The Stanford Cardinal entered the Pac-12 conference season looking like the team to beat. The Cardinal had the best non-conference resume, winning 10 of their 12 games. One of their two losses was a narrow 63-69 defeat to the Syracuse Orange in the Championship of the Dick’s Sporting Goods NIT Season Tip-Off.
Stanford began its Pac-12 season strong, winning five of their first six, including a quadruple overtime win on the road at Oregon State. But two of those victories came against the very worst the Pac-12 has to offer in the Utah Utes and the University of Southern California Trojans.
And in a year that has seen exactly zero Pac-12 teams beat a team ranked in the top 25, being one of the worst in the conference really means something.
After its strong start, the Cardinal has faltered of late. After Sunday’s 59-69 defeat at rival California, Stanford has now lost three straight and four of six. They find themselves two back of first in a three way tie for fifth place in the conference with a lot of questions to be answered.
Coach Johnny Dawkins has looked for players to step up recently as demonstrated by the fact that ten different players have started games for Stanford in its nine conference games. After Sunday’s defeat, it looks like it is back to the drawing board once again.
With tough games remaining at the Los Angeles schools and against Arizona and California remaining on their schedule, it seems that the Cardinal is more likely to be the team that was picked to finish sixth in the conference in pre-season than the team many thought was the favorite to win the conference after its 10-2 start.
With the Pac-12 struggles this season, it is likely the conference only gets two bids into the Tournament come March. At this point it looks unlikely Stanford will be one of them.
What initially looked to be one of the Orange’s top non-conference wins now appears not as impressive.