Saint Mary’s Set to Host Stanford
Saint Mary’s has yet to release their official 2015-16 schedule, but it’s already been revealed that the Gaels will play in an exciting Northern California matchup when they welcome the Stanford Cardinal to McKeon Pavilion on Sunday, November 22.
Stanford’s recently-released non-conference schedule reported this intriguing match, giving Gaels fans a glimpse into what next season’s slate of opponents will consist of. And with the announcement of this Gaels-Cardinal showdown, it’s safe to say that things are off to a good start for SMC in terms of scheduling, as this is bound to be a thrilling battle between two of Nor Cal’s top basketball programs.
This game will be the start of a home-and-home series against Stanford, meaning the Gaels will visit Maples Pavilion in the 2016-17 season. What’s even more exciting, though, is that this will be the first clashing of the two schools since 2002, and the first time the Cardinal play at Saint Mary’s since 1988.
In fact, the last time Stanford faced SMC, Randy Bennett wasn’t even the coach. Even more, the Gaels haven’t faced a Pac-12 school since 2009, when Matthew Dellavedova led Saint Mary’s to a rousing victory over the University of Oregon (and former Saint Mary’s coach, Ernie Kent).Nov 25, 2014; Stanford, CA, USA; Stanford Cardinal guard/forward Dorian Pickens (11) drives down the court during the second half during the second half against the Delaware Fightin Blue Hens at Maples Pavilion. Stanford won 84-47. Mandatory Credit: Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports
So do we have a renewed rivalry on our hands? It’s staring to look that way. And it comes at a good time, too. Gonzaga is reviving their long-time rivalry with the Pac-12’s Washington Huskies next year, a feud that has been dormant since 2006. Seeing some of these old local battles come to life again could bring some much-needed attention to college basketball on the west coast.
It’d be pretty exciting to see some more West Coast Conference vs. Pac-12 action moving forward. Saint Mary’s vs. Stanford, Gonzaga vs. UW and Washington State, and don’t forget BYU vs. Utah. These are some fun games that will draw a lot of eyes.
Anyways, before I go any further off track, let’s examine how Randy Bennett’s squad will match up against Stanford:
The Cardinal took quite a hit this offseason with the departure of Chasson Randle, one of the Pac-12’s most dynamic figures from the 2014-15 season. Anthony Brown and Stefan Nastic have graduated as well, leaving some glaring holes for the Cardinal that need to be addressed, as this group of seniors combined to score an average of 47.8 points per game last year.
That’s a whole lot offense that needs to be replaced. Stanford won last season’s NIT Tournament, but as history would suggest, that doesn’t put them in the best position to succeed. Eight of the last 12 NIT champions missed the NCAA Tournament the following year.
And given the strength of the Pac-12 next year (Arizona, Cal, Oregon, Oregon State, Utah, and UCLA are all projected to be really, really good teams), Stanford’s chances at staying afloat look rather grim.
However, that’s not to say that the Cardinal don’t have any strong pieces on their roster. Reid Travis, a power forward out of Minneapolis, was ranked among the nation’s top-50 high school basketball players prior to committing to Stanford, according to ESPN, Scout.com, and Rivals.com. The sophomore big man averaged 6.2 points and 5.6 rebounds for the Cardinal as a freshman. He even shot 50.0% from the floor throughout the entire NIT Tournament and was a a key contributor in Stanford’s sealing of the tourney title.
This is where the loss of Brad Waldow will taste extra sour for Saint Mary’s. Quieting Reid Travis is going to be a hefty task for the Gaels – his ceiling is quite high, and he could very well become the next star player for Stanford with Randle out of the picture. Having someone as tall and skilled as Waldow in the front court would have given Randy Bennett a great option in guarding Travis.
In the backcourt, Stanford has a strong option in Dorian Pickens. Some may scratch their heads at the singling out of Pickens, as his statistics in 2014-15 were dismal. But make no mistake about it – Dorian is a talented guard that can make a difference for any team. He spent the year playing behind (and, most importantly, learning from) Chasson Randle, so his freshman season was spent entirely out of the spotlight.
But coming out of high school, Dorian was a four-star recruit and Arizona’s Gatorade Player of the Year – and for good reason. This is a case of a not-so-hidden gem that has yet to come out his shell. Once he does, though, there’s no doubt that his name will make some headlines.
But perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this matchup is the freshmen. Both Stanford and Saint Mary’s have some impressive additions for next season, and there’s a good chance that the rookies are the X-factor for the both teams.
In Moraga, the Gaels continue to reap the benefits of their well-established influx of Australian talent. Standout guard Tanner Krebs, along with big men Kyle Clark and Jordan Hunter, will join the Gaels from the land down under. Krebs, in particular, seems destined to be the next SMC highlight reel machine, as he was one of only ten recipients for the Basketball Australia National Center for Excellence scholarship in 2014.
Staying stateside, Bennett has helped bolster the backcourt with the additions of Stefan Gonzalez, who was a first team all-Idaho selection, and Franklin Porter, who will make a perfect compliment to Gonzalez as a natural shooting guard.
Stanford, meanwhile, reloaded for the future by adding on a number of four-star recruits. Marcus Sheffield, out of Georgia, is the only incoming guard for the Cardinal, but was named the Region Player of the Year in his junior and senior seasons and averaged 28.0 points in his senior year.
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In the paint, Stanford adds forward Cameron Walker (23rd ranked player at his position) and center Josh Sharma (13th ranked player at his position). That is going to make for a deadly one-two punch. Couple these rookies with Reid Travis and the Cardinal have one impressive front court that will only get better in the coming years.
And here lies what could very well be the key for the Gaels’ chances against the Cardinal: shutting down the big men. This Stanford trio has a hefty amount of scoring and size, and they’re going to give a lot of teams fits. It’s still yet to be seen how much damage they’ll do in 2015-16 as they learn to work together and get used to Stanford’s style of play, but as these underclassmen grow and become more comfortable on the court, they could become deadly.
Overall, this is bound to make for an exhilarating game between two similar teams. Both the Gaels and Cardinal have lost standout players to graduation, have held onto a number of interesting and capable players with upside, and are welcoming a talented freshman class to campus.
With both schools seemingly headed down similar paths, it’d have been pretty hard to find a better time to re-awaken this old rivalry.