College Basketball Nation: Dwight Powell

Through five years of basketball under Johnny Dawkins, Stanford went unnoticed on the sport’s biggest stage, failing to qualify for the NCAA tournament after a Sweet 16 appearance in the season before the coach’s arrival.

You could argue it’s been more of the same for Stanford through the first weekend of this tournament, despite upset wins as a No. 10 seed over No. 7 seed New Mexico and No. 2 seed Kansas.

[+] EnlargeChasson Randle
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty ImagesGuard Chasson Randle, who has averaged 18.7 points per game this season, and the No. 10 seed Cardinal take on No. 11 seed Dayton on Thursday in Memphis, Tenn.
Dramatic finishes at other sites overshadowed the round-of-64 victory. And headlines from Sunday focused more on the circumstances of the second-seeded Jayhawks’ early departure than on what the Cardinal did to force it.

Stanford held star KU freshman Andrew Wiggins to four points on 1-of-6 shooting.

Give Stanford some credit here, primarily senior forward Josh Huestis, a three-time member of the Pac-12 all-defensive team who handled Wiggins for most of the game.

“I challenged him,” Dawkins said of Huestis, “and I thought he really responded. He did a great job defending.”

Stanford, in its first tournament appearance since 2008, remains content to fly under the radar as it prepares for a South Regional semifinal meeting Thursday against No. 11 seed Dayton. The Flyers have grabbed attention already with wins over sixth-seeded Ohio State and No. 3 seed Syracuse. Florida, the top seed overall in the tourney, and UCLA fill out the field in Memphis, Tenn.

Stanford again might go overlooked -- unless, of course, it wins two more games and advances to the Final Four for the first time since 1998.

Don’t count out the Cardinal. Their steady style of play figures to create problems, starting with a frontcourt of 6-foot-7 Huestis, 6-10 senior forward Dwight Powell and 6-11 junior center Stefan Nastic.

Stanford is long and versatile. It beat the Jayhawks without making a 3-point field goal (0-of-9).

Floor general Chasson Randle, who scored a team-high 36 total points in the second- and third-round games, adds an element of creativity. And 6-6 wing Anthony Brown provides another athletic option. He hit five free throws in the final 44 seconds against Kansas.

Powell and Huestis rank atop Stanford’s career chart in games played. Experience, although not in the NCAA tournament -- Stanford won the National Invitation Tournament in 2012 -- has helped carry the Cardinal.

“We’re still in the race,” Powell said, “We’re still playing in March, and it feels great.”

Stanford entered the tournament on something of a roller coaster. It lost 84-59 to UCLA in the Pac-12 tournament semifinal round after three straight wins that had followed three straight losses dating to Feb. 26.

“Every season is like a lifetime,” Powell said. “Obviously, you will have your ups and downs. But from day one, before we even started preseason, we always had a goal to make the tournament and make a run. And we never lost sight of that and lost hope.”

Stanford did lose firepower. Forward Andy Brown, who started 20 games last season as a freshman, has missed the entire season with a knee injury; guard Christian Sanders has sat out with a hip injury.

Additionally, guard Aaron Bright, a 22-game starter in 2012-13, missed all but the first seven games, and forward Rosco Allen went down early in the season.

As a result, the starters accounted for more than 85 percent of Stanford’s scoring through the regular season. Against New Mexico and Kansas, they scored 107 of 118 points.

Count Kansas coach Bill Self among the admirers of Dawkins and the job he has done to rebuild Stanford over six years.

“He epitomizes class,” Self said before Kansas faced Stanford. “He conducts himself in that way, and he always has.

“He was a great hire that Stanford made, and he's going to continue to do well. And everybody in our business that knows Johnny is happy for him.”

Also before that game, Wiggins and Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. unintentionally provided extra motivation for Stanford as reporters asked them a series of questions about Randle at the practice-day news conference.

The KU freshmen had no answer, other than a few uncomfortable laughs. Clearly, they weren’t familiar with the name of the Cardinal’s top playmaker -- understandable because the Jayhawks had yet to receive scouting reports from their coaches, but apropos, nonetheless, considering the Cardinal’s somewhat unnoticed run to the Sweet 16.

Randle said after the landmark victory, in which he scored 13 points with six steals in 40 minutes, that he watched footage of the news conference.

