With the commencement of the Progressive Legends Classic tonight, it’s safe to say that the meat of Stanford men’s basketball’s nonconference schedule has arrived. The Cardinal (3-1) will host Texas Southern (2-3) tonight at Maples Pavilion before traveling to Brooklyn, N.Y., next week for the final two games of the event. There, Stanford will play Houston and then either Pittsburgh or Texas Tech, depending on the results of semifinal games.
The Cardinal has had a bumpy start to begin the season, with solid victories over Bucknell, Northwestern and Denver offset by a disappointing home loss to BYU. After surrendering 112 points against BYU in the second game of the season — marking the most the team had surrendered at home since 1977 — the Cardinal has buckled down defensively, holding both Northwestern and Denver to under 60 points in a pair of victories.
While Stanford’s play has at times been inconsistent during the young season, the Cardinal has played second halves in each of its most recent wins that have showcased the team’s high potential. If Stanford can start to turn those good halves into full 40-minute performances, the team should be a tough out for anyone on the schedule.
At this stage in the season, it would be impossible to talk about Stanford basketball without mentioning junior guard Chasson Randle, who is off to a prodigious start in his third season on the Farm. The Illinois native is averaging 23.5 points per game on 57.1 percent shooting, both best on the team. His efficiency has been nothing short of spectacular, given that he leads the team in field goal percentage despite shooting three more shots per game on average than the next Stanford player. His scoring prowess has already kept the Cardinal in several games this season, and he should continue to be a difference-maker as the competition ramps up.
The other player that has Stanford basketball buzzing thus far is senior guard Anthony Brown. Despite missing most of last year with a hip injury, Brown has been in midseason form from the get-go. Brown is averaging 13.5 points and 5.3 rebounds per game while shooting 46.7 percent from three for Stanford, in addition to drawing the toughest defensive assignment on the perimeter each night.
Against Texas Southern, Randle, Brown and company will have to contend with a trio of talented offensive scorers led by senior Aaric Murray, a gifted player who has already transferred twice in his collegiate career due to off–the-court trouble. Murray has been taking advantage of his final collegiate campaign thus far, averaging 20.6 points and 6.8 rebounds per game in the early part of the season.
Complementing Murray is senior guard Ray Penn, a transfer from Oklahoma State, and junior forward Jose Rodriguez. Penn has averages of better than 15 points and six assists per game, while Rodriguez is second on the team in scoring at 19.4 points per game and leads the team in rebounding with 8.4 boards per game.
The Tigers, who won their final 12 regular season games a year ago, are the heavy favorites to win the Southwestern Athletic Conference this season, and should be a good test for Stanford heading into Thanksgiving week. Tip-off tonight is at 7 p.m.
Contact Daniel E. Lupin at delupin ‘at’ stanford.edu.