When resumes for the NCAA tournament come in March, Syracuse’s signature non-conference win will obviously be Florida, who is the class of the SEC.
But there is another team that will highlight the strength of the Orange’s early schedule—Pac-12 champion contender Stanford.
Here is why the Cardinal very well may be the best team from the west coast come tournament time.
In a year that has seen teams from the Pac-12 fail to get a victory against a top-25 opponent, Stanford’s 10-2 non-conference record including solid victories against Oklahoma State and NC State give them the best out of conference resume in the league.
Not only is Stanford’s out of conference record impressive, but the way they are doing it is even more impressive. They have outscored their opponents by double-digits in 9 of their 10 wins and their +16.7 point scoring margin is 17th in the nation.
This start to the season was not expected. The Cardinal was picked to finish sixth in the conference in the preseason. The key to this team’s success is size, depth, young talent and a veteran presence.
That veteran presence can be found in senior forward Josh Owens who leads the team in scoring, 12.7 points per game, and rebounds, 5.4 rebounds per game. Their second leading scorer is an example of the young talent the Cardinal relies on. Freshman guard Chasson Randle is averaging 11.8 points per game, the second most of any first-year player in the Pac-12.
Coach Dawkins, who is in his fourth year at Stanford, routinely goes 10-12 players deep which allows his team to keep their defensive intensity up. Stanford gives up a stingy 57.3 points per game, forcing their opponents to shoot 40.2 percent from the field.
Stanford opens Pac-12 play with a home game against UCLA this Thursday. Look for the Cardinal to continue their non-conference success and emerge as the one to watch in the Pac-12 this season.