“I took it as a challenge,” Randle said. “So did my teammates. It wasn’t just a stab at me. It was a stab at our team.”

Noticed or not, the Cardinal are marching forward.
1. Auburn's offseason news has consisted of a point-shaving charge to Varez Ward and now a marijuana arrest for Shaq Johnson. The Tigers haven't been relevant in years and don't get noticed unless something goes awry. Tony Barbee has had a significant turnover rate in the past three seasons, now up to 12 players through transfer or dismissal. Barbee had a respectable run at UTEP in four seasons, going 30 games above .500, reaching the CBI finals before an NCAA tournament appearance. The move to Auburn was a huge pay raise and seemed to be the right thing with the program needing another facelift. But the Auburn job is arguably one of the toughest in the SEC or in a top seven conference. Barbee has won a total of 12 SEC games in three seasons. That number doesn't look like it will climb much higher next season. Barbee didn't suddenly become a poor coach. But his attrition rate proves that selecting the right recruits and vetting them -- even more than normal -- has to be the new charge or else a chance to climb out of the abyss may be futile. Barbee is a reserved person, not one to draw too much attention to himself. He has no choice now but to hunker down and pull off the unexpected by rising above what are sure to be low expectations. The fourth year of a program is a pivotal season. The drama needs to end so the narrative can be about Auburn getting attention it earns on the court, not off.

2. Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins was thrilled with the performance of one of his star players, Dwight Powell, who was second on the Canadian World University Games team in scoring at 12.1 points a game (behind Baylor's Brady Heslip) in Kazan, Russia, earlier this month. Powell lost his mother, Jacqueline Weir, on Sept. 13, 2012. Stanford's team and staff rallied around Powell and attended a memorial. Powell was able to still play his sophomore season and was named the Pac-12's most improved player -- going from 5.8 points as a freshman to 14.9 as a sophomore. The Cardinal have a real shot to finish in the top three of the Pac-12, and a lot of that has to do with the play of Powell. Dawkins is beaming with pride over Powell's development and his progress. He should. He has stuck by him throughout a terrible ordeal, thousands of miles from his Toronto home. These are the good stories, the ones in which a coach rallies around a player in a time of need with a bond built between the two that can have a lasting legacy.

3. As expected, Michigan gave John Beilein a contract extension, which takes him through the 2018-19 season. This is exactly what the Wolverines have needed -- a long-time, consistent coach who is a proven winner. Of course, it helps if he fits and the timing is right. Tommy Amaker came to Ann Arbor after the Brian Ellerbe years and following NCAA sanctions. The expectations were high but hard to meet. Amaker has found his groove at Harvard where he is thriving. Beilein had West Virginia winning at a high clip. He needed time to develop his style at Michigan. And he's rolling. Having Beilein locked in at Ann Arbor and Tom Izzo a fixture in East Lansing gives this in-state rivalry two of the game's best coaches. This should ensure that both programs will be regulars in challenging for Big Ten titles. Beilein made Michigan nationally relevant again by reaching the Final Four, and added a title game appearance to enhance the comeback story. The recruiting is still strong and the staff has settled down into a highly capable recruiting core. The Michigan students who arrived two years ago (and those who are to come) are getting a basketball program/coach combination that are in concert just as well as they were 20 years ago -- but without any of the NCAA enforcement drama.
1. Memphis coach Josh Pastner had former Missouri guard Michael Dixon on campus Tuesday for a face-to-face visit. Dixon's case is complicated, as ESPN.com's Jason King reported, and there is plenty he must do to become eligible. There are a few issues at play here for Pastner. One of the downsides of social media is that Dixon's arrival was well-chronicled, and his supposed commitment put out for the world to see before it was actually done. Pastner had no time to make a decision before it was presumed to have been made for him. Now, suddenly, his timeline is pushed up because of the assumption that a commitment has been accepted, whether or not an offer was extended. Pastner doesn't need to take second-chance players. He did once with Geron Johnson and it worked out. And while there is no guarantee that newcomers Kuran Iverson and Rashawn Powell will be eligible, according to a source, it's also unknown whether Dixon will be, either. Pastner has done a fantastic job under the shadow of John Calipari and has the Tigers ready to move to the American Athletic Conference next season on an upward trajectory. He was investigating Dixon on his own, but the visit got exposed before any firm decision was made. Now Pastner has to make a public choice of whether to waste his time on taking a player who is searching for an opportunity that not every program may be willing to give him for one year.

