Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - March 14, 2014

Stanford roundup: Cardinal men looking forward to NCAA show

Solid performance at Pac-12 Tournament will help push Stanford into that long-awaited postseason berth

by Rick Eymer

Stanford has had to settle for postseason men's basketball tournaments lacking the NCAA moniker for more years than coach Johnny Dawkins cares to remember.

The last time the Cardinal qualified for the NCAA tournament, a pair of towering twins named Lopez dominated action and led Stanford to the Sweet Sixteen. Dawkins was still an assistant coach at Duke and Mike Montgomery was still unemployed.

There's been the postseason NIT championship in 2011, a couple of other invitations to the NIT and CBI, but those didn't seem to satisfy the Cardinal appetite.

This year's strength of schedule, which included road wins at Connecticut, Oregon and Cal, combined with the Pac-12's overall strength, and Stanford should be feeling good about its chances come Sunday's selection show.

The Cardinal won its 20th game of the season on Wednesday, beating Washington State, 74-63, in the first round of the Pac-12 Conference tournament in Las Vegas.

No. 6 seed Stanford (20-11) met No.3 seed Arizona State late Thursday night in the quarterfinal round (see http://www.paloaltoonline.com/sports/ for results) of the tournament and unless something bizarre happened, even a loss to the Sun Devils should not hurt.

The Cardinal also own wins over Arizona State and UCLA and played current eighth-ranked Michigan on a neutral court; all good things. Stanford also avoided losing to teams with records under .500.

In fact, the 10 teams that beat Stanford, including third-ranked Arizona twice, have a combined record of 215-99, as of Wednesday, for a winning percentage of .685. Seven of those teams have at least 20 wins and the Golden Bears would make it eight if they defeated Colorado last night.

It's not a slam dunk, but it is a bulky resume. Other factors are based on mid-major conference tournaments that produce a surprise winner. Having finished in a five-way tie for third place in the Pac-12 does offer some credence.

It would also give players like Dwight Powell and Chasson Randle, both of whom earned spots on the All-Pac-12 first team, a chance at a little more exposure.

That's also true for Josh Huestis, who was named to the Pac-12 All-Defensive Team, and Anthony Brown, who was named the Most Improved Player of the Year.

"I haven't really thought too much about that," Randle said. "As a team, we're in the moment. We just beat a great team in Washington State, and we're looking forward."

Powell scored 12 of his 16 points in the second half and Randle added 22 points in the win over the Cougars.

"I haven't been to the tournament personally and it's always been a dream of mine," Powell said.

Brown scored 12 points and led the team with seven rebounds. Huestis added 12 points and a pair of blocked shots. Stefan Nastic added 10 points.

On Thursday, Powell was named the 2014 Pac-12 Men's Basketball Scholar-Athlete of the Year during the quarterfinal round of the Pac-12 Tournament.

In order to be eligible for the Pac-12 Scholar-Athlete of the Year award, student-athletes must be a senior (in athletics eligibility) on track to receive a degree, have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher, participate in at least 50 percent of the scheduled contests in the sport and have a minimum of one year in residence at the institution. The athletic accomplishments of the nominees are also factored into the voting for the award.

A Science, Technology & Society major, Powell sports a 3.05 GPA and will graduate in June.

Men's swimming

Stanford finished second at the Pac-12 Conference Men's Swimming and Diving Championships, which wrapped up Saturday at the King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way, Wash.

Cal took home its second consecutive conference title, scoring 786 points en route to the victory. Stanford had 661 points and finished ahead of third-place USC.

"It was not a perfect meet, they never are," said Stanford coach Ted Knapp. "We finished with a lot of best times. We have our work cut out for the NCAA Championships, and diving (this) week should be an exciting component to this year's NCAA team."

The Cardinal now looks ahead to the NCAA Zone E Diving Championships (March 13-15) in Colorado Springs, Colo., as the NCAA Championships (March 27-29) will be held in Austin, Texas.

The highlight of the meet for Stanford was David Nolan's conference record of 1:41.49 in the 200 IM. He became the third swimmer to win three straight titles in the event at the conference meet. Nolan broke the previous meet record of 1:41.52, but missed his own school record of 1:41.21.

Women's tennis

Nationally No. 4 Stanford returns to action on Friday, hosting No. 42 Washington (0-2, 10-4) in its Pac-12 opener at Taube Family Tennis Stadium.

The Cardinal (8-0) remains unbeaten after last week's 5-2 road win over California and jumped five spots in this week's edition of the national rankings.

Earlier this week, Stanford was invited to attend a celebration of 2012-13 NCAA Championship teams at the White House, with President Barack Obama offering congratulations and recognizing each program individually. The NCAA Champions ceremony took place Monday on the South Lawn of the White House and included a tour.

Track and field

Stanford sends 12 athletes, plus four alternates, to the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships this weekend in Albuquerque, N.M. In all, eight men and eight women will make the trip and compete in a total of six events, all on the track.

The Cardinal seems to have its best shots at the distance medley relays. The women are seeded No. 1 and the men No. 4. Stanford's individual events are both the men's and women's 3,000 and 5,000 meters. Erik Olson, the No. 4 seed in the 3,000, will double, as will the past two Pac-12 women's cross-country champions, Aisling Cuffe and Kathy Kroeger.

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