The Kandi Man” Olowokandi. Yeah...
Coming off an 11-22 season and left with the uphill battle of recruiting to Stockton, Pacific will not likely pose the biggest threat to Stanford. They do return many of their key players from a season ago, including leading scorer Ray Bowles. Of course, he’s a leading scorer who shot 35% from the field. Stanford should have a restful Sabbath in Maples.
Eastern Washington (11/14)
The Eagles of Cheney, Washington have had a competitive team in recent memory. They’ve produced NBA players in Rodney Stucky, Tyler Harvey, and new Brooklyn Nets two-way player Jacob Wiley.
Last year they were 22-12 in the Big Sky, but Wiley and a number of other major contributors are gone. Returning for EWU is Bogdan Bliznyuk, a player whose awesome talent rivals his awesome name. The Ukrainian senior put up 20.6/6/4.5 a year ago, including a 45-point outburst against Portland State. He’ll do everything he can to keep the Eagles in the game, but a team like Stanford can neutralize a solitary threat.
The Northeastern Huskies finished with just 15 wins last season, which was more than the Washington Huskies, but still not a great total. They lost CAA Player of the Year guard T.J. Williams to the NBA, as well as Duke/Florida transfer Alex Murphy to graduation, so it’s hard to see a great year ahead for Northeastern. Although CAA opponents are never to be taken lightly (remember George Mason?), Stanford should have an easy enough time on this Friday night.
North Carolina (11/20)
I seriously want to know who scheduled this for that date. Stanford gets to host Roy Williams and his defending National Champion Tar Heels, but it’s on the Monday of Thanksgiving Break when The Farm is a ghost town. This is the type of marquee matchup necessary to help get the student body excited about basketball again; scheduling it over break is a crime.
Carolina is a different team than the one that won that whistle-fest of a title game in April. Gone are Justin Jackson, Isaiah Hicks, Tony Bradley, and the round mound of Kennedy Meeks. But the Heels still have Joel Berry, Theo Pinson, and tournament hero Luke Maye in Chapel Hill. They also added five-star recruit Jalek Felton to their backcourt.
This game will come down to whether Reid Travis, Michael Humphrey and company can take advantage of UNC’s thin and young front court. A Stanford victory is entirely possible, and would be a major boost to the résumé and morale of the Card early in the year. It would also mean bragging rights for Jerod Haase over his mentor.
PK80 (11/23-26, Portland)
Stanford was invited to the deep field of teams at PK80, Phil Knight’s tournament over Turkey Break in Portland. The first-round matchup for Stanford is Florida, a team coming off an impressive year and with high preseason expectations. The Gators return contributors like KeVaughn Allen and Chris Chiozza (of March buzzer beater fame). They also have a good recruiting class in tow.
The second round matchup will be either defending National-Runners-Up Gonzaga, or Ohio State. The Zags lost much talent to the draft but still remain dangerous. The Buckeyes hired Butler coach Chris Holtmann in the offseason, and are looking to get back to prominence.
The final opponent will be either Duke, Portland State, Butler, or Texas. There aren’t any easy outs in PK80 (save for Portland State).
After the tournament, the Card will be happy to return home to play the Grizzlies. Montana was a middling team last year, but they return some talent. They are led by Oregon transfer Ahmaad Rorie, who averaged 17.6 ppg on 45/38/83 shooting splits. I also once saw him do a backflip before a high school basketball game, so I know he’s good.
Montana will try to best Stanford with a guard-oriented attack. The Cardinal backcourt can more than hold their own, and the front court should have a field day against the undersized Grizz “big” men. This is the school that Mike Montgomery coached at prior to Stanford, so that adds a little extra fun to the game. Well, not really, but it’s still a neat fact.
@ Long Beach State (12/3)
This is the lone road game of the non-conference schedule for Stanford. LBSU’s coach, Dan Monson, is respected enough to pull in major conference opponents to play at the Beach year in and year out, despite his school’s stature; Monson was the coach of Gonzaga at the start of their remarkable run.
The 49ers started 1-9 a year ago against primarily good competition. They saw major turnover to that 15-19 team, including pro departures by their backcourt chuckers. Monson did his best patchwork with JUCO players and Gonzaga transfer Bryan Alberts. I’d expect the 49ers to look like a rec league team, full of guys who like to call their own number when they probably shouldn’t.
Stanford traditionally takes a couple weeks off around Fall Quarter finals, and this year is no different. They will return from this break to play Condi Rice’s alma mater. The Pioneers of the Summit League were 16-14, and return most of the talent from that young squad. This should be a good matchup to help shake off some rust, and maybe push the team a little (but not too much).
San Francisco (12/17)
The Dons were a surprising 20-13 under former Columbia Head Coach Kyle Smith, including a win over the Utah Utes (albeit sans Kyle Kuzma). They return plenty of talent and momentum from that team; just one major contributor departed. Among those returning is epically-named point guard Frankie Ferrari. USF is a far cry from their Bill Russell glory days, but they could hang around if Stanford doesn’t take care of business.
Kansas (12/21, Sacramento)
Coach Jerod Haase’s alma mater is coming to California for year two of the series. Year four will be in Maples in 2019.
The Jayhawks lost a lot this offseason, but still boast a talented roster. A backcourt of Svi Mykhailiuk, Devonté Graham, and Lagerald Vick can fill it up in a hurry. Down low they return big bodies Udoka Azubuike and Dwight Coleby. Bill Self also added a couple of major recruits and high-profile transfers, including ASU’s Sam Cunliffe and former five star guard Malik Newman. Cunliffe should gain eligibility shortly before this matchup.
In 2016, Reid Travis went for 29 and 9 against Kansas. He will need another strong showing and more help this time around for the Cardinal to knock off the Jayhawks in Sacramento.