2. The U.S. World University Games team will have its hands full with Canada during the competition, set for July 6-17 in Kazan, Russia. The Canadian roster, released Tuesday, isn't as loaded but boasts plenty of major-college talent. Boston College's Olivier Hanlan, the ACC freshman of the year, is joined by headline players Kyle Wiltjer (Kentucky), Kevin Pangos (Gonzaga), Dwight Powell (Stanford), Brady Heslip (Baylor), Melvin Ejim (Iowa State), Laurent Rivard (Harvard) and Jordan Bachynski (Arizona State). Each of these Canadians will have a significant role on his respective team, with all of them starting the season in position to make a run at an NCAA bid. Ejim may be the most intriguing of the lot, with a real shot to be even more of a breakout player in the Big 12. Pangos will have more scoring next season. Powell led the Cardinal last season. Rivard will be a fixture on a stacked Crimson. Wiltjer has to adjust his role with the newcomers at Kentucky but can still be a matchup problem. Heslip must be more consistent. Bachynski has to absorb some of Carrick Felix's numbers after his departure. And Hanlan will be responsible for leading the Eagles higher in the ACC.

3. Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg has taken plenty of transfers his first few years in Ames. He has had success stories mixed in with quality newcomers. I'll be very interested to see if he can maximize the talent of DeAndre Kane, who was a disappointment for Marshall after starting last season with such promise. Kane was essentially asked to leave Marshall by coach Tom Herrion; they weren't going to mesh for one more season. Now Kane has to be in step with Hoiberg if his final year in college is going to be productive. Kane originally was looking to go to Pitt, but that didn't work out, either. He pursued Iowa State and the Cyclones were receptive. It's in everyone's best interest that this works for next season so the Cyclones can be relevant come March for a third consecutive season.

Conference Power Rankings: Pac-12

March, 1, 2013
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Arizona and UCLA were ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in the preseason Pac-12 media poll. Yet neither team will be in first place when they square off Saturday at Pauley Pavilion on "College GameDay." UCLA (11-4 in conference) trails league leader Oregon (12-4) by a half-game. Arizona is a full game back along with Cal, both at 11-5. Long story short, four teams are still in contention for the Pac-12 crown, which should make for one of the more exciting regular-season finishes in college basketball. Here are this week’s power rankings:

1. Cal. Mike Montgomery’s squad has won six in a row. Included in that stretch are a two-point victory at Oregon and a one-point win at Oregon State. Allen Crabbe (19) and Justin Cobbs (14.9) have combined to average 33.9 points per game for a Golden Bears team that hosts Colorado on Saturday. Cal needs a victory to remain in contention for the Pac-12 crown.

2. Oregon. Thursday’s 85-75 victory over Oregon State was bittersweet for the Ducks. On the same night it welcomed back injured guard Dominic Artis, Oregon lost second-leading scorer Damyean Dotson when he bruised his hip in a nasty fall under the basket. He is listed as day to day. Oregon’s final two league games (against Colorado and Utah) are on the road.

3. UCLA. Would Bruins fans still hate Ben Howland if UCLA won the Pac-12 title? It could happen. UCLA could grab a share of the league lead by defeating Arizona on Saturday night in Westwood. The Bruins beat the Wildcats 84-73 in January. If UCLA beats Arizona again -- and then tops Washington State and Washington on the road -- it will own at least a share of the conference championship.

4. Arizona. Arizona has a gaudy overall record of 23-5, but it seems to have regressed in recent weeks. The Wildcats were whipped 89-78 at USC on Wednesday and nearly lost to Utah two weeks ago. Arizona’s freshmen haven’t developed as quickly as Sean Miller had hoped. And the team lacks a true point guard.

5. Colorado. The Buffaloes have won eight of their past 10 games, with the only defeats coming in a 58-55 upset at Utah and a 63-62 overtime setback against Arizona State. Tad Boyle’s squad faces a huge road test Saturday against Cal, which has won six straight. At this point, Colorado is in good shape to make the NCAA tournament.

