By Rick Eymer
Basketball took the stage at the Pac-12 Network studios in San Francisco on Thursday, with coaches from every school in the conference waxing eloquent on their respective teams and chances.
A poll of media members who regularly cover the Pac-12 choose Arizona as their favorite and regulated Stanford to sixth.
The Cardinal (19-15 overall, 9-9 in the Pac-12 last year) hopes to prove its a little better than that. In fact, Stanford has a goal of making the NCAA tournament.
This could be the year Stanford returns to the postseason's biggest party for the first time since 2008. The Cardinal does have an NIT title to its credit in 2011.
"For this year to be a success for our group, we should make the tournament," Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said. "We have the experience, and our kids have been through a lot. I think part of that adversity is what helps you. It's what you do with it. Our guys realize that this is a special year."
Stanford has six seniors on the roster, including fifth-year senior Andy Brown, who spent the first two years on campus as a redshirt due to an ACL tear in his knee.
John Gage, Robbie Lemons, Aaron Bright, Dwight Powell and Josh Huestis are also back to give Stanford one of its more experienced teams.
Bright was the NIT Most Outstanding Player two years ago, Powell was a first-team all-Pac-12 pick last year and Huestis was an all-Defensive Team pick. That's a good foundation.
Junior guard Chasson Randle also returns as a two-year starter and junior Anthony Brown returns after missing all but four games last year because of a hip injury. Randle and Brown are both former all-freshmen picks.
"We return a lot of experience," Dawkins said. "We have a new way of playing and a new way of thinking. That's been our approach from the preseason until now. We didn't close very well last year. We felt we were very close. We're excited about our new way of thinking."
Part of that new way of thinking included the team undergoing Navy SEAL training.
"I definitely think it was beneficial," Powell said. "First and foremost, it was a challenge that maybe not all of us thought we could get through, but we did. And we did so as a team. Also, just teaching us that level of discipline and commitment that those guys have to get the job that they have to get done. And with no excuses. I think we can take away a lot from that going into our season and in the preparation for our season as far as no excuses and fighting through adversity and fighting through pain, but all together. So, yeah, we got a lot out of it."
Stanford opens its season with an exhibition game against visiting Seattle Pacific on Saturday, Nov. 2 at 2 p.m.
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