6. USC. The Trojans snapped a two-game losing streak by upsetting No. 11 Arizona on Wednesday night and now have won five of their past seven overall. USC (8-7) is in position to finish Pac-12 play with a winning record, which is something no one would have imagined when coach Kevin O’Neill was fired in January.

7. Washington. The Huskies, who are 7-8 in Pac-12 play, have been a huge disappointment. But they still have a chance to finish with a winning record. Washington’s final three games (against Washington State, USC and UCLA) are all at home. C.J. Wilcox averages 17.1 points per game, and Aziz N'Diaye averages 9.5 rebounds.

8. Stanford. A few weeks ago, it appeared the Cardinal were ready to turn the corner, but Johnny Dawkins’ squad has reverted to its old ways and now has lost four of its past five games. The latest setback came in a 65-63 home defeat against Colorado on Wednesday, when Dwight Powell's potential game-tying dunk came one-tenth of a second too late as the buzzer sounded.

9. Arizona State. The Sun Devils’ NCAA tournament hopes were all but shot following back-to-back losses to Washington and UCLA (the latter in overtime). Arizona State struggled to find consistency throughout February, never winning more than two games in a row. Its final two games (against USC and Arizona) are both on the road.

10. Utah. The Utes threw a scare into Arizona and Colorado before being dominated by Cal in Thursday’s 64-46 defeat. Utah plays at Stanford on Sunday before returning home for its final two regular-season games, against Oregon State and Oregon. This team has improved significantly, even though it has yet to surpass last season's Pac-12 win total of three games.

11. Oregon State. The Beavers led Oregon 41-34 at halftime Thursday but couldn’t hold on in an 85-75 loss. Roberto Nelson had 31 points for an Oregon State squad whose only conference wins are against Washington State, Utah and Washington. Nelson is averaging a team-high 17.3 points per game.

12. Washington State. It’s amazing how many bad breaks this team has caught. Seven of the Cougars’ 17 losses are by four points or fewer, and five are by two points or fewer. Two of them came in overtime, and another occurred against Texas A&M on a 25-foot, buzzer-beating 3-pointer.

Conference Power Rankings: Pac-12

January, 18, 2013
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Fans of the Pac-12 should plan to be in front of their televisions Saturday for a pair of games featuring four of the league's top five teams. Arizona State hosts Arizona at 2:30 ET. Ninety minutes later, Oregon and UCLA tip off in Westwood. The results of those contests should have a big effect on the conference power rankings. As of now, here's how things stand.

1. Arizona. The No. 7 Wildcats bounced back nicely from their loss at Oregon on Jan. 10 by defeating Oregon State two days later in Corvallis. Sean Miller's squad hasn't played since, which is probably a good thing as it prepares for another tough road test against upstart Arizona State on Saturday. Point guard Mark Lyons is averaging 18.3 points in his past four games.

2. UCLA. The Bruins picked up their 10th consecutive victory Thursday in a 10-point win over Oregon State. UCLA, which hasn't lost since Dec. 1, is getting 8.9 rebounds per game from Kyle Anderson and 18.2 points per game from Shabazz Muhammad, both of whom are freshmen. Oregon will be UCLA's toughest Pac-12 opponent to date.

3. Oregon. E.J. Singler did a little bit of everything to help keep the Ducks undefeated Thursday night. He had 14 points, 7 assists and 6 rebounds in a 76-74 victory at USC. Freshman guard Damyean Dotson also had 14 points for Oregon, which could seize control of the Pac-12 race by beating UCLA on Saturday.

4. Washington. Now that everyone is healthy, Lorenzo Romar's squad looks like a completely different team from the one we saw early in the season. The Huskies beat Colorado by 10 points at home Wednesday and should get another W this weekend against last-place Utah. C.J. Wilcox is averaging 26 points in his past two games and 19.4 on the season.

5. Arizona State. The Sun Devils are a good basketball team -- but no one knows how good. Their nonconference schedule was weak and they couldn't beat Oregon in their only marquee Pac-12 game to date. That's why Saturday's tilt with Arizona in Tempe is so pivotal. A victory could enhance Arizona State's national image and do wonders for its resume come Selection Sunday.

6. Colorado. I'm shocked that the Buffaloes are 1-4 in league play. There is too much talent on Colorado's roster for that kind of a mark. Granted, the schedule hasn't been all that kind. The Buffs opened league play on the road against Arizona and Arizona State and also have lost at Washington, which is never an easy place to play. There's no reason they shouldn't win their next four games (against Washington State, Stanford, Cal and Utah).

7. Cal. The Golden Bears haven't played since last weekend's 67-54 win against Washington State. So they should be well-rested for Saturday's road game against rival Stanford. Allen Crabbe is averaging 20.1 points for Mike Montgomery's squad, which plays its next three games away from home.

8. Stanford. The only conference win for the Cardinal thus far came against Washington State on Jan. 9. They performed admirably in a 65-60 loss to league-unbeaten Washington three days later and are now preparing for Saturday's showdown against Cal. Dwight Powell averages 14.8 points and 7.5 rebounds.

9. USC. Even though I think it's ridiculous to fire a coach in the middle of the season, the Trojans certainly looked re-energized Thursday with a different coach calling the shots from the bench. Longtime USC assistant Bob Cantu was named interim coach after Kevin O'Neill's dismissal Monday. His team showed a ton of fight before bowing to Oregon 76-74.

10. Oregon State. Things are getting ugly for Beavers coach Craig Robinson, whose team fell to 0-4 in the Pac-12 following Thursday's loss at UCLA. If Oregon State doesn't bounce back with a win at USC on Saturday, Robinson's job security will no doubt come into question. Improvements have been made in the program, but unfortunately it's not showing up on the scoreboard.

11. Washington State. The Cougars picked up their first conference win Wednesday against Utah, but they could really turn some heads by beating Colorado on Saturday. A victory certainly isn't out of the question. The Buffaloes are struggling, and Washington State boasts one of the better home courts in the Pac-12.

12. Utah. The Utes' first three Pac-12 losses came by a combined eight points -- but their last two defeats both have come by double digits. Is Utah regressing? Things won't get any easier Saturday when it plays at red-hot Washington, which has yet to lose a conference game.

Behind Brown, NC State avoids deja vu

December, 19, 2012
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RALEIGH, N.C. – North Carolina State point guard Lorenzo Brown admits there may have been a flashback or two, with about 5 1/2 minutes left Tuesday night, when Stanford cut the Wolfpack’s once-17-point lead to seven.

“In the back of my mind, I was thinking, ‘I don’t want this to happen again. I don’t want to lose to them two years in a row,’” he said.

So the junior helped make sure they didn’t. Brown scored 18 of his 24 points in the second half at PNC Arena -- including four points during the closeout stretch -- to lead the Wolfpack to its fourth consecutive win (88-79), and perhaps help dull the memories of State’s double-digit West Coast meltdown a year ago.

It was, by far, Brown’s most aggressive game of the year -- a good sign for a 25th-ranked team that finally seems to be putting its talented pieces together after it started the season in the top 10, but slid down the rankings after losses to Oklahoma State and at Michigan.

“I just took it upon myself,” said Brown, who shot 9-for-15, and also had 5 assists, 4 turnovers and a steal. “I know our team needed some quick buckets. They [the Cardinal] were coming down and shooting all types of 3s. So I took it upon myself to make good shots.”

Indeed, State led by as much as 69-52 with 9:19 left, on a jumper from Brown. But the Cardinal (which got 23 points from forward Dwight Powell) countered with a 12-2 run to cut it to 71-64 -- just enough to harken back to last season, when Stanford used a late 16-1 run to overtake the Wolfpack on the West Coast.

This time around, however, NCSU senior big man Richard Howell countered with a layup, followed by a jumper from forward C.J. Leslie and another layup by Brown.

That, along with sharpshooter Scott Wood’s bevy of lane-opening 3-pointers in the first half, was an example of NC State’s veterans coming together to do what they do best, all at the right time.

And the same time.

“They’ve been in games like this,” Wolfpack coach Mark Gottfried of his lineup, which returns four starters from last March’s Sweet 16 team. “Throughout their careers, they’ve been in some wars like this. And we expect them to be good in wars like this.”

And now they have been, twice in the past four games with victories against two power-conference opponents in Connecticut (69-65) and Stanford.

“I’m excited,” Gottfried said. “I think it is another win against a team that is going to win a lot of games this year.”

Plus it’s a confidence boost for Brown, who didn’t even start playing point guard full time until last season. (Not that you’d know it by the way he used his size advantage, length and court vision.)

“He reminds me of a guy who used to play back in my time … Sleepy Floyd,” said Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins, whose team’s winning streak was snapped at three. “ … He’s a terrific player. He has great size, he can really shoot the basketball, he can play the 1, and he creates all sorts of problems for you because he can post you up, because he’s a 6-5 point guard. He can shoot overtop of smaller guards. He handles the ball well to get to places on the floor that are difficult.

“He’s a very talented guard, and based on what I’ve seen today, he’s one of the best guards in the country.”

Brown -- who was also 7-for-8 with 16 points against Norfolk State last Saturday -- said his squad is also still capable of being one of the best teams in the country, if it can continue to build off wins like Tuesday and learn from the memories of bad games in the past.

“Once Scott’s hitting 3s like that, it opens it up for everybody else,” Brown said. “Then you’ve got Rodney [Purvis], who’s faster than anybody I’ve seen. You can’t do much about about C.J. and Richard, so we can be ‘dangerous’ -- that’s the right word.”


RALEIGH, N.C. -- A year ago, NC State lost at Stanford in particularly painful fashion, as the Cardinal used a late 16-1 comeback run to prevail.

Tuesday at PNC Arena, No. 25 NC State made sure that didn’t happen again. Using a flurry of 3-pointers from sharpshooter Scott Wood early, some timely buckets from point guard Lorenzo Brown late, and another solid game from senior big man Richard Howell throughout, the Wolfpack won their fourth consecutive game while halting Stanford’s winning streak at three with an 88-79 victory.

Turning point: Leading by as many as 17 points in the second half, the Wolfpack (8-2) found themselves ahead by only seven with under six minutes left -- roughly the same margin, and time remaining before the meltdown a year ago. But with 5:02 left, Howell drove through the lane to give his team a nine-point cushion. Teammate T.J. Warren made a block on the other end, and C.J. Leslie (out with leg cramps down the stretch the last time these two teams met) buried a baseline jumper to give the Pack a 75-64 cushion.

Key players: It was hard to pick just one for the Wolfpack, as Wood scored 15 of his 17 points before halftime, Brown scored 18 of his 24 points in the second half, Howell recorded his fourth straight double-double and Leslie finished with 16 points. … Dwight Powell led the Cardinal (7-4) with 23 points.

Key stats: State had a season-high eight blocks in the first half alone, and recorded 11 for the game.

Up next: NC State plays St. Bonaventure at home on Saturday. Stanford plays at Northwestern on Friday.

Conference Power Rankings: Pac-12

December, 14, 2012
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The Pac-12 has a chance to pick up signature wins Saturday, when Arizona takes on Florida at the McKale Center and Cal hosts Creighton. Otherwise the upcoming weekend is rather humdrum. Here are the latest rankings.

1. Arizona: The No. 8 Wildcats survived their first true test of the season by defeating Clemson on the road, but the Tigers aren’t anywhere close to as good as No. 5 Florida, which defeated its first seven opponents by an average of 25.3 points.

2. Oregon: Much like the downtrodden Big 12, identifying the second-best squad in this conference is tough. Dana Altman’s team gets the nod this week simply because the Ducks are the only school (other than Arizona) that hasn’t suffered an embarrassing loss. Oregon’s only setback came against Cincinnati. Oh, and the Ducks beat UNLV, something Cal couldn’t do.

3. Colorado: OK, so the Buffaloes aren’t as good as we thought. But there’s no way they’re as bad as the team that lost by 36 points to Kansas last weekend. Things just snowballed on them. That can happen at Allen Fieldhouse. I still say this team finishes no worse than fourth in the Pac-12.

4. Cal: The Golden Bears’ performance in a one-point loss to UNLV was actually pretty impressive. This is by no means a great Cal team, but as long as Allen Crabbe keeps playing well, this squad will be able to compete with anyone in the league.

5. Oregon State: Craig Robinson’s team is set to begin a five-game home stretch against a bundle of mediocre opponents. Don’t be surprised if the Beavers enter conference play Jan. 6 against Oregon with an 11-2 record and loads of confidence.

6. UCLA: The Bruins didn’t play great in Saturday’s 65-63 victory over Texas at Houston's Reliant Stadium. But give them credit for showing toughness down the stretch and battling back for a victory. Maybe that was a momentum boost for this team. Shabazz Muhammad will be more effective once he loses 5-10 pounds.

7. Stanford: Chasson Randle and Dwight Powell combined to average 28.9 points for the Cardinal. We’ll know a lot more about Johnny Dawkins’ team after a week that includes road games at NC State and Northwestern.

8. Washington: The Huskies aren’t as talented as they’ve been in the past, but it’s not as if the roster is completely bare. Aziz N'Diaye, Abdul Gaddy, C.J. Wilcox and Scott Suggs are all veterans. And Washington boasts an incredible home-court advantage.

9. Washington State: Two of the Cougars’ four losses (against Gonzaga and Texas A&M) have been in the closing seconds. The return of DaVonte Lacy from a knee injury has given Washington State a huge boost.

10. Utah: The Utes are arguably the most improved team in the Pac-12. They crushed the Boise State team that beat Creighton by 13 points, and Utah lost to BYU by only three points in Provo. On Tuesday, the Utes will try to avenge an earlier loss at SMU when the Mustangs visit Salt Lake City.

11. Arizona State: The Sun Devils fell from No. 6 to No. 11 this week after getting annihilated at home by DePaul, one of the worst teams in the Big East. The game wasn’t nearly as close as the 78-61 score suggests. Even with Arizona State’s 8-2 record, that stomping will be difficult to forget.

12. USC: I don’t believe the Trojans are truly the worst team in the league, but they’ve yet to do anything to deserve a higher ranking. I’m all for playing a tough schedule, but Kevin O’Neill might have overdone it. USC’s past five losses were against Marquette, San Diego State, Nebraska, New Mexico and Minnesota.

Stanford remakes McDonald's commercial

October, 19, 2011
10/19/11
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With a nod to the iconic McDonald's commercial featuring Larry Bird and Michael Jordan that has since been remade by Dwight Howard and LeBron James, Stanford big men Dwight Powell and Josh Owens put their acting skills to work to promote the Cardinal's upcoming scrimmage.

Matching each other dunk for dunk, the two played for a burrito much like the NBA stars played for a Big Mac and fries. Some of the dunks showed off their athleticism. Others were physically impossible like the shots Bird and Jordan claimed to make in the commercial.

Hilariously, Mark Madsen, who led Stanford to a Final Four appearance, makes a cameo at the end in playing the role of Bird as he takes a big bite of the burrito and says, "Thanks for lunch!"

Madsen has grown closer to the program since returning to campus to pursue his MBA and was invited along as a guest on the team's preseason tour of Spain, where he did everything from rebound on shooting drills to helping load the team bus. He's also developed a relationship with his fellow Stanford students and has been impressed with the team.

"Based on what I saw in the games, and it was only six games, this was a group that came together and really learned how to play with each other," Madsen told the team's website. "The word chemistry is a common word in sports and we all hear it. I really think a lot of chemistry was developed on this trip, not only on the court but also off the court."

That's good news for Stanford on the court as it attempts to rise up in the Pac-12. A number of players were involved in the making of the commercial, so it's also a positive sign for Stanford to see the team coming together and having fun.

Pregame notes at the 76 Classic tonight

November, 26, 2010
11/26/10
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ANAHEIM, Calif. -- UNLV guard Tre'Von Willis is only 50 points shy of 1,000 for his career, so it's conceivable he could receive enough playing time to reach the mark by the end of the tournament. His minutes have increased after coming off a four-game-suspension, and it will be interesting to see if he returns to the starting lineup at some point.
  • Murray State guard Donte Poole went to Mojave High School in North Las Vegas with UNLV guard Anthony Marshall, and the matchup holds meaning for the two, according to the Las Vegas Sun. "He was kind of my big brother my freshman year up until he left," Marshall told the paper. "We've played a lot against each other in the summer in pick-up games, but never in a real game."
  • Stanford guard Jeremy Green was held scoreless until the final minute in yesterday's game against Murray State, and there might have been some reason for his struggles. According to ESPN broadcasters, Green was ill. The Cardinal did get a good game out of freshman Dwight Powell, and he'll be one to watch this evening against Tulsa.

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